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OPINION

Welch joins TBC, will have limited GER role

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Bobby Welch, strategist for Global Evangelical Relations with the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee since 2007, has been named associate executive director/church growth with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and will continue to assist the SBC Executive Committee in Global Evangelical Relations in a reduced role.
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According to the Tennessee Baptist and Reflector, Welch, as associate executive director/church growth, will be responsible to develop, coordinate, promote and equip Tennessee Baptist churches in a statewide strategy of church planting, church revitalization and evangelism. The TBC Executive Board unanimously elected Welch to the position May 10.

In a letter to EC members, Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, said he and Welch have been in "conversation for quite some time about this possible new arrangement."

"Dr. Welch came to me some months ago with the possibility of joining with another, wholly compatible ministry," Page said, "so that he might continue the Global Evangelical Relations ministry on a much-reduced basis and still help Baptists in evangelistic ministry. From the moment he spoke to me, I truly believe that this could be a win-win situation. We have not worked out all the details and will keep you apprised as we do so."

Page said Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, "is fully aware and supportive" of Welch's continued work with Global Evangelical Relations.

"He and I have been in contact and will be working together with Dr. Welch in the arrangement of all the details and the implementation of them in such a way that both ministries will continue to be blessed by his courageous and effective leadership," Page wrote. "I know that Dr. Welch would appreciate your prayers in these coming days. Pray for those who are involved in the GER ministry as many will continue to help build relationships across this world with like-minded brothers in Christ."

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The position of strategist for global evangelical relations is part of the Executive Committee's implementation of a vote by messengers at the SBC's 2004 annual meeting in Indianapolis to build relationships with evangelistically oriented Baptists and likeminded evangelicals across the globe. The SBC initiative began with a July 2005 gathering in Warsaw, Poland, in which a contingent of nine SBC leaders met with a dozen Baptist representatives from Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Moldova to explore ways to partner more effectively in evangelism, church planting and theological education.

In his four years in the position, Welch has worked on behalf of Southern Baptists to build an overseas network of relationships with likeminded evangelicals. He has also spoken in churches, local associations and state conventions, urging Baptists to be active in witnessing in their family, work and neighborhood settings. In addition, he has championed biblical stewardship and the Cooperative Program channel of Southern Baptist support for national and international missions and ministries.

Welch said he is looking forward to the new arrangement.

"After conversations and some adjustments on behalf of Dr. Page, Dr. Davis and me, it is clear this combination is a fit for all and a win/win for the Great Commission and lost souls," Welch said. "We are confident and extremely excited about the future outcome for both TBC and GER."

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Davis told TBC board members the creation of the new position -- associate executive director/church growth -- "is a major shift that will have major implications."

Every Tennessee state convention division involved in evangelism, whether Sunday School, church planting or Vacation Bible School, will report to Welch, Davis said. Davis reminded the board that while the population of Tennessee has doubled in the last 30 years, the number of people reached with the Gospel by Tennessee Baptists has declined by 30 percent.

Roc Collins, pastor of Indian Springs Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn., served as chairman of the three-member search committee that recommended Welch. Collins said it's important that Welch continue serving in his GER role.

"He has created many relationships around the world that we need to maintain," Collins said.

Davis agreed.

"Bobby has been the face of SBC global evangelical strategy. To walk away would be damaging to those international relationships," Davis said.

Welch, Southern Baptist Convention president from 2004-06, served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., for 32 years. As SBC president, he led a two-year "'Everyone Can!' Kingdom Challenge" calling Southern Baptists to witness to, win and baptize 1 million people in a year. While pastor at First Baptist Church, he was the co-creator of the FAITH Sunday School-based evangelism strategy, which came into wide use in Baptist churches across the country.

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Asked what his new responsibilities would be, Welch said, "Dr. Davis has asked me to specifically focus upon evangelism, baptisms and discipleship." The TBC's pastors and churches "have always had a clear desire for these things, but there is now a heartfelt expression to do more ... to have more baptisms resulting from transformed, committed lives and healthy empowered churches."

Compiled by Baptist Press staff, with reporting by Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector, online at http://www.tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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