Door to door soul winning works," claimed David Burton, director of the Evangelism Division of the Florida Baptist Convention, as more than 100 people converged on the streets of Clearwater as part of the Inner City Soulwinning [ICS] Seminar held Nov. 16-18.
Burton, who led the event, said the teaching and witnessing was one of his most incredible experiences. Burton taught, witnessed and observed as veteran witnesses and novices led people to Jesus. Burton added, "One of the keys to ICS is the marriage of discipleship principles into the training which took place Friday and Saturday mornings prior to our going out on the streets." He reported that in about six hours 403 people made professions of faith.
This was the first inner city evangelism seminar totally organized and funded by a Southern Baptist state convention. The North American Mission Board has been leading similar national events, called Inter City Evangelism or ICE, across America for nearly five years.
Walter Campbell, pastor of Bayview Baptist Church in Clearwater and a participant in the three day event, prayed an emotion filled prayer of thanksgiving when he observed seven teenagers on a basketball court pray to receive Christ during the street witnessing. He promised that his church would follow up in person and begin discipling the teenagers who live near his church.
Other Suncoast Association churches who participated included Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church and Gateway Community Baptist Church in Oldsmar; High Point Mission in Clearwater; Southside Tabernacle in St. Petersburg; and Keene Terrace Baptist Church in Largo.
Guy Sanders, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Port Richey, in Pasco County, brought members of his church to learn how to do street evangelism. He told his people earlier that he wanted to take them on a mission trip twenty-five miles from home. Sanders brought sixteen of his FAITH trained witnesses to partner with Mt. Carmel Baptist Church.
"My people were 'spiritually stretched'," Sanders summed up the experience. "There were well-educated folks, some grade school, some wealthy, some on welfare, senior adults and young people, male and female, healthy and handicapped. They experienced a stay-at-home journey to another culture to share Jesus and develop new Christian fellowship."
"Seeing churches work side by side to meet people where they are affirmed to me that churches working together can accomplish so much more than one church can alone," said Cathy Lloyd, Suncoast Association Discipleship Director. "The key to the success of this event will be establishing small Bible studies and life groups where people can learn more about God, as well as other follow up by our local churches."
Otoneil Valdez, director of Church Extension of Tampa Bay Association, attended with two of his pastors. As he left he said, "It is my firm belief we'll do this same thing in our association next year. It's miraculous. The training and witnessing and follow up is what every church needs."
Burton said that he hopes to have ICS in Tampa in the fall of 2002, and if possible in other states in the near future. He said that NAMB sent an observer to consider if ICS could become a pilot program for other state conventions to use in evangelism.
Victor Benavides from the Evangelism Department of NAMB came to observe and also witness on the streets. He praised the team effort of the Florida Baptist Convention, the Suncoast Association and the local churches.
"This is exactly what our inner city churches across America need," he said.