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Crossover reaches wide swath of N.C. tri-city population

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–Whether the person was a motorcycle rider in leather, a cowboy in boots and jeans, a Native American in Indian headdress or a kid in shorts and tennis shoes, the message of Crossover Triad 2006 was clear: Jesus Christ.

A motorcycle rally and ride, a cowboy rodeo, an international fair, sports clinics and a series of evangelistic block parties took place at the same time as more than a thousand other Southern Baptists made door-to-door visits and prayerwalked in the tri-city area of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point.

Crossover, which preceded the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual June 13-14 annual meeting at the Greensboro Coliseum, is sponsored jointly by the North American Mission Board, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the 200 SBC churches of the Piedmont, Pilot Mountain and Central Triad Baptist associations. Ninety-eight churches took an active part in hosting events.

Early reports indicate at least 500 decisions for Christ were reported by Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) teams who have been sharing their faith on the streets of Greensboro for the past week.

Nearly 300 salvation decisions were reported at 30 or so Crossover events in the Triad area, with additional numbers still coming in.

“When you’re ministering to bikers, it’s different from other segments of the population,” said Mike Young, coordinator for the Carolina Faith Riders, a group of 350 Christian motorcyclists. “If you’re a Christian, they want to make sure your walk matches your talk, or they won’t have anything to do with you.”

More than 200 bikers -– some Christians but most not — drove into a parking lot near Greensboro’s Koury Convention Center to sign up for the ride benefiting Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, to hear live Christian music and testimonies and enjoy some good food.

Young was elated with the event’s turnout, exclaiming, “It has been an awesome day! God is good! What else can I say?”

Then he found a few more words: “The idea of the day was to let people know that Jesus can make a difference, and I think that has come through loud and clear. … [N]obody can walk away from here and say, ‘I’ve never heard anything about Jesus’ ….”

And not all the bikers on hand were from North Carolina. Bill and Kathy Brothers rode 14 hours from Palatka, Fla., a town 55 miles south of Jacksonville, to participate as part of a group from Peniel Baptist Church in Palatka.

“We try to go to a major Christian motorcycle event each year,” said Brothers, who is assistant director of the Peniel Baptist Church Motorcycle Ministry. How do he and wife Kathy witness to fellow bikers?

“It’s an individual, one-on-one thing. We look for the opportunity, plant the seed and let the Lord go from there. It’s an opportunity to enable people who are not affiliated with a church -– and most bikers aren’t -– to hear the Gospel. It’s a way to use this toy [his motorcycle] as a tool for Christ.”

About 15 miles south of Greensboro, it was horses — not Harleys — that were the feature attraction.

“Cowboy Stampede” was the brainchild of Cowboy preacher Jeff Smith, a North American Mission Board national missionary who used a rodeo as a Crossover event to spread the Word to about 750 people in a livestock arena in Archdale, N.C.

Despite the heat in the arena, it was hard to tell which rodeo feature the crowd liked more -– the bull riding, the barrel racing, the pole bending, the mounted shooters or the “Harvest Cowboy Band” bluegrass group who performed between events.

In all, it took two dozen rodeo performers and 50 volunteers to put on the rodeo, sponsored by NAMB, North Carolina convention and the Cowboy Church Network of North America.

“It was a block party for cowboys,” said Smith, who after the rodeo’s dust and gunsmoke had cleared, preached a 20-minute sermon from the middle of the arena. After his message -– describing Jesus as the ultimate “trail boss” -– Smith asked the crowd to make decisions for Christ. Dozens of hands went up, Smith later reported.

Carrying on the “cowboy” theme, Bobby Truitt drove two hours from Vale, N.C., to bring his new “horseshoe” ministry to Crossover in Archdale. Truitt and his team stamped John 3:16 on horseshoes -– along with the person’s name -– and gave them out free. They handed out some 1,400 of the horseshoes.

Smith, who said he personally has planted 25 cowboy churches, described his congregations as 25 percent cowboys, 50 percent “country” people and 25 percent city-slickers.

In Greensboro, in an effort to make personal contact with residents of neighborhoods surrounding churches, many Crossover participants went door-to-door to share the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Spencer Clemons, a 15-year-old from Lake Talquin Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Fla., traveled 12 hours by van with his father, Steve, pastor Milton Harrington and two other men from the church, Rusty Gibbs and Bill Ludlow, to participate in Crossover with dozens of volunteers from Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro.

