SBC Life Articles

The Church: A Forward Operational Base

The spiritual war Christians are called to fight is not inside the walls of the church but outside where people yearn to hear the gospel, Bobby Welch said at First Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, on March 6.

Welch urged church members to realize they only gather together in order to depart with renewed vigor for the task at hand.

Continuing his speaking tour of churches leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Nashville in June, the SBC president reiterated his message for God's people to leave the comfort zone of the church and spread the gospel on the streets where God is waiting to start a revival.

Welch, a former Green Beret and Vietnam War veteran, said Christians cannot afford to mistake the purpose of the church.

"In military jargon, this church is like a forward operational base," he said in Clarksville, which is home to the Army's 101st Airborne Division. "The forward operational base is out there in order to take care of the troops who are on the front lines."

When troops on the front lines retreat to the forward operational base, they don't find a resort atmosphere with coffee shops, malls, or large pools for relaxation, Welch said. Instead, they come to retrieve more supplies, sometimes have wounds treated, hear a word of encouragement from a commander, and to be briefed on the latest battle strategy so that they can return to the action better prepared to confront the enemy.

"That is exactly what the church is all about," Welch said. "If you think the church is the place you come to, you have missed the whole point. The church is the place we leave from.

"You came today to leave," he said. "You didn't come to stay here. If you did, they would have rolled out beds.

"…We come here to get equipped to go out there because out there is where you rescue the perishing. Out there is where you care for the dying. Out there is where you meet people and minister to their lives. Outside these walls is where the action is," he said.

Welch recounted his fifty-state tour last fall to promote evangelism and baptism among the Convention's 43,000 churches.

"Everywhere I got off that bus, I put my foot down in the spirit of Joshua and Caleb, spying out our promised land called the United States. I claimed that ground for Christ and for lost souls," he said. "And there are some giants in the land. There is some opposition and some obstacles and some struggles out there, but I've got great news for you: there's not one giant in our promised land that our God can't whip the socks off of."

Having shared Christ by knocking on doors for forty years, Welch said he has never seen a hungering and a searching going on in the world like he sees now. There's a stirring, and he believes God is ready to do something huge in the harvest fields if His people will accept the call to be laborers and enter the fields.

At every church he visits, Welch invites members to commit to six challenges toward increasing the success of the harvest. The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism asks Southern Baptists to train and equip themselves and others, witness and win others to Christ, help another follow Christ in baptism, learn and apply the biblical teachings of stewardship, be involved in Vacation Bible School, and help start new units during the upcoming year.

Southern Baptists will have a major opportunity to enter the harvest fields during Crossover Nashville, which will precede this year's SBC annual meeting. Welch is working to enlist 10,000 Southern Baptists in door-to-door evangelism. More than 5,000 already have committed to the effort, and an energetic campaign is underway to recruit the rest.

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  • Erin Curry