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Tenn. Baptist meeting garners nearly 1,000 to hear Welch

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Nearly 1,000 people gathered at First Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Tenn., March 21 to hear Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch, who is stumping Middle Tennessee in the run-up to the SBC’s annual meeting in Nashville.

But Welch isn’t campaigning for re-election. The former Army Ranger is on the march for those held captive in the joyless prison camp of a Christ-less life. And he’s enlisting as many who will join him in his Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism, an initiative seeking to share the message of Jesus Christ with a million people and also to baptize them into the membership of Southern Baptist churches.

Welch’s Everyone Can effort dovetails into Crossover, an annual evangelistic thrust that coincides with SBC annual meetings. Crossover Nashville is scheduled for June 18.

Since moving to Nashville in February from Daytona Beach, Fla. — where he has for 30 years been pastor of First Baptist Church — Welch has traveled in Tennessee and other states to draw attention to the spiritual needs of non-Christians as well as the need for Southern Baptists to focus on winning their friends, families and neighbors to faith in Christ.

People from churches in the Duck River, New Duck River and William Carey Baptist Associations listened as Welch asked amid their rising applause: “What if God has made up His mind the fire is gonna fall, and break out from [Nashville] and go around the world? And what if there’s another Great Awakening? It could happen!”

“People all over the world are praying for this,” he said, urging the people to join the 10,000 others who’ve signed up to participate in Crossover Nashville events. “I believe with all my heart and soul it’s getting ready to happen, and you’re gonna be a part of it.”

Welch joked that he’s already asked God, “If the rapture is near, put it off ’til July because I don’t wanna miss June.”

“Something is happening out here now that hasn’t happened before. It’s been going on now for about seven or eight years. And it’s more intense now than in the past. I don’t know if it’s in response to the tsunami or 9/11 … or it’s just the Spirit of God and maybe the second coming of Jesus. But it’s happening,” Welch said, adding that people are asking important questions and looking for spiritual answers. “They’re searching, they’re longing, they’re looking like never before.”

Just about then, someone’s cell phone rang. “Just tell ’em I ain’t through yet,” quipped Welch. “If it’s Jesus, tell Him I’m ready to go — but I sure wish He’d wait ’til July.”

Welch decried what he calls the church fortress mentality, saying Southern Baptists all too often get inside the church with their own family and friends and other “sweet, nice beautiful people like we are.”

His voice louder and face redder, Welch added, “We lock the door, we have a great time, we sing the songs, we preach the sermons. We even say the world is going to hell … and we’ve got to do something about it!

“And then we walk out that back door,” Welch softly said, “and we never make a peep.”

Noting his “new, greatest fear,” Welch asked, “What if God is trying to have the next Great Awakening or revival out there, and we won’t leave in here to go out there?”

In an auditorium of pin-dropping quiet, Welch continued, “God may go on and have revival without us, and leave us in here to dry up while we think we’re having a great big time.

“Or worse, what if God says, ‘If you’re not coming out to where I’m working up something for myself, then I’m just not gonna do it at all. And I’ll hold you, my people, responsible at the judgment seat of Christ,'” Welch pondered.

“If God is on the move out there, stirring people and moving in their heart and life … then the church has to get out there and be a part of it,” he urged.

Welch told the crowd he wasn’t in the meeting but for the lost people who weren’t there. “I’m not here for the Southern Baptist Convention. God help us. The convention will do very well if we will just get to where we need to be with the Lord Jesus. You’re worried about this in the wrong way if you’re worried about the convention. You need to be worried about the Lord and lost souls.”

Welch then told stories of encounters he has had with lost people who have become Christians.

“I’m here tonight, ladies and gentlemen, to remind you,” said Welch, slapping his upheld Bible, “that this is the power of the Gospel unto salvation. And this Word of God could come down and have that triune, triangulization on a soul in a heartbeat, where the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and the power of the Word of God collide at one time on a heart, and all-of-a-sudden that person meets the dynamic of the Divine, and Kaboom! their life is changed, and they’re set free, and it lasts forever.”

Yelling over the whoops, hollers and applause, Welch exclaimed, “Don’t you ever forget that! Don’t you ever forget that!”

Noting he meant the next comment as kindly as possible, Welch said, “But I’m telling you, you are a low-down, sorry, good-for-nothing hypocrite if you sit in here and clap your hands for that truth, and know that, and will not tell your family and friends about it.

“I mean we’ve got it, and they’re dying without it.”

    About the Author

  • Norm Miller