NASHVILLE, Tenn., (BP)–Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch said March 22 that he’s “beginning to see the makings” of “something extraordinary” within the denomination.
Welch spoke at the Tennessee Baptist Convention church planters meeting, focusing on Welch’s Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism.
The Everyone Can campaign “is getting the same touch, the same feel about it” of a great revival, said Welch, who moved to Nashville in February expressly to generate support for evangelistic activities related to the June 21-22 SBC annual meeting.
Welch launched the Everyone Can campaign last year via a nationwide bus tour, traversing the country and urging Southern Baptists to “Win … Witness … & Baptize 1 MILLION” people.
Recalling what he’d heard about the famous Shantung revival, Welch confessed to the church planters he had thought something like that may never happen again.
Years later, however, Welch witnessed a similar event in Tanzania.
“I saw people in Tanzania coming out of the bush country, looking for the message of God,” he said.
“I woke up one morning, and the people were lined up at the door before daylight. Hands folded and heads bowed, they were waiting for someone to share the Gospel with them,” said Welch, who for 30 years has served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Similarly, people are ready for a spiritual awakening today, he said.
“The wind is blowing out there. I can feel it…. We might be jumping up and down on the end of the diving board and into the next big thing God is going to do,” Welch said to a chorus of “amens.”
“You’ll be crucial to what happens,” said Welch, advising the church planters to get ready for revival and an influx of new Christians. “You are the people at ground zero. You may very well catch that wave of the power and love of God.”
A Vietnam veteran, Welch encouraged the church planters not to wait for June, but to start now in “the world where you live. Dive in. Attack it. Go out there with all four wheels burning rubber. They’re ready. They’re waiting. They want you to come.”
Welch outlined for the church planters the sermon he’s preaching from Jeremiah 8:20 as he travels Middle Tennessee, noting the longing of the harvest, as well as the laborers, the Lord and the length of the harvest.
Referring to the laborers of the harvest, Welch noted how often he hears people say, “‘It’s all about the Lord and it’s not about us.’ If you believe that statement, then it’s time to prove it –- or stop saying it and singing it.”
Such a statement must be proven beyond the walls of the local church, Welch said. “Because that’s where the harvest is –- out there,” he said, pointing out the window.
“That’s where your future and spiritual fortune lies –- in the streets. Remember, you’re starting a church. You’re not jumping on what somebody else has done.”
Welch then summarized the Everyone Can effort as a “unity of purpose for the sake of reaching people” with the message of Jesus Christ.
“The greatest danger for [the SBC] is committing collectively the sin of not being able to come together for the sake of the kingdom and lost souls,” Welch warned. “This Convention borders on that sin.”
Welch repeated a question asked of him by a reporter recently which focused on what Welch will want to see happen by Wednesday night, June 22 at the close of the SBC.
“I want to have proven something,” said Welch, adding that he wants to see a “large turn-out” and a “substantial movement of God in a significant and memorable way.”
Welch is placing much emphasis on the Crossover Nashville evangelism thrust that will take place Saturday, June 18. Some 10,000 people have committed to attend.
“If the Convention will go to the people and major on the main thing –- winning their families and friends to Christ –- then the Convention will come together to do more than ever before. If that happens, we will know what we need to do next….
“If that does not happen, then this convention has got far deeper problems than it ever imagined, especially after the effort we’re making now.
“But I believe [the revival] is just about to happen, and I’m so thrilled that you’re out there on the edge.”
Larry Gilmore, who heads the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s Evangelism Strategies Group, told Baptist Press he’s not only grateful that Welch’s efforts are encouraging the church planters Gilmore helps oversee, but is also elated that Welch’s evangelistic emphasis in the Nashville area is raising awareness of the need for people in Middle Tennessee to hear the message of Christ.
“Dr. Welch’s approach as SBC president is not only impacting Tennessee Baptists, but is impacting the whole convention in helping us to focus on evangelism,” Gilmore noted.
Gilmore said Welch’s drive toward the Crossover Nashville evangelistic events June 18 will ensure “a lot of seed is sown, and we’ll reap a good harvest. But the greatest days of harvest in Middle Tennessee will be in the 24 months after Crossover.”
Gilmore believes that’s great news for church planting and church planters.
“Our president has done more to help us focus on our mission than anything we’ve heard in a long time,” Gilmore said.