SBC Life Articles

Crossover’s Lasting Effects

In 1989 Sandy Excell was looking for a church home around the Las Vegas area.

That's when God used two Crossover volunteers to change her life forever by inviting her to Highland Hills Baptist Church, a new church plant in Henderson.

"I just happened to be home that day from work, and a knock came at the door," she said. "It was two elderly women, I believe. They were just sweet and kind and wanting to spread news of where the church was meeting. So we spoke for a few minutes and they gave me some information, and it was that next Sunday I went ahead and went by myself."

Providentially, she felt at home and ended up joining the congregation. Over the next five years, God used Highland Hills to lead her husband to Christ along with all of her children.

Today, Excell says they might never have been saved if not for those two Southern Baptist volunteers.

"I was searching so hard to find a place there in Henderson that I just felt comfortable at and felt like it was a place I could take my children," she said. "I would say it probably wouldn't have happened that way" without the Crossover volunteers.

The Excell family represents just a few of the countless lives whose eternal destinies have been changed through the Southern Baptist Convention's annual evangelistic emphasis in the host city of the denomination's annual meeting. Beginning in 1989 with Las Vegas, Crossover has featured a variety of ministries over the years — including door-to-door witnessing, block parties, cultural festivals, rallies, and servant evangelism.

But whatever the method, one element has always been present: the Gospel being shared with lost sinners.

According to Harry Watson, director of missions for the Southern Nevada Baptist Association, Baptists in Las Vegas still reap benefits from the inaugural Crossover.

"Prior to Southern Baptists coming here in 1989, Southern Baptists were kind of looked at as a cult here because we were so sparse in number," Watson said. "After the 1989 time, we've been looked at as an accepted religious group in the city and we've received more receptivity from the people."

During the Crossover season Baptists also started several new churches in Nevada including Highland Hills, which averages approximately four hundred in worship today.


Crossover Atlanta helped start at least three new churches that still exist, according to Joel Harrison, executive director of the Atlanta Baptist Association.

Other events also yielded decisions by people who remain in area churches today.

One particularly successful event was a rally held at Olympic Park where many committed their lives to Christ and subsequently received follow-up contacts from local congregations.

"If the SBC ever came back, I would happily work with Crossover again," Harrison said.

ST. LOUIS 2002

Crossover St. Louis in 2002 made a massive cultural impact on one of the city's roughest neighborhoods. In fact, city officials could not help but take notice.

"We were told by the St. Louis Police Department that that stretch of time was the first stretch of time they had never had a phone call or any crime reported in that neighborhood," said Jim Breeden, director of missions for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association.

Ministry in the inner city involved door-to-door witnessing as well as a block party. Charles Roberson, pastor of Emmanuel Water Tower Christian Ministries, said twelve people still attend his church who were saved during the year of Crossover. Three have since married in the church.

In all, twenty churches participated in the door-to-door campaign and another twenty to forty participated in other evangelistic endeavors, Breeden said.

"I have nothing but positive remembrances and reflections on what was done," he said.

INDIANAPOLIS 2004 & 2008

Tom Polak, pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, participated in Crossover both times the SBC came to Indianapolis recently — 2004 and 2008. In the area surrounding his church dozens were saved in 2008. Between fifteen and twenty of those were homeless people who still attend Cornerstone regularly.

Yet Crossover's results are far more than numbers on a page to Polak. They are people he has grown to love.

For example, Robert was a former gang ring leader who was saved at Crossover 2008. Cornerstone baptized him, and he remains active in the congregation.

"It was really quite a testimony for the downtown community that this particular person with his background and so forth would get saved and would be baptized," Polak said. "Robert continues to be a church member at our church, and he is very instrumental in the street witnessing that we now do."

That street witnessing ministry was fueled by encouragement from Crossover. The fourth Saturday of each month, Cornerstone members fan out across downtown to share the Gospel.

Crossover "helped us to have an attitude of, 'We need to go out after people,' rather than this 'Y'all come' attitude," Polak said. "We were willing to go out where people are and share the Gospel with them. That was very helpful."


In 2007, Crossover San Antonio helped start four house churches and one traditional church. Those congregations have multiplied over the past three years, and today some of the people saved at Crossover are among the leaders in an area-wide house church movement.

"Right now in San Antonio, we've got seventy house churches," said Roland Lopez, consultant for church planting, evangelism, and discipleship at the San Antonio Baptist Association. "At that time three years ago in 2007 we didn't have that many. But we've added to that."

Lopez vividly remembers two lives that were changed during Crossover — because he led them to Christ.

Three teenage girls had come to San Antonio from Edinburg, Texas, to go bar hopping in rebellion against their parents. Lacking money for food, they came to an evangelistic international festival for a free meal. When Lopez struck up a conversation with them, two committed their lives to Jesus and agreed to call their parents to let them know they were safe.

"Two of the young ladies did return (to their parents)," he said. "And after about two or three months I did learn that they were engaged in an evangelical congregation in Edinburg, Texas. That was one of the highlights of the Crossover for me."

Among San Antonio churches, Crossover left an enduring boldness to share the Gospel that was not present before 2007, according to Lopez


Though last year's Crossover in Louisville is still too recent to gage enduring fruit, coordinator Charles Barnes identified at least four churches that began in conjunction with the effort and are still functioning.

"Our target was to plant over the next two or three years — and not just start and see them die — our goal was to plant at least eight churches that would be able to be sustainable churches," Barnes said.

Crossover Louisville's most important effect to date has been awakening churches in the local association, the Long Run Baptist Association, to the need for Christ in their community, he said.

"I think the most important thing that Crossover did for us in the metropolitan area was to energize the churches of the Long Run Association," Barnes said. "There are about 145 churches and twenty missions. I think it raised the level of awareness considerably as to the lostness in the metropolitan area and the fact that we all needed to be more evangelistic."


On the heels of these successes, Southern Baptists will converge on Orlando in June with the expectation that more souls will be impacted. Indeed, twenty years in the future others like Sandy Excell may well recount how a knock at their door changed life forever.