Lee Welch has been the executive director of Dogwood Trails Baptist Association in Jacksonville, Texas, since 2009. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on associational ministry and the church. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated leader to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.
Where else have you worked, and what were your positions?
• Pastor, First Baptist Church in Rusk, Texas, 2000-2009
• Pastor, First Baptist Church in Anson, Texas, 1990-2000
• Pastor, First Baptist Church in Murchison, Texas, 1981-1990
• Pastor, Martins Mill Baptist Church in Martins Mill, Texas, 1975-1981
• Pastor, Alamance Baptist Church in Atlanta, Texas, 1974-1975
Where did you grow up?
My father was a Baptist pastor and served several churches during my youth. I was born in Wichita Falls and lived in that area as well as Oklahoma, Kansas and West Texas. Then when I was a freshman in high school, we moved to Lovington, New Mexico, where I graduated.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
Growing up in a pastor’s family, I was exposed to the gospel on a daily basis. At the age of 14, while living in Levelland, Texas, I repented of my sin and received Jesus as my Savior and Lord.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
• Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas at Tyler
• Graduate level classes at Baptist Missionary Association Seminary in Jacksonville, Texas, and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas
Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
When I was 16, I sensed a “call to preach,” and I made a commitment to pursue God’s call. Soon after that, it became clear that local church ministry was God’s plan for my life. For 39 years, I served as pastor to a church family, and for the past 9-plus, years I have served a family of churches.
Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.
Dogwood Trails Baptist Association includes Southern Baptist churches in Anderson, Cherokee and Henderson counties, although we do have a few churches located outside those counties. The office is in Jacksonville. We are a small town and rural area.
What do you like best about leading your association? Why?
I really enjoy fellowship with pastors and other church leaders. It is my goal to encourage younger ministers to pursue excellence and steadfast devotion to ministry and to challenge older ministers to finish strong with integrity and no regrets.
What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?
I wish more people had more of a sense of community among churches. The association actually exists for the same reason as state conventions and the national convention—to do missions together that we could not do alone. Dogwood Trails Baptist Association promotes both local and global missions. When it comes to gospel ministry, you can’t have too many partners.
What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
I enjoy the opportunity to train and assist pastor search committees as they seek a new pastor. Since I literally have been in the ministry all of my life, I believe I can help a search committee stay on the proper course and discern God’s direction.
What are the key issues facing Baptists as a people or denomination?
The primary issue for me is the conflict between political pressures and biblical truth.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
My parents raised my two sisters, one brother and me in a pastor’s home where—even when times were hard—serving Jesus was worth any price we had to pay. I was loved by them and taught to love the local church.
I was also exposed to so many pastors and evangelists through those formative years from whom I caught a passion for serving Jesus. And my dad continued to inspire me through the years as he pastored for over 60 years and went on to heaven this past year at the age of 90.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
I enjoy Pastor Adrian Rogers and Evangelist Junior Hill for their sermons and quick wit. And John Philips’ commentaries are especially appealing to me.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
I would probably say Deacon Stephen. He was just a regular guy who desired to please Jesus with his life, and because of his devotion, at his death, Stephen received a standing ovation from Jesus.