Bobby Welch, continuing his visits to churches across the Southern Baptist Convention, has kept his focus on urging Christians to get out of their pews and into the streets where neighbors, family members, and strangers are searching for meaning and purpose in life.
The SBC president, speaking during a two-day evangelism rally in November at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, underscored the words in 2 Peter 3 that God does not want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.
The Everyone Can rally included one baptism — of a college girl who manages the local Arby's restaurant — to celebrate the church ordinance to which Welch is urging Southern Baptists to give heightened attention.
Toward a goal of 1 million baptisms, Welch has asked Baptist associations to hold two baptism rallies by next September and for churches to emphasize baptism on Easter Sunday and on September 30, 2006.
Churches are asked to register monthly baptism updates, along with testimonies, using the "One Million Baptisms!" hotlink found in the left column on the www.everyonecan.net website.
Ken Stone, pastor of Pleasant Grove, told Baptist Press that Welch's message was "strictly evangelistic, about how we need to be out there like a stop sign warning people to get off the road to hell. It was a great, great sermon.
"The altar was full of people praying for friends and family that they know need to be saved. It was very powerful."
Before Welch spoke on Thursday, November 10, Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, addressed the congregation Wednesday night. Using Acts 1 as his text, he underscored the importance of being empowered by the Holy Spirit to go out and make a difference for Christ in the world.
"He talked about how the early believers were a new people with a new power and a new purpose," Stone said. "They went out into the world and turned the whole place upside down, just starting with that 120 in the upper room."
Stone said Luter was a tremendous preacher before, but now that his church building was severely damaged in the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina and his seven thousand members have scattered throughout the country, he is preaching with more passion and urgency than ever before.
The first night of the rally, when Luter spoke, the church was packed with about three hundred people who heard Luter tell about the early church.
"He geared his message to encourage the church to be the kind of people that are energized to go out," Stone said. "We have the power, as it says in Acts 1:8. We are the ones that need to do it. He talked about how people would see those that turned the world upside down in Acts 1 and say, 'There they are.' They didn't have buildings and budgets and they didn't have TVs and screens and all the things we have now. They just shared their faith with passion, and he said that's what we need to get back to doing ourselves."
Of the messages that Welch and Luter delivered, Stone noted that it's a good day in the Southern Baptist Convention when the key leaders are so burdened for the lost.
"Both of them stirred a lot of people and encouraged them to be soul-winners, to get out there, back to the job we're supposed to be doing," the pastor said. "I think that's so good for our Convention. After all the fights we've had and that kind of thing, it's really encouraging to have a president and prominent people in our Convention that are on the track to getting church members to be witnesses for the Lord."
Welch, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, addressed a community-wide Veterans Day celebration the next morning.
Several weeks ago when the event was being planned, Stone suggested to the organizers that they invite Welch to address the crowd because he knew he was a dynamic speaker and motivator. Then he asked Welch to come a day early and preach at the church for what would become the evangelism rally.
"It just all fell into place," Stone said. "Dr. Luter had said he would come on a Sunday, but something came up and he asked if he could come on a Wednesday, so we had him come just before Dr. Welch, and we made it a two-day event."
Stone said Welch shared his testimony with the veterans, including events in his life leading up to his deployment, his combat injury and near-death experience in Vietnam, and his life on the other side of the war.
"There were probably at least a couple hundred veterans there, not to mention all their families," Stone said. "That gym was packed and just hanging on his every word. It was great."