GREENSBORO, N.C.–Addressing Southern Baptists for the last time as convention president, Bobby Welch, croaking frog in hand, called on Southern Baptists to regain confidence in the gospel’s power to save souls and to set high the bar because “Christ wants more.”
Preaching from John 6 about the feeding of the 5,000, Welch focused much of his message on the “lad” who offered his five loaves and two fish as an answer to the multitude’s need.
In a sermon that also touched on the importance of the SBC’s Cooperative Program missions funding channel, Welch told messengers that if it dies it would take three generations before anything like it could emerge. Regardless of the cost, “We have to do more going, and we have to do more giving.”
Noting the five loaves and two fish offered by the boy in John 6, Welch emphasized that the boy saw himself as an answer to the need, and Christ “wants more because he sees more in the crowd.”
“And there’s still more coming,” Welch said. Southern Baptists must recognize where God is calling for more and must meet the need,” he said. “Christ wants more. Christ wants more because he sees more.”
Southern Baptists must do more than just invite people to churches or conferences and give people Christian books. Such methods are fine, but, “We must rediscover our confidence in the power of God’s gospel” to change people anytime, any place, Welch said.
Citing Paul’s profession in Romans 1:16 that he is not ashamed of the gospel, Welch told the messengers, “No wonder, listen to what it will do for you.”–it is the power of God to salvation for all believers, Welch explained.
“You don’t have to just invite them [to church],” Welch said. “You can win them on the spot.” A verbal witness is critical “because they might die before they get to the kool-aid stand or finish the book,” Welch said.
Calling on messengers to pray for the North American Mission Board’s search committee, Welch said the mission board “is in a position to identify and articulate what Southern Baptists believe about their theology of evangelism” and how to apply it. If Southern Baptists lose their commitment to evangelize, many souls will perish, Welch charged.
He was reminded of the power of CP giving, he said, while watching Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers after last year’s hurricanes. “I thought, ‘hallelujah’ … That was us on that truck … because we were there through the Cooperative Program giving.”
He also related the story of talking to an International Mission Board regional leader who lamented the millions who would not hear the gospel this year because the need exceeds missionaries and funding.
Welch said, “Whatever it takes in our going and our giving, we must do it. Whatever it takes.
“With the Cooperative Program everyone can, because your dollars work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year” across the world.
Welch said of the many discussions messengers had at the annual meeting about CP giving, everyone said SBC churches ought to give more, not less.
“The Lord has to get more from the Christian before he can get more for the crowd,” Welch explained.
In John 6, “Christ is calling for a lot” and the disciples are emphasizing what little they have–a danger of churches who undervalue their significance by thinking they are in a small town in a small church with small pews, a small Bible and small print.
“[A]nd all the while all God needed was a lad. Just a lad. Just a lad,” Welch marveled.
He suggested that the men in the crowd must have been vying for a seat at the leadership table or chasing after other unprofitable goals.
“I want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, you can fool around, you men and women, and God will turn it over to a lad if you aren’t careful,” Welch warned.
“There is a lad—here! That’s what made the lad handy. He was paying attention. He’s here; he’s not preoccupied. There is a lad and he’s here. He’s present and accounted for.”
As the boy presents himself and his meager offering to the disciples, “he’s just fallen into the ‘Everyone Cant! I’m It!’ camp,” Welch said, alluding to the SBC 20006 evangelistic theme.
Despite the lack that many people perceive in themselves, “if you’re there, everyone can … and you could be it,” Welch charged.
Some people have tried to talk him out of aiming for one million baptisms, citing the difficulty, Welch admitted. He noted that high jumpers raise the bar high to reach their potential.
“We will baptize a million in a year. I don’t know if it will be this year,” Welch said. “We could baptize a million in a year if you’d get up and get out of here and go to work.”
“Some of you are practicing limbo when you ought to be going after a high bar,” although the high bar isn’t the emphasis, Welch said.
