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1,900-plus professions of faith recorded during Crossover

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–A year of planning and praying by Indiana Southern Baptists combined with volunteer support from across the country resulted in 1,932 professions of faith during Crossover Indiana, an evangelistic blitz accompanying the mid-June Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Indianapolis.

John Rogers, director of evangelism and prayer with the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, said the professions of faith were recorded through revival crusades, evangelistic block parties, prayerwalking, street evangelism, door-to-door spiritual opinion surveys and other initiatives.

“Only heaven will reveal how many more will get saved out of Crossover because of the burden these new Christians have to see their family and friends come to Christ,” Rogers said.

More than 120 of Indiana’s 430 Southern Baptist churches and missions participated in the Crossover effort, which included 70 evangelistic block parties and 97 weekend revivals statewide. And nearly 1,000 volunteers — about half from out of state — joined the Crossover outreach conducted largely on June 12.

Rogers said 80 professions of faith were recorded during the weekend revivals held across the state before and following the SBC annual meeting. About 50 Florida pastors and evangelists led the revivals as part of the Florida Baptist Convention’s ongoing partnership with Indiana Baptists.

Jon Beck, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, located about an hour south of Indianapolis in North Vernon, said the Crossover efforts have brought a renewed sense of purpose to his congregation of nearly 300 people — the only SBC church in a county of 20,000 residents.

About 20 people from Beck’s church volunteered at two inner-city block parties in Indianapolis on June 12. Since then, Beck has baptized about 20 new Christians at Bethel Baptist.

“[Crossover] was the first time some people in our church had done ministry outside the four walls of our church outside our community,” the pastor said.

Rogers said he is hopeful that ongoing follow-up efforts by Indiana churches with prospects and new believers will result in record baptisms for the state in 2004-05. “Some plant, some water, but it’s God who gives the increase,” he said.

An estimated 70 percent of Indiana’s 6.2 million people don’t profess to be Christians while Southern Baptists across the state number nearly 100,000.

Dick Church, manager of personal evangelism for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), which sponsors the annual Crossover effort nationally, said local churches are encouraged to connect with new Christians 10 times over the next four weeks following their decision for Christ to begin discipling them in the faith and involve them in the church.

“Follow-up is always a top priority for Crossover,” Church said.

Rogers said a number of ethnic churches were bolstered by the Crossover outreach. At one block party and revival crusade in a Hispanic neighborhood in Seymour, Ind., for example, 75 professions of faith were recorded.

“Crossover really gave a shot in the arm to some of our Hispanic works,” Rogers said.

He said the work of NAMB’s Inner City Evangelism (ICE) teams largely in African American communities resulted in more than 850 professions of faith.

Victor Benavides, a NAMB personal evangelism associate and coordinator of the street evangelism teams, shared the Gospel east of downtown Indianapolis on New York Street near Fellowship Baptist Church, an area known for gang violence, drugs and prostitution.

Benavides shared the Gospel with two men in a car parked in an alley beside a two-story house while several young women stood on the sidewalk.

“They trusted Jesus as Savior,” Benavides said. “As I finished getting both men’s information and explaining to them the four steps for a new believer, the next car pulled up behind them.”

A few minutes later that driver professed his faith in Christ, Benavides said. Then a 17-year-old man who said he had just gotten out of jail walked toward the two-story house. Benavides said the two talked about “The Passion of The Christ” movie before the young man prayed to receive Christ as his Savior.

“We just don’t know the real impact of our co-laboring with God,” Benavides said. “Only in eternity will we really know the fruits of our efforts.”

Rogers also reported that 1,499 phone calls from across the state were received by NAMB’s Evangelism Response Center in response to an evangelistic television advertising campaign. Thirty-seven professions of faith were recorded by phone and about 1,000 requests were taken for a free DVD of the film, “The Hope,” which outlines the Gospel as revealed in Scripture from Genesis to the rise of the early church. The DVDs will be hand-delivered as part of the local church follow-up response.

Rogers said the Crossover experience for churches in Indiana has created a healthy sense of interdependence unprecedented in the convention’s history.

“God blesses obedience and commitment,” he said. “Where people took serious the matter of prayer, there were God-sized results.”

Among other reports from Crossover:

— Evangelism professor Alan Streett and a team of 16 students from Criswell College — armed with tracts, EvangeCubes, balloons and other evangelistic aids — shared the Gospel with more than 2,000 people during Crossover, with 20 people professing newfound faith in Christ.

At Lifeway Community Church (SBC) in Noblesville, some 30 minutes north of Indianapolis, pastor Craig Walker, a 1989 Criswell College graduate, recounted that heavy rain and a tornado watch in the morning nearly caused him to cancel an afternoon block party. Choosing faith over doubt, he instructed church members to proceed as planned. By noon, the rain had stopped, the clouds had moved out and the sun was shining. The crowds came — 300 in all — and seven people made professions of faith.

On Sunday morning, Streett preached a sermon atop a platform in the middle of a barn. The local 4-H building where Lifeway Church normally meets was being used for a dog and cat show, thus the only facility available was the straw-strewn barn. The service included testimonies from Criswell students Rick Moore, a former narcotics officer, and Tom Knoff, a major league baseball prospect whose life was in shambles until he came to Christ. Because of the recent rains, Streett decided to preach on Noah’s ark. At the invitation, two people surrendered their lives to Christ.

Among those led to Christ in the Criswell students’ outreach were a skateboarder, a security guard at the convention center and a pastor’s son attending the annual meeting.

— At the Metropolitan Baptist Center in downtown Indianapolis, 24 youth from Carrollwood Baptist Church in Tampa assisted in a block party that yielded 57 professions of faith, according to the Florida Baptist Witness.

Tom Polak, director of the Baptist center and pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship that meets there, said the Tampa youth “gave us sort of the manpower to do some things that we couldn’t do on our own.”

As Kenny Davis, minister of students at Carrollwood, put it, “Our youth have just sort of jumped in and helped wherever.” Davis said he hoped the Crossover trip would “open their eyes to what’s out there in the context of ministry” and “deepen them and their walk with the Lord.”

Seventeen-year-old Nick Cakouros, who had never been on a mission trip before, said it was “a lot different that I thought it was going to be.”

“We live so much where we’re at,” Cakouros said. “You’re always in your own little world. You don’t think about anything else. Then you come here and you see people have different problems — stuff that I never deal with, that I never see — and that kind of hits you in the face all at once.” The teen described his inner-city experience as “eye-opening, big time.”

Crossover has been a part of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting since 1989, providing opportunities for messengers to the convention to participate in evangelistic events around the host city — primarily on Saturday before the convention. More than 33,000 people have been led to faith in Christ through the effort.

Nashville, Tenn., is the host city for the 2005 SBC meeting scheduled for June 21-22, with Crossover slated from June 17-19.

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  • Lee Weeks