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Unity for ‘Everyone Can,’ baptisms boost Welch’s travels

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (BP)–Bobby Welch had high praise for North Carolina Baptists as he concluded two months of travels across state for the “‘Everyone Can!’ Kingdom Challenge,” which calls Southern Baptists to witness to, win and baptize 1 million people in a year.

“From the state convention’s executive building in Cary to the smallest church tucked back into the mountains, no other place or people have supported the Everyone Can effort any more than in North Carolina,” the Southern Baptist Convention president said.

Welch preached more than 100 times in churches, Baptists associational meetings and at pastors’ luncheons in restaurants in behalf of his appeal for Southern Baptists to share the Gospel whenever and wherever they can.

Welch, who has for 31 years served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., also urged North Carolina Baptists to enlist for Crossover Triad, an annual evangelistic effort that precedes each Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. Crossover this year will focus on June 10, preceding the June 13-14 SBC sessions in Greensboro.

A plan in which all North Carolina Baptist associations will hold outdoor baptism rallies this year has stirred Welch’s enthusiasm. Of the state’s 79 associations, 74 have signed on.

“What’s happening in North Carolina is exemplary,” Welch told Baptist Press. “These North Carolina Baptists associations are setting the high-water mark for associations all across our convention. I will extol that fact in Greensboro and ask the rest of the convention, ‘What’s wrong with you? We need you to come on.’

“Listen, this is gigantic,” Welch said at an April 27 leadership conference luncheon sponsored by Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville. “You have an entire state that’s about to move a hundred percent of its associations … to unify their efforts. … That’s new life at the associational level and we need to fan that fire.”

Citing an Everyone Can outdoor baptism rally April 3 in Lincolnton, where more than 800 people from Southern Baptist churches in several Baptist associations gathered for a public baptismal service, Welch said, “I took particular enjoyment that the rally was at the Citizen Center right across the street from the county courthouse on the downtown square of Lincolnton.”

Using a portable pool and a livestock feeding trough filled with water, local pastors baptized 12 people. Among them: a teenage girl who, with her family, were evacuated to North Carolina following Hurricane Katrina and were recipients of the ministry and witness of Boger City Baptist Church in Lincolnton. Upon the girl’s baptism, and after Welch presented the Gospel, two of her siblings professed faith in Christ.

Another flame Welch is fanning is his conviction that revival is coming to the SBC: “I have every belief that the fire’s getting ready to fall. And I think it’s gonna fall in North Carolina. I believe it’s going to happen in Greensboro. I can taste it. I can smell it. We’re in the hunt. This thing is getting traction. The momentum of two years is pushing now. I’m fully expecting the lid to blow off and that it will jump the bank.”

Welch told Baptist Press that the Greensboro meeting “should not be seen as the end of the Everyone Can campaign, but as the springboard of reorienting the SBC to our God-given mandates of personal evangelism and the baptism of converts into the fellowship of our local churches.”

Among the reasons Welch expects a convention-wide revival are the numerous e-mails and letters he continues to receive from across the United States where churches and associations are emphasizing baptisms and having rallies. “They’re getting it. They’re catching it. We didn’t touch them. We didn’t talk to them. They’re just catching it.”

Welch cited “Crossover Cookeville” as one such event, when more than 700 Southern Baptists in the Tennessee’s Stone Baptist Association knocked on nearly 7,000 doors in Cookeville to share the Gospel.

Modeled after the SBC’s annual Crossover, Welch said the Cookeville outreach went a step further by tying into the associational baptism rallies he challenged each Baptist association to conduct.

Welch’s enthusiasm for how Southern Baptists are responding to his appeal to share the Gospel was tempered, however, by what happened at one pastors’ luncheon in North Carolina, where he had noted that all believers’ need to regain confidence in the “power of the Gospel to immediately and radically transform someone’s life.”

“Amen,” the pastors said heartily.

Welch said the Gospel could even change the life of the young waitress who’d helped serve the meal if, in fact, she weren’t a Christian. Again, the pastors said amen with gusto.

But at the end of the meeting, the pastors left the restaurant, ignoring the waitress who was seated at a booth, rolling napkins around utensils.

Welch asked the waitress, “In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a person to get to heaven?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “But, I’d like to know.” Welch explained how she could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. With her co-workers looking on, the waitress prayed a prayer of repentance and of commitment of her life to Jesus Christ.

Without revealing where this happened, Welch recounted this event at other meetings, saying, “We say we believe in the power of the Gospel to change lives, but we don’t practice it. If we believe it, we’ve got to start doing it.”

Citing the encouragement he enjoys from the many communiqués he’s gotten from Southern Baptists across the United States, Welch noted an e-mail he received from a member of a church in central California. Situated in a crime-ridden area and surrounded by gang activity, the church had dwindled to seven attendees.

The church baptized six people on March 11, marking its first baptisms in more than three years.

One grandmother who heard Welch preach became so gripped by the reality of hell that she couldn’t sleep. She told Welch that in the wee hours of the night she began to smell smoke. After spending a fitful night in concern for her grandchildren, whose salvation she was not sure of, the grandmother witnessed to her grandchildren the next morning, and each prayed to receive Christ.

For Welch, the grandmother’s commitment represents one of the most encouraging aspects of the Everyone Can campaign.

“For years, we’ve had pastors and people in our churches who were grieved about lost people. But what we’re increasingly seeing are those who will take personal responsibility for that grief and the mandate of the Great Commission,” Welch said. “This is nothing less than the sweet movement of God upon our people to reach the world for Himself.”

    About the Author

  • Norm Miller