Rather the jumper is the emphasis, Welch said, and “we’ve been going around talking to jumpers.” The bar must be set higher because Christians “measure success in eternity.”
“You look at the Lord and he wants more. You look at the lad and he had more,” Welch said. Likewise, the crowd had more than they could contain and the world heard more than they expected because of the lad’s willingness and God’s faithfulness.
Welch said Southern Baptists are on the last turn in a NASCAR race. “That’s when you kick it. That’s when you accelerate, accelerate, accelerate. Give it all you’ve got,” he urged.
Welch recalled last year’s presidential sermon, when he presented two dead frogs that had strayed from their home, explaining their demise to Southern Baptists as a warning to stay in the deep-water safety of God’s Great Commission.
Welch said that several weeks after last year’s annual meeting, he received a package containing a dead frog and a note, which read: “Bro. Bobby, this frog’s name is Fred. He left the deep, hopped in the street, and now he’s dead.” The note was signed by the late Adrian Rogers and his wife, Joyce.
Noting that some of the frogs on his property stay in the deep water, Welch presented a live frog, “Fred Number 2.”
“This booger here is a deep-water doer,” Welch said to audience applause and laughter.
“All frogs don’t hop the wrong way. This ol’ boy hangs out in the deep. You ought to hear it at night when he and his buddies are down there.”
Welch then prompted Fred to croak several times. “That’s you by yourself.” Then came the artificial sounds of numerous frogs, including Fred, croaking together.
“You say ‘what are you doing?’ I’m working with the jumpers right now. And that ain’t Fred. That’s you. You see the difference in one and a unity of purpose? That’s the difference. That’s why this convention needs to come together on the main thing.”
Welch said the greatest fear driving the Southern Baptist Convention should be the realization that God will hold each to account at the bema judgment seat “and cause us to answer for our collective sin of squandering our opportunity as a convention. That’s what we need to fear.”
The SBC’s unparalleled strength is its size, which should humble its members and call them to greater stewardship of purpose, Welch said.
“All of you in this room will die. You will all die, all your children will die, and likely many of your grandchildren will die before you will ever, ever in your lifetime have a chance to see any organism or organization that has the capability and potential to change a whole world for Christ like the Southern Baptist Convention. It doesn’t exist. This is it.
“You tell me, you older guys. God help you older guys … if you fold your hands and say, ‘Well, I did all I could. Let’s see what they can do with it.’”
“God help you younger bunch if you jump ship and run and leave the convention that has done so much for you when you ought to be doing so much for the kingdom.”
Welch continued, “So I’d like to issue a warning: You older ones, you leave and you’ll be sorry. You younger ones, you leave and you’re going to show your ignorance—because you’ll never have another opportunity to help and lead and be a part of anything like this to change the entire world.”
Referring back to John 6, Welch said: “There is a lad here, and the lad heard that. Can you see the lad? Can you see him? Then he stepped out. Then he moved forward. I can just hear a woman in the crowd: ‘Oooh, where is that boy’s mother?’ I can hear another say ‘Yes, and look how dirty his hands are.’ And then I can hear a man as he creeps along—beside all those who should have been going—he creeps along and man says, ‘Hey, where are you going?’
“Another man grabs him by his coattail. ‘Wait just a minute, son. Who are you? What do you think you’re doing?’
“And the little boy tugs loose and he looks over his shoulder with those stinking little dried-up fish, and that crumbly bread with those dirty hands and unseemly outfit and says, ‘I may be it. I may be it.’ And he starts creeping forward.”
Welch said the boy must have realized that he really was “it.”
Welch continued, “Everyone can, and you are it. God help you God help us, not to mess this up with this great opportunity of ours.” He closed by saying he was not retiring from First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, Fla., “for no good reason.”
“This convention is worth the best of the rest of all our lives and going and giving for the sake of lost souls is too. And I commit myself to that end tonight here. An I pray you will too.”