Is Bobby Welch Wrong About CP?

I like Bobby Welch.  I have only met him on one occasion, around ten years ago when I was serving as an Associate Pastor of FBC Poinciana, near Kissimmee, FL.  The Senior Pastor and I took a group of folks from our church to a F.A.I.T.H. Evangelism Training event at First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach.  Pastor Bobby’s enthusiasm for reaching the lost — whether in your own hometown or half-way around the world — was contagious!  At the conclusion of the training, I asked Pastor Bobby to sign a copy of my F.A.I.T.H. New Testament, which he graciously did.

Maybe I’m biased, but as a native Floridian who was reared in a Southern Baptist church in the middle of the state, I always looked to pastors like Bobby Welch and Orlando’s Jim Henry as heroes in the faith.  Leaders of “mega churches,” these men never came across as a celebrity pastor or a rising star.  Whether watching Jim Henry’s video series on Deacons or seeing Bobby Welch’s “Everyone Can” bus tour, it seemed that “what you saw was what you got.”  At least from my vantage point as a grassroots pastor of a Southern Baptist church, men like Bobby Welch and Jim Henry had (and still have) a down-to-earth servant attitude that appears to be sorely lacking in many within the SBC establishment.

It was with a servant’s heart and a compassion for seeing the lost won to Christ that Bobby Welch served Southern Baptists as President of our Convention from 2004-2006.  As a large church pastor, he led FBC Daytona Beach to give 15% of their undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program each year.  When only “a handful of mega churches” give at least 10% or more to CP each year, why would Daytona Beach send so much money to the Florida Baptist Convention (pre-Imagine If) and the SBC?  Perhaps Bobby Welch answered this question best when he told Baptist Press in 2006,

“The Baptists’ best bounce for their Baptist buck is through C.P. [the Cooperative Program],” Welch said during his president’s address. “With the Cooperative Program, everyone can. Your dollar works seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, all around the world, non-stop — even when you’re snoring, asleep, it’s still working.”

Was this hyperbole or did Bobby Welch really mean what he said?  Considering that he led his church to consistently and sacrificially give 15% of undesignated receipts to partner with other churches — large and small — to fulfill the Great Commission, I would say that he was speaking and living out the truth.  If he says that the Cooperative Program is the best way to fund missions, then I believe that he means it.  I can’t envision Bobby Welch saying that “he thinks CP is important and worthy of honor and affirmation as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our outreach,” and then take actions which even appeared to undermine his word.  I can envision quite a few current pastors in Florida and elsewhere who would say and do exactly that.

Four years after he spoke these words, Welch made what appear to be his only public comments on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and its recommendations.  In an interview with Will Hall of Baptist Press, Bobby Welch, former pastor of mega church FBC Daytona Beach, former President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and current (although probably soon-to-be former) head of Global Evangelical Relations (that doesn’t plant churches, does it?), he spoke words of wisdom for anyone willing to listen.  Maybe you missed reading what he had to say back in June.  It’s never too late to learn from one of the SBC’s finest servants.  Welch said:

The two-year effort (speaking of his SBC Presidency and “Everyone Can” bus tour) proved that it is absolutely POSSIBLE to rally the entire SBC to a “unity of purpose” that begins with the local churches of all sizes, shapes and forms.  I have read that greater than 90% of CP giving comes from churches with under 2,000 in attendance, with 63% of that number from churches with attendance less than 500. Additionally, churches with attendance under 200 give more than 1/3 of that 93% total (and more than 50% of all SBC churches have 100 or less in attendance).  Without a doubt, when churches have that wide, deep and sacrificial level of support overall — they will, of course, respond more favorably and quickly to things that process by way of their base and commitments. 

Understanding this fact is exactly why I, for two years, practically lived out in that huge SBC environment via bus, car, plane, foot, etc. That, in turn, created an extraordinary grassroots groundswell for something near and dear to their hearts. It was also directly helpful immediately to their personal calling and task at their local church for reaching and discipling lost souls.  To most on the field, this grassroots path is viewed and appreciated as a very sharp contrast to what they consider to be the so-called “top down – our idea” approach.  The grassroots road is a road less traveled but it is the only path to our only hope — which is “unity of purpose” for the sake of lost souls! (emphasis added)

Does Bobby Welch actually believe what he told Will Hall of Baptist Press just days before the Orlando Convention?  Surely those numbers about churches and their Cooperative Program giving must be wrong?  All this talk about the so-called “grassroots” and roads less traveled is just mushy, wrong-headed thinking, right?  I mean, didn’t Bobby get the memo about how “unity of purpose” can be dreamed up behind closed doors and imposed by the big boys from the top down on all those unsuspecting small and medium-sized churches that keep sending in 63% of all CP contributions?  Oh, I forgot.  Memos like that won’t see the light of day for 15 years.

