One pastor, especially, remembers Welch’s profession of faith

by Lonnie Wilkey, posted Friday, June 17, 2005 (14 years ago)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Pardon Bob Mowrey for feeling just a little proud these days.

After all, he is the only one who can claim that he led Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch to Christ while he was serving as a pastor in Fort Payne, Ala.

But Mowrey is quick to give all the credit to God. "I told Bobby how he could be saved. The Holy Spirit did the rest."

Mowrey, now pastor of First Baptist Church in Scottsboro, Tenn., recalls that Welch was dating Maudellen Bell, a member of the Alabama church. The two would later marry.

"He saw Christ in her," Mowrey said. "That's where it all began."

Mowrey didn't even know Welch had been attending the church until he came by his office one day, introduced himself, and said, “I would like to get saved."

Mowrey said he took out a New Testament and showed Welch the "Roman Road" basics of the Gospel. Welch got down on his knees and asked Jesus to come into his heart and save him, the longtime Tennessee pastor said.

Shortly after that experience in his office, Mowrey left Alabama for Park Avenue Baptist Church in Nashville, where he would serve for 35 years before retiring in 1995.

Mowrey recounted that he had been at Park Avenue for about eight years when the church began to search for a minister of youth and associate pastor. "Someone told me of a young graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary who said I had led him to the Lord," Mowrey said. That young graduate was Welch.

"I barely remembered him," Mowrey recalled, but "I asked Bobby to come and talk to me and the church later called him to serve."

After Welch joined the staff at Park Avenue, he and Mowrey "caught up" on what had transpired in Welch's life.

Welch still had the New Testament he had been given in Alabama and had taken it with him to Vietnam. Welch was almost killed there, and it was during that time he was called to preach, Mowrey said.

"Our people fell in love with Bobby. He was one of the hardest workers we ever had."

During Welch's two years on staff, the church's bus ministry "blossomed," Mowrey said.

First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., heard about Welch and extended a call to him as pastor. Mowrey said with a smile, "I felt like he probably needed more experience, but God knew what He was doing."

Over the years the two men have maintained contact with each other and preached in each other's church. Mowrey preached at Daytona Beach when the congregation observed Welch's 20th anniversary several years ago.

Mowrey said he had no idea that Welch would develop into who he has become when he came to his office in Alabama years ago. But after serving on a church staff with him, Mowrey said he was not surprised when Welch developed FAITH, the Sunday School evangelism strategy now widely used across the SBC.

"His main passion is to see people get saved and to help them grow. That's what FAITH is all about," Mowrey said.

Mowrey said he is proud of Welch and what he has accomplished. "I am thankful that he was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. His heart's desire is to take the Gospel to the world."


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