New Vision & New Leadership

Jeremiah Carter
Jeremiah Carter

By Jeremiah Carter

    After three years without a senior pastor, First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale has a new leader. James Welch has accepted the call to become the new senior pastor.

Founded in 1907, First Baptist Church has played a huge role in South Florida. And now after three years without a senior pastor, the church has a leader who will help them continue to spread the gospel around the world.

After Larry Thompson, who served as the senior pastor for 22 years stepped down in April 2016 to become the president of Faith Foundry, a mentoring program tailored for early career pastors who lead a congregation.

The church formed a search committee comprised of nine church members, spanning a varied demographic of the church. Members of the committee began meeting weekly and used a three-phase process. Those phases were a three-stage process including discovery, development, and delivery.

During that time Bob Barnes, president of Sheridan House, served as interim senior pastor.

The search committee hosted a town hall meeting and gave regular updates to the members about the status of finding a senior pastor.

After about three years of reviewing over 205 resumes and interviewing interested candidates, the search committee unanimously voted to invite Welch to Fort Lauderdale to   preach.

On Sunday, Feb. 27, the church held its normal community worship experience in which Welch preached. After the sermon the congregation voted unanimously to have Welch serve as the new senior pastor.

Welch began his ministry in New Orleans, at Harbor Community Church, a church he founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They made it a family and missional priority to love their city and intentionally engage the unchurched for the sake of the gospel. He served as the lead pastor for 13 years, until he was subsequently called to be the lead pastor at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale.

“Our hearts are full of love for a people we haven’t truly met yet. We are excited to learn about the people of the church and South Florida,” said Welch, 44, who will now serve as the church’s new leader. “We are humbled by this assignment from our Heavenly Father and are eager to share with you not only the gospel but our lives as well”.

Church members are also happy to have a new pastor. “The Welches feel led to plant themselves and their family in one of America’s most eclectic communities,” said Claudette Pearson, who has been a member of the church for over 10 years. Pearson also served on the pastor search committee. “He understands the global opportunity that exists in Fort Lauderdale and how First Baptist Fort Lauderdale is positioned to change the world for Christ.  1 Timothy 3:2-7 is my ultimate affirmation that Welch is God’s man for our church”.

Welch is married to Amy, and they have three children: Addison, William and Blythe. First Baptist church is located at 301 E Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 For more information, visit Welch preached his first sermon as lead pastor this past Sunday, March 24,2019.



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Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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