NASHVILLE?In his report to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee during meetings Feb. 21-22 in Nashville, SBC President Bobby Welch called his cross-country evangelistic tour “overwhelming, unadulterated joy” and challenged multiple generations of Baptists to unify for the gospel’s sake.
Welch said he was nearly finished appointing the SBC Committee on Committees, noting that 21 out of the 24 people recommended by state Baptist convention executives were selected and that the home churches of the appointees gave an average of 11 percent of their budgets for Cooperative Program missions funding.
On his bus tour to promote evangelism and 1 million baptisms among Southern Baptists this year, Welch said his crew made 80 stops in 25 days and met his goal of meeting with 400 Southern Baptist leaders in the first 100 days he was president.
“I saw things in wholesale fashion out there” that are the “trappings of revival,” but few of those things are happening inside the church, he said. That makes for two possibilities, Welch insisted: “God may do the revival without any of us,” or “What if God decides he won’t do the revival unless we get out there?”
Welch told of recently sharing the gospel on the steps of a brothel in New Orleans during an outreach with seminary students and of leading veteran rock star Eddie Money?of whom he knew nothing before they met in first class?in a salvation prayer on an airplane.
Like the disciples’ unbelief about the five loaves and two fish offered for feeding the multitude recorded in John 6, believers often have the same attitude about themselves and their efforts in reaching the lost, Welch said.
A potential awakening is not about a church’s style or methods, he said. “This is about the power of God unto salvation.”
Welch said he asked three questions of Southern Baptists on his tour:
4Why don’t more of you attend SBC and state meetings?
4Why do you look outside the SBC for resources and ideas?
4What do you think the SBC needs most and what would it take to get you re-engaged in SBC life?
Respondents told him, “There is no compelling reason” to attend denominational meetings and “There are many more challenging and exciting things beyond the SBC,” he reported.
He said the consensus is that Southern Baptists will rally “to go on an elephant hunt” with bigger guns, bigger bullets, bigger stories and bigger dangers but need a challenge and a focus. Not only young people but also some older people want a keener missionary challenge, he said.
Welch complimented LifeWay Christian Resources President Jimmy Draper’s efforts to engage young ministry leaders in convention life and pleaded with the mostly veteran Executive Committee to be patient with younger pastors who shun traditional ministry avenues. He said they will come back after realizing the value of cooperation, and “some of you may want to follow them to where they’re going.”
Welch said inter-generational tension among pastors could create “deadly disconnects” as the convention redefines itself in the coming years. He also insisted that SBC entities keep touch with grassroots Southern Baptists.
Welch said generations of Baptists must move toward each other. “You cannot do your own thing. We must do a thing together to impact this world in which we live to the uttermost for the gospel. That’s the unity of purpose. This convention will never do its best until we do it together.”
At the SBC annual meeting this June in Nashville, Welch said he hopes for a Crossover evangelism effort the Saturday before the convention that is “to the X power.” Already, 3,000 Baptists have committed to event evangelism and 5,000 for door-to-door witnessing, Welch said.
“From the millionaire in first class to the prostitute on the doorstep of a whorehouse and everywhere in between lies everybody we know out there. And we’ve got the gospel?the power unto salvation?to change those lives. God bless you, and may God help us all to get it out there immediately. And we need to do it together.”