ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt has issued a God-sized challenge for 10,000 Baptists to come as volunteers for Crossover Orlando 2010 on Saturday, June 12.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful that instead of having 3,000 witnesses for Crossover in Orlando, we would have 10,000,” Hunt said. “We would overwhelm that city with the love of God.”
Crossover, now in its 22nd year, is a yearly evangelistic outreach to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the weekend before the SBC’s annual meeting in the host city. This year’s annual meeting will be June 15-16 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
Some 2.1 million people call Orlando home, according to Bill Faulkner, director of missions for the Greater Orlando Baptist Association. Another 48-51 million from throughout the world visit Orlando’s many tourist attractions and amusement parks each year.
“This gives us a tremendous opportunity to share the Gospel with the people who live here and with the people who come here,” Faulkner said.
Dozens of events across three counties will give Crossover volunteers — from Florida and across the nation — opportunities to meet and witness to area residents and countless tourists in “a great home missions trip,” said David Burton, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s evangelism division.
Crossover Orlando activities — some of which take place the week leading up to June 12 — will attempt to span distance, generations and languages, Faulkner noted.
“We will be in every corner of the area because of the lostness of central Florida,” he said.
Saturday block parties across Seminole, Osceola and Orange counties will provide an outreach to residents of numerous neighborhoods, including those in the inner-city areas. A sports clinic will teach soccer to children in west Orange County and provide opportunities to reach residents from at least five cultures and languages, Faulkner said.
Volunteers in east Orlando, Kissimmee and at First Baptist Church in Orlando will distribute food to needy residents who have signed up with door-to-door visitors in their neighborhoods. The food distribution will be in cooperation with Convoy of Hope, a Springfield, Mo., organization that provides food and resources to churches and groups for community outreach.
Some 3,000 people are expected for a Hispanic family festival featuring food, games, music and speakers at the Central Florida Fairgrounds. Across town, International Drive — a popular tourist area — will be a “major touch point,” Faulkner said. In addition, teams of teenagers will be “Cross Changers” in Orlando neighborhoods, making repairs to homes and community buildings while sharing their faith in Christ.
Clayton Cloer, pastor of First Baptist Church of Central Florida, is the local coordinator for a neighborhood evangelistic effort that he hopes will involve 3,000 volunteers, paired into 1,500 teams, each knocking on 30 doors and sharing Christ with those willing to listen. While teams visit in neighborhoods, others will visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“We want to give people access to the Gospel wherever their door is. We want Orlando to never be the same after this year’s Crossover,” Cloer said.
Cloer hopes Florida Baptist youth groups will take up the challenge of visiting and interacting with senior adults.
Several weekend events at First Baptist Central Florida, meanwhile, will be designed to attract youth, including a Friday evening Strength Team performance and concert.
Cloer noted that Crossover Orlando organizers have simplified the process of becoming a Crossover volunteer. Although training for volunteers is planned April 22 and June 11 in Orlando, training also is available via the Web, at www.crossoverorlando.com, where volunteers also register and prayerwalk through the event venues.
Leading up to the Crossover events on Saturday will be Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE), beginning on Monday, June 7.
“As part of this year’s ICE effort in Orlando, we will cover the communities of 18 Orlando churches, double what we were able to do last year in Louisville,” said Victor Benavides, who -– for the ninth straight year — will coordinate ICE for the North American Mission Board in cooperation with the Greater Orlando Baptist Association and the Florida Baptist Convention.
Church communities covered by ICE volunteers in June will include not only Orlando but Oviedo, Apopka, Kissimmee and St. Cloud, Benavides said.
“Working with the local folks, we’ll have two ICE leaders for every church location,” he said. ICE volunteers will come from Florida and across the United States — along with evangelism students from Baptist seminaries, including New Orleans, Southwestern and Midwestern.
“We’ll have an influx of first-time ICE volunteers this summer, so it’s going to be exciting work to help strengthen churches, share Christ in the greater Orlando area and to see how God works and brings the ICE team together,” Benavides said.
An ICE initiative for Orlando’s Hispanic population will be conducted simultaneously because of the “large number of strong Hispanic churches in the area, some with hundreds of members each,” Benevides noted.
Since Crossover originated during the SBC annual meeting in Las Vegas in 1989, more than 40,000 persons have prayed to receive Christ as a result of the annual evangelistic initiative. For more information, a complete listing of Crossover Orlando events, or to sign up for ICE, go to www.crossoverorlando.com.
Carolyn Nichols writes for Florida Baptist Witness and Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.