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Welch’s bus tour buoyed by prayer at stops in Ohio & Ky.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Pastors who encourage their congregations to pray are good medicine for Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention –- and even more so when the prayer is for a person in need of Christ.

Terry Fields, pastor of Liberty Heights Church in West Chester, Ohio, and Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., among others, led in prayer as Welch’s national bus tour stopped at the two churches Sept. 7.

Welch, in the tour, is seeking to heighten a sense of urgency for evangelism among Southern Baptists toward the kickoff of “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign, which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

“You can do a lot of things and not pray, but you can’t do more than what you do when you do pray,” Welch said. “What we’re encouraging here — soul-winning, reaching people — that’s a Spirit work. We don’t have any ability to do that. It’s a Spirit work and it’s an intercessory work….

“[T]he only real contact we’ve got with the Lord is through prayer and His Word,” Welch noted. “So if you go out here not praying, then you can expect not much.

“If you go praying, you can be assured that regardless of what you see, more than you ever dreamed is happening.”

Fields and Ezell were at the forefront of expecting much Sept. 7.

“I’ve just asked God to draw a lot of our key Baptist leaders and pastors from around the state to free their schedule to be here,” Fields said at Liberty Heights, stop No. 21 on Welch’s national tour, “and to come with an open heart to be challenged by Bobby in this whole idea of Kingdom focus.”

Inside the bus, seven Ohio Baptists prayed for the effectiveness of Welch, 30-year pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., in the push toward one million baptisms between the SBC’s 2005 annual meeting in Nashville and the 2006 annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.

Later in the day, the Highview visit was preceded by a couple of unscheduled stops at Crestwood (Ky.) Baptist Church and Lakeland Baptist Church in Louisville.

“I’m a friend of Bobby’s,” Ezell said, “so I pray for him regularly, especially about his impact on the entire convention this year.

“He has such a great platform” as SBC president to call Southern Baptists to greater outreach.

As Welch drove home the importance of faithfulness in proclaiming the name of the Master to a lost, dying world, his audiences at the Ohio and Kentucky churches appeared to be getting the message.

“Bobby’s an expert in the motivation business,” Fields said. “If they’ll just get here [to the church that morning], I think the Lord will take care of the rest through Bobby’s challenge.

“I’ve asked prayer partners to pray, key individuals in the church, and of course Sunday it was a major part of our emphasis.”

Bill Mackey, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, noted, “I can’t expect pastors to be soul-winners unless I’m a soul-winner.” Mackey and five other men, mostly denominational workers, prayed over pastor Troy Dobbs, 36, of Crestwood Baptist Church, which was the first unscheduled stop during the day.

“It shows me how serious he is about the next generation of pastors,” Dobbs said of the encouragement he felt.

The fact that prayer is such a key part of the SBC evangelism expedition Welch is leading through the highways and byways of America has not been lost on Rick Shepherd of the Florida Baptist Convention’s prayer and spiritual awakening department. Shepherd e-mailed some of his thoughts on prayer to Baptist Press before the tour.

“I expect that God will do some creative things along the way,” Shepherd said.

“Hearing [people’s] testimonies,” he added, “should give you a lot of the heart of the ministry that is going on” in churches across the country.

At Liberty Heights, for example, prayer is part of a wholeness the church seeks in evangelism, discipleship and missions. With a “24-7” type of outreach where people are cared for through ongoing positive relationships, Fields noted: “We really try not to turn evangelism into a program.”

    About the Author

  • Allen Palmeri