Was Bobby Welch wrong about the Cooperative Program in 2006?  Did he misspeak in his pre-Convention interview in 2010?  As one of those grassroots pastors — a lifelong Southern Baptist — I think that Welch was right then and he is right now.  If the less traveled grassroots road is closed to traffic, then what road will the “Everyone Can” bus of cooperating Southern Baptists end up on?  If Bobby Welch is right, it will end up on the road to less cooperation, less hope, less unity of purpose, and ultimately, less souls won for Christ.  I suppose that Pastor Bobby could be wrong.  But, don’t be surprised when grassroots Southern Baptists — the ones he actually took the time to get to know — prove him right!

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About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
This entry was posted in Cooperative Program, Great Commission Resurgence, Southern Baptist Convention and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Is Bobby Welch Wrong About CP?

  1. stephen fox says:

    Seems like the Christianity Cover story on Al Mohler is the hot topic in sBc life for the week.
    I doubt Bobby Welch is on same page with Mohler’s brand of Francis Schaefferism as there is not a lot of comfort in leading percentage giving Coop Program churches with Eunie Smith being the chair of SBC ERLC trustees.
    Most local churches don’t have enough common ground to open up a discussion that involves everything from the ideology of Francis Schaefferism to the Birch Society mentality that is at the core of everything Eunie Smith has lived out in her life.
    Frank Page and Jim Henry will eventually go the way of Herschel Hobbs. The purging fundamentalism fever has not runs its course in the SBC and I doubt at his age when push comes to shove Bobby Welch will do anything to stand in the way of it.
    Howell, folks like you and Wade Burleson ought to find a way to court what you can stomach in the CBF, support some of their enterprises, ride out as long as you can cooperative ministries within your State Convention, and let the National SBC die a natural death, holding out some kind of sensible lifeline Lottie Moon Societal or otherwise to Foreign Missions, but keep an eye on every dollar in the burgeoning SBC Ragtime.

    • stephen fox says:

      for instance, how will the churches that remain in the SBC and give sacrificially to CP navigate this document to follow when Mohler, Ronnie Floyd and Bobby Welch start to demonize it as Liberal.
      Where is the Diapason in what remains of SBC Life or is it drifting on Nostalgia and auto pilot?

      http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/5738/53/

      • Howell Scott says:

        Stephen,

        On the road most of the day visiting a terminal cancer patient in the hospital about 75 miles away. I saw Sandy’s reference to the Christianity Today cover story on Dr. Mohler. I looked at the Barnes and Noble in Las Cruces, NM for it, but it was not on the shelves yet. Will be interested to read it. I would say that pastors like Jim Henry and Bobby Welch, while solidly conservative, were (and are) cut from a different clothe than the newer and younger leaders within the establishment of the SBC. While at Southern during the mid-90s, my wife and I had the privilege of serving special guests who were staying at the Seminary. One of those guests was Jim Henry, at the time he was President of the Convention. For a large church pastor, he was by far the most down-to-earth, gracious pastor that we served. I would say Bobby Welch is in that same category. If memory serves, he even took the time during his “Everyone Can” bus tour to meet with John Upton, Exec. Director of the BGVA, which the church I pastored at the time was affiliated with. In terms of “Great Commission Giving,” both the BGVA and the BGCT would be considered large givers to SBC causes. And of course, both conventions still have a fair share of conservative churches that have chosen to remain affiliated with the older conventions in those two states.

        I’m not sure what SBC churches will do in the future regarding cooperating with the national SBC. We have a great relationship with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. With 90% lostness in our state, we have a huge mission field in our own backyard. I think that most grassroots SB churches are not all that concerned with the politics at the SBC level, unless and until the establishment begins to make such radical changes that folks can’t help but get concerned.

        I have not kept up with the ERLC and the election/appointment of Mrs. Smith as Trustee chair. As she is only the second woman to chair a Trustee Board of the SBC, that is certainly news. I will have to investigate further as I’m sure there must be a very good reason why she was selected over the men on the board. I would think that the chair of the Trustees would wield some authority within meetings, so I’m not sure how that would square with the broad view, espoused by many within the Convention, that women should not be pastors or teach Biblical languages in seminary. If she is telling men what to do, how would that fall under the BF&M2000? Just wondering. Thanks for the comments. Have a great night and God bless,

        Howell

  2. stephen fox says:

    I would think it is not news to you Jim Henry is the father of

    http://www.katecampbell.com a student of Pulitzer Nominee Wayne Flynt in her Masters Pursuit at Auburn: Flynt one of the leading outspoken progressive Baptists in Alabama, cut strong in the Judge Frank Johnson and Hugo Black mold.

    A few years ago I was pursuing some dais to stage Kate, Harry Dent’s Daughter Ginny Brant (an IMB trustee) and Bertis Downs, active Presbyterian layman and attorney, the legal manager of the Rock Group REM, to discuss how their pilgrimage was shaped by their Ordained Preacher Dads.

