NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Although many were surprised when exit polls indicated 22 percent of voters identified moral values as their top issue on Election Day, signs that America is a highly religious nation were evident prior to Nov. 2.
A nationwide survey conducted Aug. 5-10 by the Pew Research Center and Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 64 percent of voters “say the issue of moral values will be very important to their vote.” In the same poll, 72 percent said it is important to them that a president has strong religious beliefs.
Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch is seeking to capitalize on the country’s growing spiritual interest through an ambitious effort to baptize a million people in one year and develop “warrior leaders” who will take seriously the biblical call for evangelism and discipleship.
His new book, “You, The Warrior Leader,” published by Broadman & Holman, is designed to help demonstrate how Christians in leadership roles can apply biblical principles and military strategy to overcome spiritual warfare.
In October, Welch completed a 50-state bus tour, logging about 20,000 miles in just 25 days of travel. The trip was designed to help him get better acquainted with Southern Baptist members while also rallying them to get focused on “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign, which kicks off in June 2005 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville. The campaign will begin in the middle of the convention’s “Year of the Bible” initiative, which encourages members to read through the entire Bible in one year, beginning Jan. 1, 2005.
“One of the most frequently mentioned concerns I heard was the need to get more leadership training into the states,” Welch said.
Welch said he hopes his cross-country travels will help rekindle a fire for evangelism and ignite a sense of urgency among Southern Baptists across the nation.
“There are people out there who are searching for what we Christians have, if we will just share it with them,” Welch said. “We are engaged in a spiritual war, and my prayer is that Christians will recognize the nature of this battle and pull together to make a real impact on this country.”
Fighting battles is nothing new for Welch, 61, who put aside dreams of a military career for the life of a minister and evangelist. The Alabama native became a Christian as a teenager, but it was in combat in Vietnam where his faith commitment became resolute.
Shot at point-blank range by a Viet Cong guerrilla, Welch was believed to be dead when he was piled onto a military helicopter with other casualties. He whispered a prayer of recommitment to Christ in the days that followed as he struggled to survive.
“Ever since that day, I live in the conscious state of knowing that I may not get home tonight, and that drives a great sense of urgency in me of reaching people with the good news of God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ,” he said.
This summer, Welch marked his 30th anniversary as pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he co-founded the FAITH/Sunday School Evangelism Strategy, which is widely used by churches across the Southern Baptist Convention. More than 8,000 pastors and thousands of church groups have been trained in the program.
During his bus tour, which began Aug. 29 in Daytona Beach and concluded Oct. 7 in Waikoloa, Hawaii, Welch visited all sizes and types of churches “in order to get a mosaic of what the SBC really looks like at its grassroots and heart.” During the stops, he made opening remarks before joining church members in door-to-door visits within the community and meetings with church leaders.
While in the Army, Welch attained the rank of captain and served as a paratrooper, ranger, Green Beret and jungle expert. He draws upon his extensive military experience and uses military terminology throughout his book to serve as a constant reminder of the connection between physical and spiritual warfare.
“Not only is the United States at war with human terrorists bent on our destruction, but we also are at war with unseen spiritual terrorists who work day and night to discourage and defeat us,” Welch said. “The fortress mentality is not the way to victory — we must take the offensive and fight strategically,” said added.
“Our message is one of hope for the world, and wherever hope in Jesus Christ is preached, there’s bound to be a fight brewing in the spiritual realm. We need not fear the battle, but we must be prepared for it and not try to fight in our own strength.”
“You, The Warrior Leader” is available online at www.lifewaystores.com and at Lifeway Christian Stores nationwide.