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Welch, at ‘Everyone Can’ midpoint, is very encouraged

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)-The push for Southern Baptist churches to baptize 1 million people in a year will reach the halfway point at the end of March.

“I’m extraordinarily encouraged by what I’m hearing from all across the country,” Bobby Welch told Baptist Press, “because I’ve never heard so much positive talk about witnessing, winning and baptizing as I’m hearing now.”

Welch, with his election as president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2004, initiated the “‘Everyone Can’ Kingdom Challenge!” to call Southern Baptist churches to “Witness, Win, and Baptize … One Million” during the 2005-06 church year.

“There’s no way to even remotely quantify how things are going numerically,” Welch said. “However, several churches that have told me they have baptized more than 100 people in a single baptismal service. Just about every day I’m hearing from small churches that they are breaking records in baptisms. Sometimes it’s only three baptisms and sometimes it’s only eight. But that’s more than they’ve ever done before and that’s a great thing.

“What we’re hearing from our Baptist associations across the country is overwhelmingly positive,” Welch continued. “We’ve got associations in the mix like we’ve never had before. That’s a very healthy, fresh touch to me. At almost every meeting I’m attending, there are associational missionaries who stand up and share what they’re doing in this Everyone Can campaign. One associational missionary announced that he’s organized five baptismal rallies in one day. Another told me that three other associations are banding together for baptismal rallies. To me, that is huge, because that is an actual manifestation one of our Everyone Can goals: unity of purpose [for evangelism]. …

“My disappointments so far,” Welch said, “are that we don’t have enough time and enough resources to accomplish everything I’d like to in this evangelistic and baptismal effort.

“Some people ask me if I’ll be disappointed if we fail,” Welch continued, “and I say, There’s no way we can fail. Ask just one person who came to Christ as a result of Everyone Can, who had their guilty, stained heart cleansed from sin, who enjoys a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and who has access to our Creator God. [Ask that person] if Everyone Can failed, and that person will vehemently disagree. In fact, they’ll tell you it was a smashing success.”

Welch added that the Everyone Can initiative has been buffeted by “the distraction of the circumstances resulting from the hurricanes and the church fires in Alabama. But, as usual, what presents itself as a distraction can also be used and has been used for the good of witnessing to others.”

Several avenues of involvement remain a vital part of making the next six months as productive as possible for winning and baptizing the lost:

— Pastors can schedule baptisms as part of their Easter Sunday services, April 16, one of the three special days that Welch has ask Southern Baptist churches to help build the Everyone Can momentum. In addition to Easter Sunday and Nov. 27 of last year, Welch has asked that churches also highlight baptism on Sept. 30, the final day of the SBC’s church year and the closing date of the Everyone Can initiative.

— Baptist associations can still schedule baptism rallies. Last fall, Welch asked the associations to call their churches together for two such rallies by Sept. 30, 2006, on dates that best suit their calendars.

Suggestions for planning the associational rallies are available at http://www.everyonecan.net by clicking on the “I’m It” logo. The website also includes a template for a promotional poster.

The beginning steps, according to the suggestions, include a meeting with the association’s director of missions and the formation of a steering team to recruit the rally’s leaders and make such decisions as the date, location, featured speaker and strategies for publicizing the gathering.

In a brief downloadable message titled “You’re It” at the Everyone Can website — http://www.everyonecan.net-– Welch says to pastors, “You’re it and I’m it. I want to ask you, Can we count on you to take leadership in that association? Go to your associational director of missions … go to fellow pastors and say, “… We need to do this, we can do this, we ought to do this, we need to be a part of this unified purpose.”

— Baptists from across the country can participate in the Crossover evangelistic opportunities preceding this year’s SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C. This year’s “Crossover Triad” evangelistic thrust is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, June 10-11, with the SBC’s annual meeting to follow on June 13-14 at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.

Links to Crossover details and a downloadable video for use in enlisting volunteers during Sunday services or other settings can be accessed at http://www.everyonecan.net.

— Churches can begin registering their baptism totals at the Everyone Can website, to provide “a ballpark figure of what kind of progress we’re making,” said Jay Johnston, director of FAITH/evangelism and discipleship at LifeWay Christian Resources. “We want to rejoice at what God has done.” The final results of the initiative, however, will not be known until April 2007 when the compilation of Southern Baptists’ Annual Church Profile is completed for the 2005-06 church year, Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

Johnston also encouraged pastors to send testimonies of what God is doing in their churches and communities as a result of the Everyone Can initiative.

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