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Crossover door-to-door gives impetus to Welch’s ‘Everyone Can’ initiative

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Volunteer teams recorded more than 17,900 visits at homes and apartments across Nashville June 18 according to preliminary figures from the “door-to-door” Crossover evangelistic thrust preceding the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 21-22 annual meeting.

The 7,290 volunteers shared the Gospel more than 4,965 times and saw 564 people make professions of faith in Jesus Christ.

A man in his 50s who was working in his yard on the outskirts of Nashville was among those introduced to the Savior.

Within a couple of minutes after a Crossover team stopped at the home, Andrew Porter, an associate pastor at Zoe Baptist Church, an African American congregation in Memphis, asked the man if he was a Christian.

“No, sir,” Robert replied in a frank but quiet voice, “but He’s working on me.” Robert said he had been attending a Church of Christ congregation for a year or so.

Porter told Robert that he probably had tried the world’s ways “over and over and over again.” Faith in Christ, Porter stated, would impart to him a realization of “I wish I would have tried it a long time ago.”

Porter urged Robert to turn to Christ so that when his life, “which is only a vapor, is gone … you’ll be living with Him, that it won’t be too late.” Others in his family would take note of his faith and could come to Christ, Porter added.

Robert agreed to follow Porter in prayer to ask Christ to forgive his sins and become his Lord and Savior.

“Did you notice the sun just came out?” Robert noted a couple of seconds after the prayer as the clouds broke into a blue sky. “I’m glad you all stopped by today,” Robert said as the team gave him a packet of information and a Holman Christian Standard New Testament.

As the door-to-door volunteers fanned out across Nashville, attempting more than 41,000 visits during the day, several thousand other volunteers shared the Gospel in block parties and other community initiatives in the other key element of this year’s Crossover outreach.

The door-to-door thrust began with a morning rally at the Gaylord Entertainment Center and ended there with an evening celebration in which SBC President Bobby Welch declared, “This city is better off right now than it was this morning, because of you going out there.”

The day’s outreach was a tangible reflection of an overarching initiative Welch has launched for Southern Baptist churches to baptize 1 million people during the upcoming Oct. 1-Sept. 30 church year. Welch has named it “The ‘Everyone Can’ Kingdom Challenge! … Witness, Win, and Baptize One Million.”

“For this day,” said James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, “we did what the church ought to do.”

About every 15 minutes, as more teams reported in, new totals were given. The excitement built with each report, while the gathering pulsated with sounds, including the roar of a Harley driven to the front of the arena by David Burton of Florida, an organizer of the F.A.I.T.H. Riders motorcycle group; the country/bluegrass/gospel sounds of The Whites, a father and his two daughters who are members of the Grand Old Opry and of Nashville-area Southern Baptist churches; the contemporary Christian sound of Clay Crosse and his band; the praise team from First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., led by Buster Pray; comments from speakers such as Bill Fay, author of the “Share Jesus Without Fear” evangelistic resources; and filmed vignettes of various Crossover workers who spoke of their efforts during the day.

“You have made a difference for the Lord Jesus today,” said Welch, who at one point received a standing ovation for his efforts to galvanize Southern Baptists’ evangelistic fervor. Welch, coauthor of the FAITH Sunday School evangelism strategy that is widely used by Southern Baptist churches across the country, is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“If you did something with the seed [of the Gospel] today, God is going to grow it,” said Jerry Tidwell, author of another evangelistic resource, “G.R.O.W.,” and pastor of Ellendale Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tenn.

At the outset of the day, about 50 members of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Nashville, one of 150 host churches for the influx of volunteers, arrived at the arena two hours early to take part in the kickoff rally.

“We didn’t want to be late,” pastor Elib Saenz said. “We know a lot of people need the Lord, and we didn’t know about parking.”

The morning rally included high-energy music from Clay Crosse and Springdale, Ark., praise team.

Welch — who was onsite early enough to greet the Primera Iglesia contingent — was joined by Draper, Fay, Tidwell and others at the rally to challenge the volunteers to give their best efforts to the Lord’s work in the door-to-door initiative.

“Who can witness, win and baptize 1 million people to the Lord in the next year?” Welch asked, instructing the audience to respond to his question with a hearty, “Everyone can — and I’m it!”

Welch exhorted the participants to do “one more” visit when their teams might start looking at their watches later in the day.

Sure enough. One team told of deciding to go to one more house. Two teenagers were there. While the volunteers were talking with them, two other teens walked up, and all four made professions of faith.

“It’s the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit,” Welch said at the morning rally. “Thank you for coming. Thank you for going.”

Welch launched his door-to-door efforts from Two Rivers Baptist Church, heading straight into a nearby neighborhood where he found a construction crew building a house. Because Welch’s Spanish was about as good as the crew leader’s English, sharing a Gospel presentation with the Hispanic man was impossible. But judging from the man’s reaction, he and other workers nearby understood the universal language of a broad smile and a warm handshake. Welch prayed for the men and moved down the street where he stopped at three other homes.

At two of the three homes, Welch found people who said they were Christians, while residents of the third house apparently chose not to answer the door. However, Welch discovered ministry needs in the two homes and prayed with the residents, while also asking God to bless them and protect their homes.

A reporter with a news crew from a Nashville television station queried one resident about the “old-school” idea of church people knocking on doors. “Billboards don’t have a personality,” the resident said of impersonal methods of trying to reach people for Jesus Christ, and he noted that “it was great that someone was out in the neighborhoods telling people that Jesus loves them.”

Welch later visited a Crossover-sponsored International Festival at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. He roamed through the celebration of various cultures in the Nashville area, shaking hands and talking with people. He even stopped at a booth for free haircuts and trimmed a man’s sideburns.

Welch said he was most elated by the festival’s registration desk, where attendees left their contact information that would later be used for evangelistic follow-up.
Welch’s route also took him by the Tennessee Titans Coliseum, where the F.A.I.T.H. Riders were lining up for a ride around the interstate and then through downtown Nashville. Welch joined the bikers for prayer and then donned a helmet for the ride, waving to people along the way.

And, at a block party at Ivy Memorial Baptist Church in east Nashville, Welch ventured into a small churchyard teeming with people. The smell of barbecued chicken and hot dogs was in the air, mixed with laughter and music.

“This may look like chaos,” one of the workers told Welch, “but it’s organized chaos. We’ve got people mingling in the crowd, sharing the Gospel with anyone who will listen.”

Elsewhere in the city, Crossover volunteer Liliana Lewis from Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, was undaunted that no one had embraced Christ in nine visits. She told her team they must knock on one more door, where they found a young woman with three young children. Because the mother couldn’t speak English, Lewis presented the Gospel in Spanish, leading both the woman and her 7-year-old daughter to faith in Christ.

James Tisdale, transitional pastor of Andice Baptist Church in Florence, Texas, approached a man who was polishing his car. A trainer and former football player, he “looked a little reluctant,” Tisdale said. The pastor helped him understand that salvation results from God’s grace, not man’s good works. “When I asked him if there was any good reason why he couldn’t pray to receive Christ, he said no, bowed his head and asked the Lord to save him,” Tisdale recounted.

“In every way, Crossover Nashville was a success,” Welch said the next morning, “from the safety and security of all who were involved to the eternal safety and security that almost 500 people found in Jesus Christ.”
With reporting by Karen L. Willoughby, Norm Miller, Art Toalston and Tammi Reed Ledbetter.

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