The pastor who nominated last year’s president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Jack Graham, has now been nominated for the 2004 presidential election. On Feb.20, Pastor Johnny Hunt announced the nomination of Pastor Bobby Welch for the annual SBC meeting held in Indianapolis, Ill., on June 15-16 this year.
"For the last 20 years I have personally had the privilege of observing Bobby Welch's unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ," said Johnny Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, in a statement to Baptist Press. "He is loved and respected by Southern Baptists everywhere. His love for evangelism through the Sunday School has encouraged and strengthened us all.
"For these reasons, and many others, it is a privilege to nominate him this year in Indianapolis for the office of president of the Southern Baptist Convention."
Bobby Welch has been the pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., since 1974. He is also the co-creator of the FAITH/Sunday School Evangelism Strategy along with retired minister of evangelism Doug Williams. He is a former president of the Florida Baptist Convention and a former SBC vice president.
FAITH is the most widespread education strategy used in SBC churches. The strategy consists of training individuals to testify Christ and then allow the congregants to incorporate the new believer into the local church by inviting them to attend Sunday School. Welch frequently travels the country to share with churches the method of applying the strategy.
FAITH is being used by churches in 49 states and in 13 countries, encompassing four language translations of FAITH materials.
Welch has written two books, "Evangelism Through the Sunday School, A Journey of Faith" and "The Sacrificed Life." He has served as a LifeWay Christian Resources trustee and a member of the SBC Committee on Resolutions and Committee on Nominations.
Last year, when the possibility of his nomination was brought up in an interview with Florida Baptist Witness, Welch responded that he would be "flattered, humbled and encouraged" that he would be considered for SBC president. The article was printed in the June 2003 edition.
In whatever Welch decides, he always wants to put the will of God first. He said he told many Baptist leaders that he will pray and "see what the Lord would have me do"
Although he felt that the nomination was “premature”, he was willing to accept if he could be used as an instrument of God by serving as president.
"If the convention were to want me to do that, I would always try to do everything I could do to help the Kingdom's cause. ... If who I am and what I represent would be helpful to this convention to ... win more people to the Lord and equip more people for the Gospel, then I'm open to that."
Welch, a Vietnam War veteran, is known for his “God and Country” lectures. During the Vietnam War, Welch was a reconnaissance platoon leader who was shot and given up for dead and then experienced God's call to ministry through God's intervention. He received the Bronze Star with "V" Device for bravery, Purple Heart, Air Medal and other decorations. He left the Army with the rank of captain.
Father of two children, Matthew and Haylee, Welch supports pro-life ministries. He graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He also earned an undergraduate degree at Jacksonville (Ala.) State University.
He has put all his experience and leadership to good use. First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach regularly gives at least 15 percent of receipts for Cooperative Program ministries through the Florida convention and the SBC.
"He has been a great supporter in Florida of the Cooperative Program and in baptisms and the FAITH ministry," said John Sullivan, Florida Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer. "He is uniquely qualified because he has been all over the convention doing the FAITH ministry. He's been in small churches and large churches. He has broad-based exposure in ministry."
John Sullivan was quoted in the June 2003 story as saying that Welch "will make a great president for Southern Baptists”.