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Seven churches, some without pastors, unite for cause of Christ

SEAGROVE, N.C. (BP)–It was a family reunion of sorts.

More than 1,000 folks talked with people they hadn’t seen in years, ate barbecue sandwiches and hot dogs, played softball and gawked at souped-up hot rods.

But this was no ordinary family event. It had attracted the support of seven North Carolina Baptist churches.

The gathering was one aspect of the Crossover Triad block party at Clay Presnell Park in Seagrove, N.C., one of dozens of evangelistic events that preceded the mid-June annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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“The history of Randall County shows that there was great fellowship at one time, but through the years, churches became more individually minded,” said Mike Jones, pastor of Huldah Baptist Church in Asheboro. Brushing a bit of perspiration off his brow from the hot afternoon sun, Jones added, “This event has ushered in a spirit of cooperation among the churches that had sort of been lost. These type of things help build and instill the values we once had.”

With that insight, Jones greeted other pastors and joined them in a group photograph of leaders from Asbury Baptist Church, Seagrove; Center Cross Baptist Church, Asheboro; Maple Springs Baptist Church, Seagrove; Russell’s Grove Baptist Church, Asheboro; Seagrove First Baptist Church, Seagrove; and Union Grove Baptist in Seagrove. Some of the churches were without pastors.

Crossover, an SBC tradition since 1989, encompasses a variety of events using novel venues to spread the Gospel, such as, in Seagrove, an antique car and hot rod show, sports clinics, puppet show and karate demonstration.

Seagrove’s event, which was one of 39 block parties in the state that took place the week before the SBC’s annual meeting, used about 100 volunteers from local churches —- including the seven sponsoring Baptist churches.

Neil King III of Seagrove brought his 1986 Mustang GT, emblazoned with bright bursts of flames along the front end, to the car show in hopes of winning a trophy. Just like any family reunion, attendees came from as near as neighboring North Carolina counties and as far away as California.

And even though the crowd was diverse and the activities ran the gamut in order to appeal to everyone, the volunteers came together for one purpose: to spread the Gospel.

“Everyone told us this was going to be a great event,” said Denise Wong, who traveled from Los Angeles, Calif., with her daughter Christi to volunteer at the afternoon’s event. “We saw it as a nice opportunity to try something different, get involved in different aspects of leadership and serve in a different way.

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“The people have been nice and friendly,” Wong added. “It’s definitely a good way to reach people for Christ, and it lets us see how Christians around the country interact.”

Jones said the united effort could help smaller churches stay strong.

“Most of the churches are smaller and couldn’t do a big thing like this,” Jones said. “We can do more for the community together than we can separately. We can have more of an impact on people’s lives.”

While he spoke, the musical group Steadfast belted out song after song. Offers of free snow cones and popcorn joined the sound.

What might have seemed at first glance to be confusion or chaos actually was a well-planned event, organizers said.

“We just looked at the ministries we had in the community and what would draw people from the community in,” said Howard McNeil, pastor of Maple Springs Baptist. “We’ve been in the area for a while and have a feeling for the folks, and we used those things we knew.”

Tim Fonner, pastor of Russell’s Grove Baptist, agreed. The party was a tangible event that created a spirit of cooperation, he said.

Traci Baker attended the block party because her son, David, was part of a karate demonstration with Macon’s Martial Arts Leadership Academy, she said. But she also took the time to get her car washed by a local youth group and talk with some of the people witnessing that day.

Baker has lived in the area for seven years and had been unable to find a church, she said, but that changed at Seagrove’s party.

The novel car wash used reverse marketing. Rather than paying to have a vehicle washed, the volunteers gave 50 cents to anyone who had their car washed.

“That’s when we shared the Gospel,” McNeill said. “I spent about 45 minutes with an agnostic, a man on a motorcycle who didn’t want his bike washed but showed up to show support for one of his friends.”

The biker didn’t accept Christ, but McNeill said the rider left knowing Christians are more than wide-eyed crazies.

By day’s end, two people received Christ, and numerous others had heard the Gospel.

“It’s a good feeling to see people come together for a common cause from diverse groups,” said Steve Williams, a volunteer from Eden, N.C. “There are so many churches out there, and I always wonder why they can’t come together. When it happens like this, it’s a blessing. It’s so good that people from all over have converged to bring the Word to the community.”
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Jamie L. Gentner, a journalism student at Biola University in California, is part of the Collegiate Journalism Conference sponsored by Baptist Press and associated with an internship through Campbell University in North Carolina.