Southern Baptists will provide a "Gateway to Hope" June 7-9 as part of Crossover St. Louis, the thirteenth annual evangelism emphasis conducted prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
By mid-March, more than eighty-one local churches in seven associations had committed to participating in the effort, and recruitment is currently underway for hundreds of additional volunteers from other areas.
Benny King, executive director of the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, said Crossover St. Louis will kick off a summer-long evangelistic emphasis in the area under the banner of "Gateway to Hope."
Some of the highest-profile events during Crossover will be block parties in which local churches and outside volunteers offer food, fun, and entertainment in local communities, along with an opportunity for participants to hear and respond to the gospel. Forty-seven such events have been scheduled for Crossover.
Students from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will spearhead block parties in twenty mobile home communities and two high-rise apartment buildings according to Bill Curp, director of missions for Jefferson Baptist Association.
Elsewhere, First Baptist Church of Maryville, Ill., will host up to 4,000 people at three separate block parties in nearby towns, including one to be held in conjunction with the Village of Maryville's 100th anniversary.
"We felt this would create a less threatening environment and encourage more to attend," said Cindy Carnes, communications director for the 1,200-member church. "We are experiencing a very positive response from the community, staff, and members."
Other church-sponsored events include prayer journeys, door-to-door personal evangelism, and evangelistic sports clinics for area children and youth. Also scheduled are entertainment-based street evangelism teams, inner-city personal evangelism, a ministry to nightclub employees and dancers, and a "Kindness Explosion" ministry that will give away bottles of cold water along with the message of hope found in Christ.
"We could use at least 400 more volunteers for the Kindness Explosion events alone," said King.
Also part of the Crossover effort is an advertising campaign focused primarily on evangelistic television commercials, sponsored jointly by the North American Mission Board and state Baptist conventions in Missouri and Illinois. Those who respond to the ads and direct mailings will be offered a free Jesus video.
More than 25,000 people have made professions of faith through Crossover efforts since 1989, when messengers attending the annual meeting in Las Vegas first sought a way of making an impact on their host cities with the gospel.
For more information or to request a volunteer assignment with Crossover St. Louis, contact Doyle Echols via email [email protected], or by telephone at (314) 569-1190, extension 305. Information is also available online on the Volunteer Mobilization Information System at volunteers.namb.net.
Crossover — Building On
A Legacy Of Evangelism
In the early 1980s Las Vegas was suggested as a potential host city for the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting — a concept some thought problematic considering Southern Baptists' historic opposition to gambling.
But Darrell Robinson, a pastor from Mobile who served on the SBC Executive Committee at the time, saw an opportunity. Why couldn't Southern Baptists' impact be spiritual as well as financial, he suggested, leveraging the large number of experienced soul-winners in one place to share Christ with everyone in the city?
From that initial concept came Crossover Las Vegas, an evangelism emphasis in 1989 that eventually became an annual tradition.
"For a long time as a pastor it had been my conviction that Southern Baptists were wasting a valuable opportunity with so many of our messengers meeting in a city, but so few thinking of reaching that city for Christ," said Robinson, now president of Total Church Life Ministries. "I determined that if I could make a difference in helping us marshal our forces it would really set a new tone for the convention."
Crossover since has become a laboratory of sorts for what have been some of the most effective evangelism methods in recent years — including traditional door-to-door canvassing, block parties, inner-city evangelism, and a number of other ministries.
Robinson became vice president for evangelism at the Home Mission Board about a month before Crossover Las Vegas was implemented.
In that first year, 10,000 people committed to pray from January to June prior to the event, 2,250 volunteers participated in door-to-door efforts both on the Saturday before and the Wednesday afternoon break during the convention, and a total of 976 professions of faith were recorded. Fifteen new churches were also started in conjunction with Crossover Las Vegas.
In 1992, the evangelistic block party – which originated a few years earlier in California — was introduced to the convention through three events in Indianapolis. It has since become one of the most effective evangelism events both at Crossover and in local churches across the country.
In 1995, Crossover launched Inner City Evangelism (ICE), which has become one of the event's most effective ministries in terms of numbers of individuals making professions of faith in Christ.
At Crossover each year about fifteen trained members of the ICE team have been responsible for as much as 40 percent of the decisions through Crossover.