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Ferguson tensions show need for SBC’s Crossover

[SLIDESHOW=40847,40848]FERGUSON, Mo. (BP) — More than 200 Baptist pastors and leaders gathered at First Baptist Church in Ferguson, Mo., on the day violence had broken out in the early morning hours during the one-year anniversary weekend of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

Baptist leaders from the Missouri and Illinois sides of the Mississippi River met to hear plans for and the challenges of Crossover St. Louis, which will precede the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2016 annual meeting, June 14-15 in St. Louis.

“This has been a city in crisis for more than a year,” SBC President Ronnie Floyd said during the sessions at First Baptist in Ferguson. “When we set up this meeting, we didn’t realize it would be the anniversary of that horrible event. But God did.

“The entire metropolitan area needs an awakening,” Floyd continued. “We need to pray for an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. God is getting His people ready and this is our moment to make a difference.”

On Sunday (Aug. 9) after an estimated 1,000 protesters had marched peacefully in Ferguson, police returned gunfire from a suspect around 11:15 p.m., critically wounding the man. Dozens of protesters were arrested throughout the day on Monday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, and a state of emergency was declared in Ferguson, located just northwest of St. Louis.

The Baptist leaders’ meeting included a panel discussion of the Crossover week of volunteer evangelism and service prior to the SBC annual meeting, and an announcement of the 2016 Pastors’ Conference theme — “You Will Live This” — by John Meador, the conference’s president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas.

“The challenge is to live as never before,” Meador said. “We’ll deal with the subject of hardship because if you are not experiencing it now, you soon will be.”

“These are both critical events,” Floyd said of Crossover and the Pastors’ Conference. “Ninety percent of the people in this area of 2.7 million people are lost, and God wants us to make a difference. God loves the people in this city, and He died for it. We want this to be a life-changing event. …

“We must unify around Him and pray that He will empower us to spread the Gospel and reach the world,” said Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.

Jim Breeden, director of missions for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association (on the Web at http://stlbaptist.org), outlined the focus of Crossover St. Louis in three broad categories.

“First,” he said, “we are going to partner with the new church planters throughout the city; next, we are going to work with existing churches; and third, we will bless this city.”

Breeden used three local school districts that have lost their accreditation as an example for outreach.

“We are going to help those school districts,” he said. “Some of our churches are already working with them and the doors are wide open. We are going to bless those districts. We all know the problems of St. Louis. Now, we want to be on the solution side.”

John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and SBC recording secretary, has issued a call to pastors to take up the challenges.

“There are so many lost in the area,” Yeats said. “This is a way to work together with the state and national conventions to pray for God’s grace to penetrate the lost pockets of the city and for us to make a concerted effort to make a difference. I challenge all of the pastors in the state to make this a priority like never before in our history.”