‘Everyone Can’ gaining momentum as annual meeting nears
LINCOLNTON, N.C. (BP)--More than 800 people gathered at an associational baptism rally in Lincolnton, N.C., April 3 to see a dozen people baptized and several more make decisions to follow Christ, and Bobby Welch believes the rally shows that momentum is gaining toward the Southern Baptist Convention’s next annual meeting.
Welch, president of the convention, has been speaking at North Carolina churches and associations during the months of March and April to lay the groundwork for a successful annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., June 13-14. He is particularly interested in keeping the “Everyone Can” goal of witnessing to, winning and baptizing 1 million new believers at the forefront.
“This first six weeks of my being here, I’ve discovered that we really are getting a lot of spiritual traction here in preparation for the convention,” Welch told Baptist Press. “It’s obvious all over North Carolina that these directors of missions really have understood the importance of these associational baptism rallies and are challenging and urging and encouraging the associations to do it.”
Last July, Welch asked each of the 1,188 Baptist associations across the SBC to hold two associational baptism rallies between Oct. 1, 2005, and Sept. 30, 2006, as a joint effort among all the churches of an association. They should choose a neutral site at which to hold the rally, he said, and pastors should bring at least one person to be baptized into their church fellowship at the rally.
At the civic auditorium in Lincolnton, members from the 58 churches in the association joined together as 12 new believers were baptized into the Kingdom in portable baptisteries before a large crowd of supporters. One who was baptized was a young woman who was evacuated with her family to a church in the association after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
“It was made mention when she was baptized that this had been one of the blessings out of Katrina, that God had brought this young woman to their community and now into the Kingdom of God,” Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., said.
After Welch spoke, hundreds of people gathered around the altar to pray.
“Some of them knelt in puddles of water left over from the baptismal pool,” Welch said. “They prayed for their lost neighbors and friends and prayed that they would be able to be more diligent in trying to share their faith with those around them.”
When Welch invited those gathered to accept Christ if they hadn’t already done so, the Katrina victim’s brother and sister raised their hands to indicate they wanted to make a decision for Jesus.
“It was her joyous testimony of that faith that thrilled the crowd on the night of the Everyone Can rally,” Bob Wise, director of missions for the South Fork Baptist Association in Lincolnton, said. “From the sadness and devastation of the storm to the joy and restoration pictured in the drama of baptism, oh what a Savior!”
Others who were saved that night included the sister of another woman who was baptized and a father who had come to watch his young adult son enter the baptismal waters.
“It was one of the absolute best meetings, and we’ve had some tremendous meetings,” Welch told BP.
One of the points of the associational baptism rallies, Welch said, is to create a unity of purpose among the pastors and churches in an association toward reaching the goal of the “‘Everyone Can’ Kingdom Challenge!” for evangelism. In North Carolina, he hopes the rallies also are generating excitement about Crossover, the annual event preceding the convention that challenges people to knock on community doors to share the Gospel.
Welch said he knows of one association that is having eight outdoor baptismal rallies in one day.
“I’ve run across I don’t know how many people who have already broken their all-time baptism records in their churches simply because people are really getting earnest,” he said.
At the midpoint of the Everyone Can challenge, Welch said he is seeing results that cannot be measured in numbers.
“The big deal is we’re having more conversation, we’re having more activity and we’re having more interest in witnessing to, winning and baptizing than we’ve had in recent years, and that is a huge leap upward and forward,” he said. “I’m very excited about what I’m seeing because we are absolutely experiencing a building of momentum and emphasis and interest as compared to this time last year.”