    Dent was Nixon’s Southern Strategist, and Billy Graham’s Crusade chair for Columbia SC in 1980 before he was ordained. Downs Father was a Prez pastor in WVA. Downs is a Davidson Grad.
    If you are unfamiliar with the songs of Kate Campbell, I recommend Ezekiel’s Wheel and her version of Kris Kristofferson’s My God They Killed Him as you wade in; lyrics easily googled or explore her site.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Stephen,

      Good morning. I think that I had heard about Kate Campbell being the daughter of Jim Henry. I am not familiar with her music, but I will try to take a listen. You mentioned that you were being allowed to comment again at SBCVoices. I haven’t seen your comments yet, so I assume they must be in moderation as Dave Miller has been on the road the last few days and without easy access to the internet. Have a great day. God bless,

      Howell

      • Stephen Fox says:

        Howell:

        Not long ago I had an exchange with Adrian Rogers son David at SBCImpact where in jest and some serious I said it was time to get Down to the Real Nitty Gritty. BTW, a Group Southern Culture on the Skids for my taste does the best version of that song, or the best interpretation of the Original. Don’t know if you remember their Hit Banana Puddin.
        I Digressed.
        Auburn Al FBC President Jim Evans has a grand piece this morning
        http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/5746/9/

        I hope you will look at it carefully and study the comments there. Evans was in class at SEBTS during the Lolley era. His notions are unflinching when you look at what was lost with the fundamentalist takeover of that school. I hope at some point you have a conversation with Frank Page and Jim Henry, ask them once again if they are satisfied Henry’s colleague on the SBC Peace Committee, Charles Pickering, now of the Alliance Defense Fund, had indeed a better vision for Baptists than Jim Evans and the likes of his influential and active member, Wayne Flynt, the Pulitzer Nominee, often called the Conscience of the State of Alabama.
        Hope you can continue to give matters framed this way serious consideration.
        I think DAvid Rogers is on Mission Trip to South America. When he returns maybe we can get him to join this thread, this discussion here at your blog.

      • Stephen Fox says:

        Correction: I said President; I obviously meant Pastor.

      • stephen fox says:

        Howell: In regard our ongoing conversation about my various intrigues at SBC Voices I offer the following comment, the latest in moderation for that board, this one in the Influential books blogpost.
        May come back to it later in regard Bobby Welch and Jim Henry and some nuances there.
        For the time being:

        And Here most recently, Keith Durso’s grand biography of Geoge W. Truett

        I am looking forward to God’s Own Party as I was intrigued by a Sept 28 review by Steven Miller, the latest biographer of Billy Graham.
        And I am hoping to get my hands on some of the books listed in this Obituary of a Wake Forest Religion Professor, who in His time was a voice on the Great Justice Highway

        http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/5745/53

    • Howell Scott says:

      Jeff,

      Thanks for commenting and leaving the links. I don’t know too much about the politics within the two state conventions in Texas, but the BGCT has obviously had its share of problems as of late. I don’t know that I would say that the stories you linked to are “typical examples of how state conventions spend Cooperative Program money” as much as I would say that’s what the GGCT has done with some of its CP money. While all states, as well as the national SBC, could always improve how they spend the money that God has entrusted into their care, I know that in NM, for instance, that this kind of thing does not happen. Is Calvary affiliated with the BGCT or the SBCT convention? In the end, each church does have to be accountable for where they send CP dollars and how that money is spent. By the way, would you be in favor of the salaries of all the SBC entity and agency presidents and other officers being made public? Right now, they are not. I think that might go a long way toward restoring some accountability at the highest levels within the SBC. Thanks again for stopping by. Look forward to the dialogue. God bless,

      Howell

      • Jeff says:

        My church is BGCT, unfortunately. A few older members are loyal to the BGCT, primarily because of WMU.

        Yes, I would be in favor of having all salaries of entity heads available to the public. I think that some of the seminary presidents make around $200,000 or more, which does seem excessive in light of the fact that their housing is provided and that the seminaries have been laying off people. I don’t know what the mission board presidents make.

        Maybe your experience in New Mexico is better, but you should see why many pastors might be cynical about their state conventions and want to send money directly to entities they support instead of giving carte blanche to a bloated bureaucracy.

      • Howell Scott says:

        Jeff,

        Thanks for the reply. Before moving to NM, I pastored a church in Virginia that was affiliated with the BGAV, the “mainline” Baptist convention. We had a “SBC” giving track which we were in, which meant about 32% of our CP money went to the SBC. At the time, what CP money did stay in state for the BGAV was not used for things which would have made us switch to the Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention. I won’t say that I wasn’t tempted at times, but the leadership in the more conservative state convention was not appealing either. I guess the bottom line, as we are learning, is that the local church has the utlimate authority to give as they see fit.

        I serve on the Executive Board for the BCNM and I know we are cutting our budget this year. I can’t speak for other state conventions, but everyone, including the local church and individuals/families, can always do a better job at stewardship. I would be interested to see what the entity heads are paid, but I don’t look for that information to be made public anytime soon. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment. God bless,

        Howell

  3. stephen fox says:

    Dave is being a little chintzy; snarky about the matter. Probably doesn’t help my case to say so publicly; but my strong conviction about the matter.
    Had three submissions yesterday, spot on topic and he flushed them.

    But we have more significant things to talk about here.

    I think you will like Kate. Like I say, Ezekiel’s Wheel is good place to start. You ought to have her sing in your church, no kiddin; She crosses the aisle well; does a great job with The King’s Ambassador; the old RA Song.

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