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SBC President Bobby Welch reaches Hawaii, 50th state in ‘Everyone Can’ evangelism tour

WAIKOLOA, Hawaii (BP)–In reaching Hawaii, Bobby Welch successfully visited Southern Baptists in all 50 states and Canada in just 25 days of travel.

Hawaii Baptists from all around the city of Kona welcomed Welch and celebrated his arrival Oct. 7 by placing a purple and white lei around his neck in the traditional Hawaiian manner.

Waikoloa Baptist Church was the last stop on the last day of the unprecedented “Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” tour to encourage Southern Baptists to “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

Welch stood before his Hawaiian audience and brought the same message he has now delivered literally all over North America.

“Instead of going off in all different directions,” Welch exhorted, “let’s all pull together as one and make a real impact on this country.”

These Baptists in the 50th state were ready to do their part. Pastor Emerson Wiles divided up the group into visitation teams of two or three people. Wiles gave them survey forms, instructions and maps of assigned streets in the neighborhood surrounding the church. Welch took an assignment and went out with Bob Duffer, director of missions for the Neighbor Islands Baptist Association.

Welch and Duffer knocked on the door of a nice home at the end of a cul-de-sac. A young mother answered the door.

Welch established a nearly instant rapport with the young mother who was holding her infant son. A 2-year-old daughter peeked out at the visitors from behind the young mother’s legs.

The young woman’s husband worked at the Hilton resort nearby, and the family had been living in Hawaii for three years after being transferred from Guam.

“I was raised in Guam as a Catholic,” the young lady said. “When I was a teenager, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and began attending a nondenominational church in Guam. But, I am embarrassed to say that we have kind of slipped out of going to any church since we moved here.”

Welch encouraged her and explained how the Baptist church just down the road had a dynamic new pastor, children’s programs and young couples like her.

“Women’s Bible studies might interest me,” the young lady told Welch.

“Let us have your telephone number and I will give it to Pastor Wiles’ wife,” Welch said. “She will give you a call and let you know more about Waikoloa Baptist Church.”

Appreciatively, the young woman jotted her telephone number down on a piece of paper.

Later that evening back at the church building, the visitation teams gathered to share their experiences. Through the open windows of the well-lit sanctuary a warm, gentle trade wind breezed up from the ocean nearby.

Welch, Duffer and Wiles listened as team after team told of people in the neighborhood who welcomed them and answered the surveys with serious reflection. The visitation teams were surprised at how many people expressed willingness to know more about Jesus Christ and the ministries of Waikoloa Baptist Church.

“Scared to death,” one team member said as he began his report. “That’s how I felt going out tonight.”

“Did it help to have other people with you?” Welch asked.

“Yes, definitely,” the man replied. “I could never have done it alone. But after a couple houses, we got into a rhythm and it got easier. I can’t wait to do it again.”

Later, Welch commented to Baptist Press on his cumulative experiences witnessing to people he met on the tour.

“I have done the same thing in all 50 states and Canada, and my experiences have confirmed suspicions I have had for 30 years,” Welch said.

“Critics have told me, ‘Door-to-door visitation or street witnessing will not work in this part of the country or that part of the country. It’s too confrontational. It’s too intrusive.’

“But you know what?” Welch asked rhetorically. “Every one of the people I have spoken to on this trip have reacted almost the same way. People all over this country are open to a winsome presentation of the Gospel. If you show kindness, genuine care, naturalness and don’t get all worked up when you talk to them, people everywhere will listen to you.

Welch continued:

“There is a difference between being intentional and being confrontational. I am not confrontational. I am not talking to people to work out the problems with their theology, even though that will be important on down the line. I am intentionally sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing wrong with that in most people’s eyes,” he said.

Welch then turned to another criticism:

“Some people think maybe I am somehow special or gifted to talk to people,” he said. “But that just isn’t true. I believe it is the Holy Spirit who works through me as I intentionally share Jesus Christ with people. He will work through anyone if they will just try.”

Welch is praying that more messengers than ever will make the sacrifice to attend the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn., next June to launch a year-long effort to witness, win and baptize 1 million people between June 2005 and June 2006. He has assured churches at every stop along the way that they will not be disappointed if they come to Nashville.

“I can tell you this much,” Welch said to the group that filled the small sanctuary of Waikoloa Baptist Church. “Baptists all across America are saying, ‘Now is the time. Let’s no longer slouch along the path of dead denominationalism. Now is the time to win this nation for Christ.’ … Southern Baptists must do better than they have done before, and they have got to do it now.”
For Baptist Press reports from across the country during “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” bus tour, visit www.sbc.net/bustour.

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  • Brent Thompson