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SBC president: Lost family members & friends make evangelism urgent & personal

LYNCHBURG, Va., (BP)–Evangelism, often, is a family matter, Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch told students at Liberty University.

Welch preached at the Lynchburg, Va., campus April 17, and at Thomas Road Baptist Church on April 16, continuing his nationwide call for Southern Baptists to baptize 1 million people in a year.

Welch — who last summer visited churches in all 50 states and Canada on his “‘Everyone Can’ Kingdom Challenge” for evangelism — reiterated his conviction that Southern Baptists in particular and Christians in general must be urgent about sharing the Gospel with any and all who will listen. Toward that end, Welch is calling for 10,000 people to participate in the Crossover Nashville evangelistic thrust June 18 prior to the SBC annual meeting in the Tennessee capital.

Addressing Liberty students, Welch recalled the sense of urgency he had for the salvation of his mother and brother many years ago. Just back from Vietnam and healing from the severe wounds that almost claimed his life, Welch related his attempt to tell his mother about Jesus Christ and her need to commit her life to Him.

Saying his mother “lived in an era when real women smoked real cigarettes,” Welch described the way she would inhale the smoke deeply and then exhale though her nose and mouth and also talk at the same time.

“My mother had a way of narrowing her eyes, lowering her head and exhaling cigarette smoke that would terrify me when I was a boy,” Welch recounted. “She was like a fire-breathing dragon getting ready to pounce.” And that’s what she did when Welch tried to tell her about Jesus.

“She took a long drag off that cigarette and said, ‘Bobby, did I ever ask you for advice when I was raising you and your brother?'” Welch said. And before he could answer, she replied for him, “‘No.'”

Welch’s mom then said there were two people in the house and one was about to have to leave. “‘And since I own this place, that’s you,'” Welch said.

“Here I was, ‘Big, Bad Bobby,’ fresh back from the war,” but he started to shed tears, which his mother saw as he left the room and walked out of the house and down the sidewalk. “I was the saddest boy in all the world.”

A couple of weeks later, Welch had just finished preaching in his home town church when two people made their way down to the front of the auditorium at the end of the service. At first unrecognizable to Welch, he finally realized the two were his mother and his brother to whom he also had witnessed. They knelt, prayed and committed their lives to Christ, and later Welch baptized them.

Welch said he cried again because “I was the happiest boy in all the world.”

His mother didn’t come to Christ, Welch said, because “I was a cool witness or knew all the right things to say. She became a Christian because I tried and I cried.”

Citing Psalm 126:6, Welch said the Gospel message of Jesus Christ is “precious seed” and that telling others about Jesus is the “going forth” the verse notes. “You’ve got to try, and even cry if you have to” in order to reach others for the Lord, he said.

Others not only includes family members, but society at large. Welch said he senses like never before a spiritual hunger in the world, and that Christians need to be the ones helping to meet that need. “Seeing what God is doing outside the church is overwhelming,” he said. “I mean, the world is waiting for what we have.”

On Sunday morning, with Thomas Road’s pastor, Jerry Falwell, looking on, Welch told the congregation that during his early morning prayer time God had impressed him to focus on one thing for the sermon at the church.

“The Lord said, ‘Son, you keep this in mind,'” Welch recounted. “‘I’m not sending you to this meeting to help Southern Baptists. I’m not sending you to help Dr. Falwell.'” Welch said God had commissioned him to represent all the children of Thomas Road members who don’t attend church, as well as the members’ friends, neighbors and co-workers “and for the multiplied millions who are out there searching” for spiritual meaning in life.

Welch, who has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., for 30 years, urged church members to “get out of the boat,” referring to the New Testament account of the Apostle Peter walking on water.

“But I don’t believe Peter walked on the water,” Welch said, “at least not without a lot of good help.” Welch said he believes “God’s hand was just under the water’s surface, helping Peter.”

Clapping his hands several times, Welch said, “Looky-here, I’ll tell you what else Peter did.” Running across the platform, Welch jumped onto the floor, saying, “Peter got out of the boat.”

Welch lamented the practice of so many church leaders and members who think attending church is the “end game” of following Christ. “But it’s not,” Welch said.

“We’ve got to get out of the boat. We’ve got to get the teachers out of the boat. We’ve got to get the preachers out of the boat. We’ve got to get the deacons out of the boat. Why?” Welch asked the Sunday morning crowd. “Because out there is where the hurting, searching people are.

“And when we do [get out of the boat], get ready. That’s when God shows up for those unbelievable and unforgettable miracles of the Spirit of God — souls being saved, marriages being saved, teenagers being won, the world around us coming to Christ Jesus.

“I can see you not getting excited or urgent about my folks in Daytona Beach,” said Welch. “You don’t know about my family and friends. But what about your own family? What about your own friends? You’ve got to get urgent about them. You’ve got to.”
For information about the “‘Everyone Can’ Kingdom Challenge and Crossover Nashville, go to www.everyonecan.net.

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  • Norm Miller