BELLEVUE, Neb. (BP)–There are times on Bobby Welch’s national bus tour when he can’t be found — the moments he likely is pressing the claims of Jesus Christ to someone’s heart.
Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, arrived at the Omaha-area West Bellevue Baptist Church about an hour before his Sept. 29 “Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” rally.
Just minutes after stepping off the bus, he couldn’t be found anywhere on the property.
Someone pointed to some men huddled behind a house about 150 yards from the church and asked: “Is that him?”
It was. Welch, along with Jay Johnston — director of FAITH/Evangelism and Discipleship for LifeWay Christian Resources — were praying with two construction workers, Tim and Norm.
Welch was doing exactly what he’s been asking all Southern Baptists to do on his 50-state campaign, and that’s to join together to “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” people in a year.
“We walked over to those guys who were digging in the dirt, and I asked, ‘What are you two doing?’” Welch recounted.
“Norm is my name, and Jesus is my game,” blurted Norm, extending a thick, calloused hand to Welch.
In a matter of seconds, the four men were reveling in their commonality: Jesus Christ. In a matter of minutes, they were wrapped in a circle of prayer.
Having said “Amen” and goodbye to the construction workers, Welch headed to the 10 a.m. rally and then later headed for Haven Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kan. On the way he took a slight detour, making a whistle-stop visit at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
Seminary President Phil Roberts and about 50 students greeted Welch with applause as he bounded off the bus and strode toward a portable sound system on the lawn outside the seminary’s administration building.
“As president of our convention, I wanted to try to find a way to bring the convention closer to the people,” said Welch, explaining part of the rationale for the Everyone Can bus tour.
Students interrupted Welch several times with applause as he moved through his abbreviated, 30-minute address.
“This business of reaching people is a lot easier done than said,” Welch quipped, reversing a common cliché.
In hopes of utilizing Midwestern Seminary to reach the lost, Welch asked Roberts for a commitment to call his staff, faculty and the student body to a week of prayer and fasting. As predicted by Welch, the president gave an enthusiastic acceptance. Welch related that other SBC seminaries have plans to do the same.
After the prayer and fasting “then could we have … an ‘honest-to-God’ all-night prayer meeting, where we pray all night for God to come down,” Welch said to hearty “Amens.”
“Then, I’d like the next morning for all the student body and faculty to go with me out here and talk to some people about Christ for about a half a day,” Welch said. “I’d sure like to get out here and tear up the stumps and see what’s going on.”
That evening, at dinner with leaders of the Kansas/Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, bivocational pastors emerged as a topic of discussion, as it has in every meeting between Welch and Southern Baptist leaders during his national tour.
“My prayer is that Gods will raise up pastors and call them to intentionally be bivocational,” said Ken James, director of evangelism for Kansas/Nebraska Baptists.
James said there are scores of small towns where blue- and white-collar jobs are available. But the mainline denominations have abandoned them, leaving thousands of people with no witness.
“Being a bivocational pastor is a noble calling,” said Marie Clark, Sunday School director for the two-state convention. “It’s not something you do while waiting on fulltime ministry.”
Welch said he is hoping to have a bivocational pastor preach at next year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
“We’ll never reach this land for Christ without the efforts of bivocational pastors who have a burden for this world on their hearts and shoulders,” Welch said. “And I believe untold numbers of bivocational pastors have made full proof of their ministries today, and also in history. You can start with the Apostle Paul.”
Welch left the restaurant with Don Andrews, pastor of Haven Baptist Church, who told him, “When I heard you announce this tour at the convention in Indianapolis last year, I leaned over to my wife and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have Dr. Welch at our church?’ But I thought, ‘That’ll never happen.’ And now, here you are.”
And there he was.
At rally’s end, the bus headed into the western sunset, with the Everyone Can tour headed toward its Sept. 30 morning stop in Las Vegas, N.M.