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Welch, in new role, sees CP at work abroad

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Bobby Welch, during a recent overseas trip as SBC Executive Committee strategist for global evangelical relations, said his heart was moved to see how Southern Baptists are connected through the Cooperative Program to what God is doing around the world.

One of the ways he saw the success of Southern Baptists’ unified giving plan was at a regional meeting of International Mission Board workers.

“At that meeting, I sat there and watched them all crowd into one home, deeply imbedded right in the middle of a community in that country, and watched the joy they had and saw them with their little babies and some of them were expectant mothers and others had teenage kids,” Welch said.

“I looked at them and I thought about the fact that all these people are here and they’re doing such a wonderful and powerful work and God is moving through them, and we have the joy as Southern Baptists to be putting our hand under their lives at this point and supporting them and encouraging them and supplying them with what they need to do the work of God there on our behalf,” he said.

Welch, a former SBC president and former pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., was named to the position of strategist for global evangelical relations in March as Southern Baptists’ ambassador to leaders in other countries who are interested in building relationships with likeminded believers.

Also on the trip — to Australia, the Philippines, Kazakhstan and Germany Sept. 20 through Oct. 7 — Welch met with one Baptist leader whose words continue to grip him.

“He looked at me and said, ‘You have come here, and the Southern Baptist Convention that you’re representing just this day has brought great encouragement and hope to me that I’m taking back to my people — by just being here on the ground, meeting with us,'” Welch recounted. “And I thought right then that I am there because of Southern Baptists’ heart and desire to get that done.

“He went on to say, ‘If we wait much longer in my country to rally some help, it is going to be too late for us. The door is closing too rapidly on us and our work. We will all be out of the country or we will be out of existence.’

“When I heard that, I thought Cooperative Program giving can put a wedge in that door,” Welch told Baptist Press. “Cooperative Program giving is putting people in through the crack in that door now, and we can do more.”

Another experience that highlighted the work of the Cooperative Program was a graduation ceremony at Bibelseminar in Bonn, Germany, where six German students earned master’s degrees through a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary extension program. Welch described the ceremony as “a wonderful expression of our ability to go into a country and help them on the theological education side.”

“As I sat there and looked at that, I thought, ‘Wow.’ In the midst of this packed building — looked to me like 1,200 to 1,400 people — who came early and stayed late and never moved, through all of that going on, I thought as I saw our seminary [SWBTS] represented there, ‘Here is another place where in the middle of this gang of people, God has allowed the Cooperative Program to come and have a resounding positive note to cheer them on and equip them for the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.'”

Welch said the overall trip was a confirmation that the task he has been assigned is much-needed and challenging.

“We have not come to this decision to open doors wider on reaching the world through evangelical relationships too soon,” he said. “It is very timely, and there is urgency about it.”

Throughout the world, Welch said, there are “millions of people moving into hell and missing heaven, and that is an urgent scream that we have got to hear and respond to.”

The task of reaching the nations also is pressing because it’s a command from Jesus Himself recorded in Matthew 28, he said.

“We cannot stand by with resources and personnel and heart and mind and not respond more fully to the Great Commission and the command the Lord gave us to go into this whole world,” Welch said.

He also mentioned the closing of doors that were open to the Gospel just 10 or 15 years ago. Those doors have begun to close rapidly in some places, he said, and Southern Baptists need to move quickly to gain entry.

“It’s a demanding thing just to … make these trips and try to accumulate this body of information in order to come up with a strategy and plan that would be acceptable and appealing to our convention,” Welch said, adding, “It of course will be demanding of us to do something once we see clearly and agree on what needs to be done.”

Welch said it was apparent God is “fully moving” in churches and other venues overseas where His Word is being preached, and he encountered openness to the global relations approach as fellow believers in other nations want to do their best for the Kingdom of God.

“The prospects for the future are extraordinary. It is absolutely overwhelming the opportunities and possibilities that lie out there simply for someone to put effort and energy and focus into them,” Welch said. “The opportunities are extraordinary, but they are clearly possible.”

The 18-day trip solidified in Welch’s mind “the power of the punch of the Cooperative Program,” he said.

“And I thought, ‘More, more — so many overwhelming, powerful, appealing ways for us to do more overseas as well as here.’ That’s exactly what this whole initiative is about, to do more — more going and more giving so that we can reach more lost people before more go into hell and miss heaven.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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