“I got a lot of experience talking to people,” said Spencer, who was participating in his second door-to-door outreach. “I’m not afraid to talk in front of people any more.”

Spencer’s father, Steve, said he thought Crossover would be a good chance for the teen to become more comfortable sharing the Gospel with strangers.

“After the second or third house we went to … [Spencer] said, ‘I’m doing this,’” Steve said. “From there he was on. He did a lot of door knocking after that. It was very uplifting to see him do this.”

The group said they spoke with many who said they are Christians but also two Muslim women and a man who claimed to be an agnostic. “We were really able to get some good contacts for [Cornerstone] to follow up on,” Harrington said.

The Tallahassee group also assisted Life Community Church in Greensboro with a block party later that afternoon. Nearly 1,000 people attended the party, which included a rock-climbing wall, hot-air balloon ride and several inflatables. Children of all ages ran around the grounds as people shared the Gospel on a stage and inner city evangelism teams mingled in the crowd.

Harrington said the party drew a young man, his wife, and three young children. The man claimed to be a Christian, Harrington said, but had not attended church in years. Harrington said he was able to introduce the family to an associate pastor and hopes the family will get connected with the church.

“Block parties are very important to really soften families up for future contact and for future ministry to them,” Harrington said.

Barrett Lampp, 73, and his wife Connie of Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Fla., drove 12 hours to Crossover, stopping once for 30 minutes, Connie said. After arriving at midnight and only a few hours sleep, the couple joined one of more than a hundred teams which spread out over the community in Life Community’s outreach.

“He’s very committed to Crossover,” Connie said of her husband, adding that they have participated in all but one Crossover since the emphasis began in 1989. She herself underwent surgery to implant a heart pacemaker three weeks earlier.

Crossover Triad 2006’s most outlying event was a massive block party planned and executed by seven smaller Southern Baptist churches in a public park in Seagrove, N.C., a 45-minute drive south from Greensboro.

“We want the people in our area to realize the power of the Gospel,” said Ronnie Chaney, pastor of Union Grove Baptist Church, one of the participating congregations. “We want to start new relationships, and for people in our little communities to know that it’s an ongoing relationship.”

Crossover Seagrove included an antique car show, a moon walk, puppet show, face-painting and pony rides for kids, live music from a stage on the baseball field, and barbecue, hot dogs, soft drinks, bottled water and snow cones. Because of the generosity of the sponsoring churches –- some with fewer than 100 members –- everything was free.

At 3:30 p.m., Mike Penry -– a deputy sheriff from Cary, N.C., known locally as the “pistol-packing preacher” -– delivered a message, followed by an outdoor baptism of seven converts the old-fashioned way -– in a horse trough.

The largest Crossover event was the International Fair at Greensboro’s Ben L. Smith High School. By mid-Saturday afternoon, a few thousand people had come to sample the cuisine of 14 different countries, including China, Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, India, Mexico, Laos, Cambodia, as well as Native Americans.

Each ethnic group had a booth highlighting their cultures and colorful dress. As the aroma of the ethnic food filled the gym, children of the participating countries sung familiar Christian hymns in their native languages. And 200 Crossover volunteers -– many from Greensboro’s local ethnic churches –- shared the Gospel with all who would listen.

“We hope that if we get 3,000 registration cards, we can turn that into a prospect list for local ethnic churches,” said Jason Kim, a NAMB evangelism associate and one of the leaders of the fair. Kim said their ultimate goal is to plant nine new churches in primarily ethnic areas of Greensboro.

North Carolina’s “Piedmont Triad” area includes about 1.5 million people in Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point and surrounding areas. A Crossover 2006 goal is to plant 19 new churches in the region.

“We invested heavily in resources to help our churches take advantage of this volunteer power,” said Milton Hollifield, executive director of the North Carolina convention. “The Saturday events exceeded our greatest anticipation. As thrilled as I am with the saturation presence of Christian witness in this area today, I’m even more excited about the changed lives that will result from new congregations forming and affecting their communities.”

Since Crossover originated during the SBC annual meeting in Las Vegas in 1989, nearly 37,000 persons have prayed to receive Christ as a result of the pre-convention effort.
Norman Jameson & Mike Creswell of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina contributed to this report.

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