BAPTISM SUNDAY: Ministry on the ball field
EDITOR'S NOTE: Baptism Sunday is an initiative begun by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear in which Southern Baptist churches hold baptism services on the same Sunday to highlight the work of the Lord in their communities and congregations. The next Baptist Sunday is Easter Sunday, April 12.
DURHAM, N.C. (BP) -- Blair Graham met Greg and Becca Welch while he was serving as a baseball coach in a community league.
Graham is pastor of stewardship and generosity at The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., where Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President J.D. Greear is pastor.
Graham could tell Greg Welch was not a believer and felt the Holy Spirit telling him simply to be friends with the couple.
Throughout the season, Graham didn't even invite the couple to church.
But after forming a connection over baseball and working out, Graham asked the Welches if they'd like to spend time with his family hanging out at a pool.
They accepted and during their time together, Graham asked them to share their story.
After sharing, the Welches then asked Graham and his wife to do the same and Graham was able to share his testimony.
But, Graham said, "at the end of the conversation I didn't really have a chance to even invite them to church or ask them what they thought."
Graham was discouraged by what he thought was a wasted opportunity.
But in a later text conversation, Graham asked Welch if he'd like to work out together sometime, and the response shocked him.
Welch expressed minimal interest in the workout and instead asked Graham if he and his wife could attend The Summit with the Grahams.
"The fact that I asked him to work out and his response was 'Hey that's great but can I go to church with you sometime?' He basically invited himself to church which I thought was absolutely incredible," Graham said.
Welch said he and his wife were not religious people, but the Grahams' life intrigued them.
"My wife and I thought wow Blair is such a nice person and seems so content and happy with his life," Welch said. "My wife and I have never been religious people in the past nor been baptized even as small children. We decided to go to a service on a Sunday morning to see what the church was all about."
The Welches attended service with the Grahams the following Sunday and then, to Graham's surprise, returned on their own the next few weeks.
Welch said he was blown away as he continued attending The Summit Church.
"We continued to attend service regularly, we really felt that there was something missing in our lives although happy, having three great kids and being blessed in many ways," Welch said.
After attending five weeks in a row, Graham asked Welch to sit down with him and talk about what he had been learning at The Summit.
In a restaurant that evening, Welch accepted the gift of salvation and decided to follow Jesus.
Graham recalls telling Welch he could take some time to think about his decision to which Welch emphatically responded, "I'm not leaving here until I receive that [salvation]."
Knowing Baptism Sunday initiatives were approaching at The Summit, Graham was able to explain to Welch what baptism is and the call to Christians to publicly proclaim their faith.
Welch was all in, ready to be baptized even that same night, Graham said.
Noting his thought process as he and his wife attended The Summit, Welch said "we came to realize that what was missing was Jesus and a bigger purpose for our lives. As we continued to learn and study the Gospel things really felt right with the church and the Christian faith."
Graham said he asked Welch where his wife Becca stood with the Lord and following another conversation between the two couples, learned that Becca too had turned to Jesus and desired to get baptized.
Greg and Becca were baptized together the very next day, in one of the baptism-focused services The Summit held in correlation with the SBC-wide Baptism Sunday.
Greg Welch said getting baptized was the natural next step for him and Becca.
"We related to the Gospel and were eager to grow a relationship with God," he said. "We both decided to take the next step and give our lives to Jesus by getting baptized, which was just an incredible experience. We both have learned so much and have a fulfillment we were lacking by knowing the Lord now and are excited to continue the journey God has for us."
Graham said this story of God's grace is so significant because of the absolute picture of God's sovereignty it gives.
"I didn't even do everything quote-unquote right," Graham said. "Like after sharing my testimony I didn't give them a chance to receive that or ask them what they thought or invite to do anything. I basically shared my testimony and then I had to go. God really just opened their hearts to the Gospel which was so amazing."
Although he felt he may have missed an opportunity or did not follow all the rules for what telling people about the Gospel usually looks like, God was fulfilling His plan, Graham said.
"It's just been the coolest salvation experience that I've ever walked through with someone, and it's totally a God thing," he said. "It's not because I'm articulate or had all the right things to say or the right presentations. God was just drawing them to Himself."
The Welches are now very involved in his small group and are hungry to learn and grow, Graham said.
Welch said The Summit church has been a blessing in his family's life from the very beginning.
"The church isn't one which judges, and made us feel comfortable even at the early stages when were nervous as religion was new to us both," he said. "God has done so much for us in the short time we have known Him, showing our family tremendous grace, compassion and comfort in our lives. We are truly blessed to be in the position that we are in and we owe all of that to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."