Summer had barely passed when Bobby Welch launched his two-month-long national bus tour for evangelism. However, he is already preparing for next summer and encouraging others to do the same.
“Summer is coming,” he said, “and I believe everyone should be getting ready to do Vacation Bible School.”
Welch’s bus tour, which began late August and will end by early October, is the kickoff for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to “Witness, Win and Baptize…ONE MILLION!” by Southern Baptist Churches in one year.
Speaking at a local church in Brunswick, Maine, Welch explained his understanding of the two important, successful means for sharing the Gospel and increasing baptisms: Vacation Bible School (VBS) and the FAITH/Sunday School Evangelism Strategy.
“In the SBC, we have a unity of purpose in evangelism,” Welch said. “VBS and FAITH are proven success stories in bringing people to Christ.”
VBS is a child-evangelism campaign that promotes the involvement of children in church through colorfully themed events that is held for several days. The VBS, along with the FAITH strategy, is produced and created by the SBC’s Lifeway Christian Bookstores.
According to Welch, he sat down with LifeWay’s VBS team at LifeWay and made a bargain.
“I said to them, ‘If, in the next two years, you will give us the two best Vacation Bible Schools, give us a component of evangelism and help us reach children and their parents in a way that will lead to baptisms, then I promise that I will never stand up as SBC president and talk about evangelism without mentioning Vacation Bible School.’ They told me, ‘You’ve got a deal,’” said Welch.
“I think VBS is the most dynamic and effective way to touch families,” Welch continued. “We do not have a better way to reach children, their parents and their families.”
According to statistics released by the SBC, some 472,707 people have come to a saving knowledge of Christ through VBS in the past five years, making VBS the foremost outreach tool for SBC churches.
The other outreach tool mentioned by Welch is the FAITH/Sunday School Evangelism Strategy, which takes the entire congregation on a “fishing spree” for more members. In FAITH, which Welch helped co-create, congregants ask neighbors if they would like to come out to a service, have a meal and have fellowship with the church. According to SBC statistics, the FAITH strategy “has seen 184 churches active” and has “baptized 2,575 people who found salvation in Jesus Christ” in the last year alone.
“You cast that net out, and you will gather people in,” he said of the strategy. “It will work if you don’t care who gets saved and brought into your church. But if you are only interested in bringing in people who look a particular way, drive a particular kind of car and live in a particular kind of house, it may not be for you.”
A break in the tour is scheduled for Sept. 16, when Welch will visit the SBC’s North American Mission Board (NAMB) headquarters in Georgia. The tour will resume on Sept. 23, and conclude Oct. 7 in Hawaii.