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Seminarians learn, churches buoyed via Reaching Out

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–More than 100 students and faculty from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary partnered with four local churches in “Reaching Out” across Louisville, Ky.

“The heart of Reaching Out is to get students to do what they are sitting in classes to learn how to do,” said Jacob Preston, student missions coordinator for the seminary’s Great Commission Center, which sponsored the annual event. “We want to help them live out in everyday life what they are learning. If we can give them the opportunity to apply what they are learning in seminary, further their ministry and empower them for missions work for the rest of their lives, then we are glad to have this role.”

Students and faculty participated in servant evangelism and door-to-door surveying and witnessing in several Louisville-area neighborhoods during the mid-September event.

Tom Bohnert, assistant to the director of the Great Commission Center, said in addition to enabling students to do ministry, Reaching Out serves as encouragement to local churches.

“The vision for Reaching Out is to connect our students with local ministries to help those ministries do a one-day evangelistic project,” Bohnert said. “Not every church in the Louisville-metropolitan area has enough people who are trained and equipped to do this type of ministry. Taking our students, some from personal evangelism classes or the Billy Graham School, provides a lot of manpower that the churches might not have on their own.”

In addition to the Saturday outreach Sept. 16, 25 students took part in a sports evangelism event at the University of Louisville the night before, working in conjunction with the Baptist Collegiate Ministry’s international student ministry at U of L. Preston said students from India at U of L taught the Southern students how to play cricket, and the seminary students taught them how to play baseball. A fellowship meal followed and Preston said the event provided a great context for developing relationships.

“The night was successful because during the time of fellowship, I noticed several students having personal, one-on-one conversations about Hinduism with the Indian students and opening the door to future conversations,” he said.

On Saturday, members of Harrison Hills Baptist Church, Crossing Church, Cedar Creek Baptist Church and Immanuel Baptist Church worked with the students doing evangelistic ministry.

Students helped Harrison Hills distribute “JESUS” films, church information and literature for the church’s upcoming Vacation Bible School in four neighborhoods near the church. Bohnert, a member of Harrison Hills, said the students helped the church accomplish more than it could have on its own.

“It helps us, because we are a smaller church,” he said. “Having 25 students from Southern Seminary join us and go out in the neighborhoods is an encouragement to the congregation and was a great help to us.”

Crossing Church recently moved to a new location and Jenny Anderson, a student at Southern and member of Crossing Church, said students helped the church do first-time outreach in a nearby neighborhood.

“We just relocated our meeting places for worship services to Ballard High School,” she said. “This was the first time for us to go into this community, find out the needs of the community and let them know that we are there to meet their needs.”

Anderson said students distributed church literature and asked community members what they believed the needs of community were before sharing about Crossing Church.

“We explained the mission of our church, telling people we are committed to learning practical principles from Scripture and developing relationships,” she said. “We did this to plant a seed so that when people drive past our sign they remember those things and come check us out.”

Other students worked with Cedar Creek Baptist Church, where John Ewart, an adjunct professor for the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth, serves as pastor. Bohnert said students did evangelistic surveying in a neighborhood of 225 homes where the church had not gone before.

Students also worked with Immanuel Baptist Church, practicing servant evangelism in the neighborhoods around the church and striking up conversations with residents.

Students met at Southern at 9 a.m., and arrived at the churches by 10 a.m. The groups worked for about two hours before returning to Southern for lunch.

    About the Author

  • Garrett E. Wishall