NASHVILLE (BP) – George Robinson, an evangelism professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., requested prayer through Twitter on June 8. He and a group of his students had led Nashville-resident Tianna to faith.
“We got to share the Gospel with her,” Robinson wrote. “She turned from her sin and trusted in Jesus! She is joyful in her new life, and we are rejoicing!”
Seminary students, pastors and other leaders shared similar stories as Southern Baptists from across the denomination worked together to share the Gospel in local neighborhoods and host Crossover outreach events ahead of the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Nashville.
Roy Vargas, a master’s student at Southeastern Seminary, was one of nearly 100 students from Southern Baptist seminaries who made the trip to spend time learning about and practicing evangelism ministry.
“People were just at the place where we could see that the Holy Spirit had been working in their lives,” Vargas said. “As we were sharing the Gospel, people were getting convicted of their sinful nature, and they were coming to Christ. My team was able to share the Gospel and see the fruit of eight different conversions for the glory of Jesus Christ.”
Evangelism professors and their students were connected to local churches, and they were able both to present the Gospel and help churches connect with those in the surrounding communities.
Ben McGinnis, interim pastor at Haywood Hills Baptist Church, said the students were a God-surprise for his church that needs revitalization, helping them reconnect with their neighborhood just coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With a population that is predominantly older, we could never have done what these students have done,“ McGinnis said. “But their presence has helped us to make contacts.”
Dwayne Lewis, pastor of New Season Church and the church-planting strategist for the Nashville Baptist Association, said the diverse group of students helped them reach different demographics in their community.
“They’re able to touch areas that our church hadn’t been able to because of the growth that has taken place in this area,” Lewis said. “So, we are able to use them to come in and share the Gospel. It has been impactful.”
Several months of planning and collaboration between national, state and local Southern Baptists culminated in multiple churches in and around the city hosting block parties and festivals designed to welcome people to hear the Gospel and learn more about their churches.
Two of those churches, Shelby Avenue Baptist Church and New Season Church, hosted events on different city blocks in Nashville.
Shelby Avenue hosted local vendors and provided food for those in their community as members of FAITH Riders, a national group of Southern Baptist motorcyclists who share the Gospel across the U.S., assisted the church.
In East Park in Nashville, New Season Church partnered with the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE) and the Nashville Baptist Association as they set up inflatables and invited those in the area to attend. COSBE president Richard Hamlet presented the Gospel and invited people to put their faith in Christ.
“I really appreciate the partnership between the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, the local association and our churches,” said Rusty Sumrall, executive director of the Nashville Baptist Association. “It wouldn’t happen without the churches. Thank God for our pastors and their willingness to serve.”
As Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, visited Crossover sites, he was encouraged to see churches getting outside their buildings to bring the Gospel to their communities.
“Southern Baptists are doing so much to advance the Great Commission together,” Davis said. “We cannot allow trivial things to blind us to the incredible work the local church is doing for Christ. I am very proud to be a Southern Baptist in the great state of Tennessee.”
Judson Baptist Church in Nashville coordinated with Send Relief to host a mobile dental clinic in the church parking lot. In the weeks leading up to Saturday (June 12), the church invited community members to set up appointments, and the church had a steady stream of people visit from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Pastor Jeff Mims said the church posted an invitation on social media and reached out to a sister church in the area, Recovery Church, to invite those in need to come and participate.
Volunteers spoke with participants before and after they checked in for their appointments, intentionally asking about their lives and presenting the Gospel during their conversations.
With the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2021, Southern Baptists had to get creative as they planned for Crossover 2021. The focus was to empower local churches to find ways to reach out to their communities and encourage churches to host intentional, evangelistic services on Sunday, June 13.
“In light of COVID restrictions only recently being lifted in Nashville, we had to ask, ‘What can we do?’” said Johnny Hunt, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) senior vice president of evangelism and leadership, “I really feel like we’ve worked together to answer that question and make a great impact with Crossover.”
New Season Church hosted a baptism service Sunday morning, and Lewis preached from Matthew 28:18-20 about how the church is sent by God. The congregation went out into their community after the service.
“God is doing some great things in the city of Nashville as we’re dealing with Crossover,” Lewis told his church Sunday morning. “This day is a special day for all of us because this is the day that we get the opportunity to go out into the community and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
As Tennessee Baptists reached out to their communities, they provided a reminder for why Southern Baptists partner together – sharing the hope of the Gospel in obedience to the Great Commission.
Ninety-two people knocked on doors and 40 churches participated in Who’s Your One Sunday, which all led to over 6,300 gospel conversations and 176 salvations.