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Welch says the local church is ‘headquarters’ for evangelism

SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. (BP)–The bus carrying Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch rolled through the hills of West Virginia in the wee hours of Aug. 31. Pulling into sight of his destination’s steeple, Welch called the Good Shepherd Baptist Church “the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention,” underscoring the centrality of the local church in Southern Baptist life and the Great Commission call to share the Gospel.

Good Shepherd, located in the Scott Depot bedroom community between Huntington and Charleston, encompasses about 220 in Sunday worship and 30 participants in the FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy widely used in SBC churches.

Welch, noting that Good Shepherd is typical of many SBC churches in size and structure, said the congregation represents the heart of what it means to be Southern Baptist — an evangelistically minded body of a couple hundred believers who faithfully participate in the Cooperative Program and will actively participate in “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

On any given day of the year there are more than 43,000 “headquarters” of the SBC engaged in the mission to “seek and save” set forth in Luke 19:10. In the Teays Valley region of West Virginia, Good Shepherd is one such church committed to evangelism and ministry.

“I think it’s wonderful that we have a Southern Baptist Convention president who wants to visit the villages and the hamlets and the small towns of the country,” said Terry Harper, executive director of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists. “That’s our state. That’s who we are.”

Welch went out visiting in a trailer park with Tim Barnette, Good Shepherd’s associate pastor, and his wife, Kara. Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., was energized by the response of the residents and left wishing he had more time to spend with Good Shepherd members as they proclaim Christ to their community.

Barnette was impressed by the motto on the bus that implores Southern Baptists to do “all you can … with all you have … where you are … NOW!” As Good Shepherd’s director of the widely used FAITH Sunday School evangelism strategy, Barnette is in the process of doing just that.

“Anybody can share,” Barnette said. “A lot of times we get in the mode where everybody sees what we’re against, and I like him [Welch] to be able to say, ‘This is what we’re for!’ We’re for evangelism.”

Returning to the church after visitation, Welch shook hands with Kara Barnette and told the couple, “I’m so proud of y’all and FAITH.”

Harper said the SBC theme of unity of purpose in evangelism will resonate throughout West Virginia.

“We have a leader who wants to see a million won to Christ, so we’re not in it alone,” Harper said. “We have someone leading the way, and we want to get on the wagon with him and win our state to Christ and win our nation to Christ.”

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  • Allen Palmeri