NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Bobby Welch has been named to the position of Strategist for Global Evangelical Relations with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.
Welch is the SBC’s immediate past president and former pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he served 32 years.
Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, said Welch will be “Southern Baptists’ ambassador to those leaders in other countries who are interested in building relationships as likeminded brothers and sisters in the Lord.”
Welch began his duties March 15 and will continue to live in Daytona Beach.
Chapman noted that the new position of Strategist for Global Evangelical Relations is part of the Executive Committee’s implementation of a vote by messengers at the SBC’s 2004 annual meeting in Indianapolis to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance and to build relationships with evangelistically oriented Baptists and likeminded evangelicals across the globe. Funding formerly designated for the BWA was reassigned for the new international initiative and remains within the SBC operating budget.
The SBC initiative began with a July 2005 gathering in Warsaw, Poland, in which a contingent of nine SBC leaders met with a dozen Baptist representatives from Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Moldova to explore ways to partner more effectively in evangelism, church planting and theological education.
In June 2006, 250 Baptists from 11 countries attended a conference in Oradea, Romania, delving into such themes as missions, evangelism, church planting and preaching. Paul Negrut, president of the Romanian Baptist Union, envisioned such conferences being held in other locations worldwide for Bible-believing Christians “whose hearts are knit together in compassion for an unregenerate world.”
And several Southern Baptist leaders have had an exchange of visits during the past six months with leaders of Russian-German Baptist and Mennonite groups in Germany interested in creating a cooperative approach to missions and pastoral training.
Chapman said Welch will have three key emphases in his travels overseas and across the Southern Baptist Convention:
— First, Welch will help build an overseas network of relationships and develop partnering opportunities such as evangelism and discipleship conferences.
— Second, in Welch’s stateside speaking engagements in churches, Baptist associations and state conventions, he will continue to champion the urgent need for Baptists to be active in witnessing in their family, work and neighborhood settings. Welch is accepting invitations to speak, call 386-253-5691, ext. 401.
— Third, and importantly, Chapman noted, will be biblical stewardship and the Cooperative Program channel of Southern Baptist support for national and international missions and ministries. Welch led First Baptist in Daytona Beach to be among the SBC’s leading churches in CP support during his years as pastor.
“Bobby has a passion for the lost and he combines this with a gifted ability to connect with others across generations and cultures, both ideal traits for reaching out to likeminded evangelicals around the world,” Chapman said.
“Importantly, he is an anointed preacher, allowing him to relate to the lost and the saved, and Bobby has been an incredible leader in our convention in so many ways,” Chapman added, “most recently as SBC president, but for so many years in consistently leading his church to be strong supporters of SBC missions through the Cooperative Program.”
Messengers at the 2004 convention approved a BWA Study Committee recommendation that the BWA funding be redirected “to develop and execute a new and innovative strategy for continuing to build strong relationships with conservative evangelical Christians around the world as together we witness to the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Withdrawal from the Baptist World Alliance was recommend by the BWA Study Committee because, at least for the SBC, the BWA “no longer efficiently communicates to the unsaved a crystal clear gospel message that our Lord Jesus Christ is solely sufficient for salvation.”
The committee had noted that the recommendation “is not intended to cast aspersion upon the many godly and enthusiastically evangelical Baptist fellowships that are members of the BWA. We fully intend to continue to partner with our oldest and best friends worldwide and to develop new and vibrant friendships and joint endeavors to reach the world for Christ.”
Welch, as SBC president, led a two-year “‘Everyone Can!’ Kingdom Challenge” calling Southern Baptists to witness to, win and baptize 1 million people in a year. He traveled to 48 states by bus and flew to Alaska and Hawaii to promote the evangelistic initiative. Initial results of the effort will be evident when statistics from Southern Baptists’ Annual Church Profile are released in April.
Welch also traveled as SBC president to six countries in four of the International Mission Board’s regions in December 2005 -– Central Asia, Northern Africa and the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific Rim.
First Baptist Daytona Beach regularly met its goal of sending one mission team overseas each month, said Welch, who long ago lost count of the number of countries he has visited in various missions trips.
“I do have a burning passion for overseas work, and always have, and so has our church,” Welch said.
As First Baptist’s pastor, Welch also was the co-creator of the FAITH Sunday School-based evangelism strategy, which came into wide use in Baptist churches across the country.
Reflecting on the threefold emphases he will have as Southern Baptists’ Strategist for Global Evangelical Relations, Welch said:
— Overseas, he will seek “to take large steps toward locating those persons that God has already prepared on every continent and to relate them to each other and to the SBC for the cause of winning lost souls in an unparalleled way.”
— In the United States, he will seek “to be another voice that continues to wave the flag of soul-winning to focus our greatest effort on winning the lost in a way that helps likeminded evangelicals see a greater movement of God across America.”
— Concerning stewardship and the Cooperative Program, he noted, “Everybody realizes, of course, that the Cooperative Program is the oxygen that fills the lungs of this convention and the blood that runs through its veins to all missions and evangelism stations here and around the world.
“The more we go, the more we will need to give,” Welch said, “and the more we give, the more we’ll be able to go.
“My emphasis is on ‘more’ -– more going and more giving.”
In his new role, Welch added, “My desire is, as when I was president of the SBC, to be the best friend to and the greatest helper of the IMB, NAMB and others who are trying to reach people and to carry out Great Commission evangelism and discipleship.
“This is not going to be any sort of infringement on IMB or NAMB and their responsibilities overseas or in North America,” he continued. “It will be, I am praying, a very wonderful, strong relationship.”
Particularly from an overseas standpoint, Welch said he has discussed his new role with IMB President Jerry Rankin and other top leaders at the mission board and will be traveling to the board’s offices in Richmond, Va., to “meet with their leadership worldwide” before embarking on his overseas travels.
“This is in no way any effort to be an alternative to the BWA or to start another BWA,” Welch also said. “I have no programs, supplies, products, etc. My duty is to connect persons here and around the world to each other in the hope that they will move forward together for the Great Commission. My prayer, goal and intent is for the IMB, NAMB and the SBC to be blessed and accelerated by such a synergy of relationships. To that end, I am to strive to be what was termed as an ‘ambassador’ of good will and evangelism for our great convention.”