LOS ANGELES (BP)–As Allan leaned against a wrought-iron fence at a Vermont Street bus stop in Los Angeles, members of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s Inner City Evangelism (ICE) team and First Baptist Church-South Los Angeles approached him.
After introducing himself, Darrel Davis, a NAMB ICE team member and full-time evangelist from Garner, N.C., asked, “Allan, if you were to die today, would you be 50, 75 or 100 percent sure you would go to heaven?”
Allan, an 18-year-old African-American, shook his head, unsure how to answer the question. Davis went on to share 1 John 5:13: “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
Using his pocket New Testament, the 38-year-old evangelist then shared the plan of salvation with Allan. When Davis asked Allan if there was any reason why he would not want to receive the gift of eternal life, Allan replied, “I can’t think of a reason.”
So on the City of Angels’ busy Vermont Street, at a smoky bus stop, Allan prayed to receive Jesus Christ.
Allan’s story is only one of hundreds ICE team members from across the United States are telling in the wake of their recent ICE experience in Los Angeles. Six area Los Angeles churches also participated.
During the three-day (Aug. 10-12) ICE project in Los Angeles, 224 members from the six churches combed the city with NAMB’s 22 ICE team members. As a result, more than 260 people made first-time commitments to Christ. Another 32 people re-dedicated their lives.
The purpose of NAMB’s ICE strategy is “to strengthen the local church and to equip the believer to be intentional in developing relationships to share the Gospel,” said Victor Benavides, personal and event evangelism associate for NAMB’s evangelism team based in Alpharetta, Ga.
Since 1997, ICE teams have equipped churches to intentionally reach their neighbors with the Gospel. During an ICE equipping event, experienced team members are assigned to local churches for the purpose of leading church members out into the community to witness.
Typically, ICE teams train church members to share the Gospel with people from neighborhoods surrounding the church –- whether they be drug dealers, gang members, prostitutes or the homeless. Often considered unreachable by the average local church, the people of the streets are often more responsive than some might imagine.
One ICE team member, David Cobb from Gatlinburg, Tenn., led to Christ a man carrying two bags full of pornographic videos and DVDs. The man was selling the videos on the street to make a living.
Another man — confined to a motorized wheel chair — was on his way home when Martin Davis from San Diego stopped and asked him if he knew Jesus. The man said “no,” although he had attended church when he was younger. After a few minutes of hearing the Gospel, the man prayed to receive Christ.
Lydia Williams, a member of First Baptist Church-South Los Angeles who participated in ICE, said, “I, like many others, have a desire to witness for Christ, but I didn’t know how. But ICE came in and not only gave me the training but the tools to effectively witness and now I can’t stop.”
On the last day of the ICE event, a Sunday, the six churches gathered together in two locations for outdoor baptism celebrations for those who came to Christ. It was a special Sunday of rejoicing, filled with praise music and an evangelistic message.
Ted Knapp, director of missions for the Crescent Bay West Los Angeles Baptist Association, spoke briefly and encouraged the crowd at one of the celebrations to “win one more for Jesus!”
Knapp announced that seven more churches had already signed up for next year’s ICE event which the association will support financially.
During the celebration, one church member from First Baptist Church said, “I didn’t think this would work. Now I’m glad that we saw it through till the end.”
Considerable groundwork takes place long before the ICE team reaches the field. For the past several years, Benavides has worked to equip and train local churches on how effectively to engage communities with the Gospel.
“Another goal of the ICE strategy is to mentor believers on how to trust the Holy Spirit in the evangelism encounter,” Benavides said. “People are seeking to know God and we must engage them in conversational evangelism.”
Prayer-walking by local church members is another key component of that preparation, Benavides said. ICE team members say they can tell a difference in the receptivity of the people based on whether or not the neighborhood has been prayed for in advance.
Follow-up for each personal decision for Christ also is built into NAMB’s ICE strategy. People who receive Christ are immediately given follow-up literature, and the churches are asked to start Bible studies for those making decisions for Christ.
For more information about the Inner City Evangelism strategy, access the North American Mission Board web site at www.namb.net/ice.
Edited by Mickey Noah of the North American Mission Board, including information from evangelist Darrel Davis of Garner, N.C.