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SBC President Bobby Welch’s personal mission: to seek souls wherever he rolls, from churches to 24-hour truck stop

DOSWELL, Va. (BP)–Just before midnight, the bus carrying Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch and his support team pulled into a truck stop north of Richmond, Va., for some hamburgers. Welch, on a national tour to bolster evangelism in SBC churches, let the rest of the group go ahead while he sensed a moment to share the Gospel.

Robert, Wayne and Hope were led to faith in Jesus Christ on Aug. 31.

Shortly after midnight, Welch was asked by Baptist Press to recount the divine appointment.

“These three people are talking, two truck drivers and a lady who was obviously a waitress at the truck stop and was just getting off of work, sitting on a bench,” Welch said. “I was disappointed that I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to anyone much at the visitation that night [during a stop at a Richmond-area church].”

Welch had been praying that he would have “an opportunity to at least talk with somebody and share the Gospel with them, and so when I saw those three people, they looked like they were having a very serious conversation and so I just stopped and sat down beside the lady on the bench and said, ‘I want to show you something. Look at this.’”

Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., held up his hand, like a Michigander displaying a map of his state, to spell out the acronym FAITH — Forgiveness, Available, Impossible, Turn (repentance) and Heaven. The men and the woman were interested.

“They were all very nice people,” Welch said. “They were very, very focused on what was happening, and I couldn’t make out whether they were not interested or didn’t care or were very, very interested. Well, as it turned out, they were very, very interested.

“I gave part of my testimony there, my Vietnam experience [when Welch was shot in the war and left for dead]. I did so in order to say how wonderful it was that the Lord would, in the most unlikely places, intervene in miraculous ways. They agreed with that. Then I asked them, ‘Why do you think that a man just out of nowhere walks up to all three of them, sits down and begins to talk about these things?’ And Wayne said he had had an experience like that before and that he had done what the man told him in relationship to the Lord, and his life was better, his marriage problems had been resolved, but then he had since gotten away from the Lord. So he said he felt very definitely that this could be the Lord doing this. Robert just listened and nodded in agreement.

“And so, I asked them what we call the key question: In your personal opinion, what do you understand it takes for a person to go to heaven?’

“The two men gave definite wrong answers that were based on works. The lady was sort of in between. They talked about something they had done in church before. It was all vague and unclear. Hope’s answer had Christ in it, but it was still works tied up.

“And so, I felt like the thing to do was ask them to pray the Sinner’s Prayer, as we call it, again. They agreed to do so, and we did. They prayed it out loud while several other truckers [passed by] going places. When we finished praying, I asked them, ‘Now, you’re grown adults. Were you sincere about that commitment? Did you mean that prayer?’ And they each said they did.

“And I explained to them that the Lord had said that He knocked at our heart’s door [Revelation 3:20] and if we would open the door that He would come in and stay with us, and we with him, and that is what had happened in my life to change my life. And they agreed that that’s what they had just now done. And so, we talked a little bit more, and then I said, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again here or not, but I will see you again somewhere in the future.’ They were nice, and thanked me, and were kind, and I went in to meet the rest of the bus crew and have a cheeseburger.”

Welch conceived of a national bus tour as a means of generating a sense of urgency about evangelism among Southern Baptists while also creating a unity of purpose in the convention. He has visualized some goals to inspire Southern Baptists to action, including: “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year. During the tour, Welch also hopes to hear from Southern Baptists about their hopes for the direction of the convention.

Driving through the night, the bus reached Hartford, Conn., for a morning encouragement session with Primera Iglesia Bautista, a largely Hispanic congregation. The bus then rolled on to Hellenic Gospel Church in Newton, Mass., before a night visitation session alongside believers at Faith Baptist Church in Warwick, R.I. It marked the first time since 1983 that a sitting Southern Baptist Convention president had visited churches in New England.

    About the Author

  • Allen Palmeri