Southern Baptists Kick Off 'Kingdom Challenge' Effort to Baptize 1 Million

The timetable for Southern Baptist Convention churches to hold at least two “associational baptism rallies” before Sept. 30, 2006 began yesterday as part of the convention’s goal to, “Witness, Win, and Baptize,” one million people by next year.

The effort, entitled the, “’Everyone Can’ Kingdom Challenge,” was initiated earlier this year by SBC President Bobby Welch at the convention’s annual meeting held in Nashville, Tenn., in June and July. Its six main points include: Train and Equip, Witness and Win, Baptize, Stewardship, Vacation Bible School, and Start New Units.

“This is a plea to all Southern Baptists across the nation to join hands in a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the ‘Everyone Can’ Kingdom Challenge,” Welch states on the event’s website. “It will take you, me, and others in our convention working together for the cause of Christ and the souls of men, to reach those who are lost.”

As part of the Kingdom Challenge, Welch has asked each of the convention’s 1,183 associations across the nation to hold two “associational baptism rallies” between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 of next year.

According to Welch, the rallies should be held at a “neutral outdoor site” with each participating pastor bringing at least one person to be baptized.

“Not only is it believed that associational baptism rallies will encourage baptism but it will also be an effort that will draw pastors and people together for a unity of purpose that carries out the Great Commission,” Welch told the Baptist Press (BP).
For individual SBC churches, Welch has set up times where churches can emphasize baptism as a show of unity in the cause, with the first date being Nov. 29, according to BP. Welch has also urged churches to report their baptism numbers on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis.

Baptism is an integral part of Southern Baptist’s statement of faith, and is a pre-requisite to church membership and participation in the Lord’s Supper.

“For Baptists, baptism is an important symbol of salvation,” Tal Davis, the North American Mission Board’s interfaith evangelism manager, told BP. “So this year, the Southern Baptist Convention included several baptism ceremonies [at the convention] under the auspices of the local churches to demonstrate the importance we place on this ordinance.”

Last year, Welch embarked on a 50-state bus tour to rally Southern Baptists for the “’Everyone Can’ Kingdom Challenge,” making a point to share the Gospel with at least one person at each location to lead by example. Welch is holding a baptism rally this weekend in Florida, where he is pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona, to kick off the challenge.

Pastor James Walker of Biltmore Baptist Church believes the Kingdom Challenge will rekindle a fire for evangelism in many SBC members.

“It excites people. It renews their commitment to evangelism, to see such a bold public expression of faith,” Walker told BP of the challenge. “It’s a testimony to the community, drawing attention to the Gospel. It rouses curiosity.”

For more information on the “’Everyone Can’ Kingdom Challenge,” log on to www.everyonecan.net.