Less than a year ago Bob Mackey spent a Saturday traveling around Houston. Together with hundreds of other Southern Baptists from across the nation, Mackey, executive director of the Baltimore Baptist Association, was in the city to participate in Crossover 2013, a citywide service and outreach initiative preceding the Southern Baptist Convention. Over the course of the day, Mackey observed partnership in action, with visiting Southern Baptists working alongside the local association and churches of Houston to serve the city.
Since then Mackey and his team at the Baltimore Baptist Association have been working hard to prepare for Crossover Baltimore, taking place in their home city on June 7.
"We visited a lot of different events taking place as a part of Crossover Houston," Mackey recalled. "It was exciting to see what God can do for a city through service and partnership. I left with a great sense of hope and expectation for what God will do when Crossover comes to our city this year."
The day of evangelism takes place the Saturday before the SBC and invites visiting Southern Baptists to serve alongside Baltimore churches by hosting events like block parties, evangelism outreaches, health clinics, and sports camps. Mackey and his team already have participants scheduled to serve from more than twelve states, including Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Maryland, and Delaware, as well as commitments from many sister associations.
"We are excited about the interest we've seen from other states and churches to serve with us in Baltimore this year," Mackey said. "These partners coming alongside us will help extend our reach around the city and connect our community to the local churches already at work in Baltimore."
Local pastors and church planters are gearing up for the event as well. Some are opening their churches as hosting sites for the day, putting on events and working with visiting teams to set up evangelism and outreach efforts in their neighborhoods. Others are sending teams out to serve alongside sister churches around the city. Mackey believes this sense of camaraderie and cooperation between the churches of Baltimore comes from a shared hope for people of the region to meet Christ.
"Our churches are excited about the unique opportunity to share Christ with our city that Crossover will bring," he said. "Baltimore is not like a lot of other places in the country. We're not in a predominantly Christian region of the country; we don’t have a church on every corner or throngs of people actively seeking out Christianity. Our hope is that, through the partnership of others in the SBC, Crossover will represent Christ to the people of Baltimore and our region and lay a greater foundation for our local churches."
Partnership has been a key piece of the preparation for Crossover Baltimore, and Mackey believes it will be an essential piece of the day itself. The Baltimore Baptist Association has been working closely with the North American Mission Board as well as state conventions and associations to pray and prepare for Crossover Baltimore.
"NAMB is sharing about Crossover Baltimore on a national level while our state conventions and associations are sharing with their congregations on a more local level," Mackey explained. "Their help and support has been key for us. They are giving us a voice and giving people a chance to come and be a part of seeing Christ magnified in the Baltimore area."
Al Gilbert, NAMB's vice president for evangelism, said, "We want the Southern Baptist Convention meeting to leave Baltimore with more than just a brief economic boost. We want to leave behind changed lives and re-energized churches. I hope everyone attending this year will arrive a day early and participate."
Gilbert said Crossover Baltimore is also an opportunity to help church planters who are serving as part of NAMB's Send North America: Baltimore emphasis. Several projects will partner with and benefit local church plants.
Mackey knows firsthand the importance of a Southern Baptist outreach in an under-reached and underserved area like the Northeast. He became a Christian at age fifteen after an encounter with a Southern Baptist church in Connecticut and has since spent much of his life working to reach others in the region. For him, Crossover is more than a day of service—it's an answer to prayer.
"It's an honor and a privilege to have events like Crossover and the Southern Baptist Convention come to Baltimore this year," he said. "To see the name of Christ glorified through service to our city is an answered prayer. Now our continued prayer is that individuals in our city who haven't before had the opportunity to see what it looks like to see Jesus will see Him in the hands, feet, and hearts of those serving at Crossover."