By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — Bobby Welch, associate executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention since May of 2011, will retire Aug. 31.
Welch announced his plans to step down during a TBC staff meeting last month.
With his 50th wedding anniversary this month (Aug. 21), Welch said he was retiring to spend more time with his wife Maudellen and his two children and four grandchildren.
He estimated that during his military and ministry careers, he was away from his family 50 percent of the time.
“Family is a big deal,” he said.
While he still enjoys his ministry role with the TBC Welch told staff that he is doing “what the Lord has called me to do.”
Welch acknowledged retirement will not be easy.
“Since I was 14 I have never gotten up (in the morning) without a mountain to climb,” he said.
Welch served as pastor of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla., from 1974-2006. He joined the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2007 as strategist for global evangelical relations.
Welch, who served two terms as SBC president, is perhaps best known for developing the FAITH evangelism strategy which has been used by churches worldwide.
His emphasis and love for evangelism was one of the reasons he joined the TBC staff. His primary tasks were to focus upon evangelism, baptisms, and discipleship.
When elected by the TBC Executive Board, Welch said the position with the TBC “is a perfect fit with my heart and passion.”
That has proven to be the case.
With plenty of help from TBC staff Welch introduced the 1-5-1 Harvest Plants initiative in 2012 and it was officially launched in 2013 in Chattanooga.
1-5-1 Harvest Plants are off-campus efforts (outside the walls of the church) geared toward people who don’t know Christ as Savior with the purpose of sharing the gospel, discipling people, and starting churches.
Churches that embrace the 1-5-1 strategy make a commitment to start no less than one plant in an effort to reach, win, and baptize five people with the goal for each plant to start one plant by the end of the first year.
In an interview with the Baptist and Reflector in January of this year, Welch noted that “1-5-1 is meeting and exceeding our expectations.”
In January Welch noted that there were 1,184 reported baptisms last year as a result of 1-5-1. And for the second year in a row, baptisms increased across the TBC.
Welch, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said he came to the TBC believing that the state convention “could and would be a future model” for evangelical conventions and churches for the next 50 years.
That has also been true as the 1-5-1 model has been adapted for use by churches in Guatemala.
TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis observed that “it has been a great help to the work of the TBC to have Bro. Bobby as a member of our team for over four years.
“He has provided energy, focus, accountability, wisdom, and leadership,” he added.
Just as important, Davis continued, “he has been a friend. I’m thankful that this internationally respected brother poured himself wholeheartedly into the state where he started full-time ministry (as associate pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church in Nashville from 1972-74).
“May God richly bless Bobby as he now pours more of himself into Maudellen, their children, and, mostly, his grandkids,” Davis said.