Welch, strategist for Global Evangelical Relations with the SBC Executive Committee, former SBC president and author of the "FAITH" method of personal evangelism, undertook the venture by co-teaching an intensive one-week Basic Evangelism course with Eddie Pate, director of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary's Kim School of Global Missions at in Mill Valley, Calif.
Students in the class, Welch said, "were from everywhere and went everywhere during the week to share Jesus with souls from everywhere."
Tayo Fadeji, a Golden Gate student from Alabama who was raised in Nigeria, was among the 34 students in the class. Welch has "a very contagious passion for evangelism," said Fadeji, who is pursuing a master of divinity degree.
"Perhaps the most contagious thing to me about Welch," Fadeji said, "is what I would call his two-sided approach to evangelism, which involves reaching the lost on the one side, and 'infecting believers' with the same passion that drives him to evangelize."
Steve Han, another M.Div. student, said the class was "the real stuff and has instilled the passion in my heart again."
Fellow seminarian Steve Reynolds agreed. "It is one of the most challenging and practical classes I've taken this year. Welch is one of the boldest men in ministry I've ever met. What I've learned here is extremely valuable. I'll take this information and use it in my life and ministry."
The Basic Evangelism course is offered each semester as well as in January as a "J-term" class. J-term is the designation for concentrated classes taught in January, June and July. The J-terms are for intensive classes of usually three to five days rather than spread out over a 15-week semester. Many also have an online component, which means that the students post assignments and have discussions in an online class forum.
Basic Evangelism is a required class for master of divinity, master of missiology and master of theological studies degrees. It is a recommended elective for master of arts & educational leadership. This Basic Evangelism class included both men and women from the Golden Gate campuses in Arizona, Pacific Northwest and Southern California, as well as Northern California. The Rocky Mountain Campus also offered Basic Evangelism in the J-term format.
The benefit of taking a J-term class is the intense focus on one or two classes during a month. Also, because some students work during the day, January and summer are natural times to be able to take time from work, maximizing the students' ability to stay on track with their degree without having to worry about being able to get large chunks of time off during the regular semester. It is also vital for students of Golden Gate's eCampus online program, since some live so far away this gives them an opportunity to be on campus for a week or two to complete their required on-campus classes.
Welch opened the Jan. 10-14 class each day with what he called "Welch Unplugged Evangelism," which he described as "radical contemporary approaches filled with passion, excitement and results for this and the future generations to come."
His instruction included demonstrating and experiencing street evangelism each afternoon in nearby San Francisco and downtown Mill Valley. Noting that there are different levels of evangelism, Welch said, "Open air preaching, street drama and door-to-door evangelism are like jumping off the high dive. Once you do that, other types of evangelism are a piece of cake."
Fadeji recounted an experience from one of his afternoon trips in San Francisco after a morning in the classroom with Welch:
"One of the ladies we spoke to in the city told us that she was raised in the Catholic Church, but that once she grew old enough, she left the Catholic Church and now embraces all faiths. She said that she followed the teachings of various people from the Dalai Lama to a Jewish rabbi.
"I asked the lady how she thought one gets to heaven. She said that she thought it was by being good and that what goes around comes around. I asked her if she would like to know if her thoughts were wrong, and if so, if she would like to know the only way to get to heaven. She said yes, and, along with my two classmates, we explained to her what the Bible says about Jesus being the only way.
"She was very receptive to what we had to say, although she admitted that she had a hard time believing that God would send someone like the Dalai Lama, who she says is a good person, to hell. While she did not make a decision to give her life to Christ, we believe that we have sowed a seed in her and just pray that the Holy Spirit will move to grow that seed in her life. A lot of the approaches that we used to ask questions and explain things to this lady came from things that Dr. Welch taught us in class."
M.Div. student Abel Garcia said, "Listening to Bobby Welch in class was inspiring and exciting. It definitely changed the way I look at evangelism. Even when it comes to street evangelism, it is all about relationships and connecting with people through relationships."
M.Div. student Brandon Imbriale said Welch is "the most inspiring evangelism expert that I have ever had the honor of learning from.... Bobby made it clear that no Christian has a valid reason for not sharing the Gospel with lost people. It's a sobering reality that lost souls in hell care more for the lost than do many Christians."
M.Div. student David Thornton underscored Welch's enthusiasm, zeal and sense of urgency for reaching the lost with the message of Christ, setting forth "our responsibility to preach the Gospel to as many as possible so that as few as possible are condemned to hell."
During the morning class lectures, Welch reminded the students, "You cannot witness the wrong way. Not sharing is the only wrong way." He encouraged the students to settle on one method for sharing the Gospel, such as using a tract or an Evangecube, and to use the method repeatedly as a consistent way to reach the lost as well as train others to be evangelists.
"It was great to watch Bobby Welch lead our students to share their faith on the streets of San Francisco," Eddie Pate said. "He helped the class to not only understand, but to also see that people in San Francisco, like people everywhere, can and do respond to the Gospel when given a simple witness and a chance."
Welch declared, "I'm leaving Golden Gate and headed toward the rest of the world thoroughly reinvigorated by this seminary, its president and staff, but especially by its students."
Golden Gate Seminary (www.ggbts.edu) is a Cooperative Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention, operating five fully accredited campuses in Northern California, Southern California, Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Colorado.
Phyllis Evans is director of communications at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
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