Southern Seminary students ‘take ownership’ of mission field at Crossover Columbus
Students from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary took “ownership” of the city of Columbus, Ohio, as their personal mission field during a week-long evangelism class that culminated with the annual Crossover event, June 8-13. Thirty-two students from Southern Seminary and Boyce College initiated nearly 400 gospel conversations that resulted in at least 12 professions of faith.
Southern Seminary's Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization coordinated the events for more than 125 students from five of the six SBC seminaries and Baptist College of Florida, housing students on the campus of Ohio Dominican University and inviting local ministry partners to speak in the morning sessions about their evangelism and church planting experience. Following the morning instruction time, students partnered with local Southern Baptist churches to share the gospel in the neighborhoods and help with summer projects.
“Southern students were practically living out what they were learning in the classroom,” said Dithson Noel, student evangelism coordinator for the Bevin Center. “My hope for Crossover Columbus is that it would have a ripple effect in the lives of those who did Crossover this year and encourage students to participate [in St. Louis] next year.”
Local ministry partners who spoke in the corporate gatherings included Southern Seminary alumni Brian Frye, national collegiate strategist for the North American Mission Board; Nick Nye, founding pastor of Veritas Community Church in Columbus; and Jeremy Westbrook, founding pastor of Living Hope Church in Marysville, Ohio, and vice president of the SBC Pastors' Conference. In addition, Aaron Harvie, church planter mobilization strategist for NAMB at the seminary’s Bevin Center, and John Klaassen, associate professor of global studies at Boyce College, shared lessons from their experiences. Harvie planted several churches in Philadelphia and Klaassen spent nearly 20 years as a missionary to Muslims in North Africa.
In his opening remarks for the week-long event, Bevin Center director Jim Stitzinger III urged students to “take ownership” of their mission field by developing an evangelistic impulse and seeking out the lost for Christ. Southern Seminary produced the “My Mission Field” banner for Crossover Columbus so that students could write the names of those with whom they were sharing the gospel.
“Our challenge this week is to sharpen our understanding of the gospel and how it’s communicated,” Stitzinger said. “Understand how our placement in Christ drives our proclamation of Christ.”
Michael Harris, a Boyce junior from Huntsville, Alabama, said he took the course so he could gain practical experience in personal evangelism and “to serve the local churches of Columbus.” He said he realized during a conversation with an agnostic who raised many questions that only the Holy Spirit could convince this person of the gospel truth. And through opportunities to share the gospel on the campus of Ohio State University, Harris said one person he spoke to also made a profession of faith.
“I've faced a lot of rejection, and it was encouraging to see the Spirit is working and convicting people of sin,” Harris said.
Paige Whitaker, a first-year Southern Seminary M.Div. student from Whiteland, Indiana, was one of several Southern and Boyce students who visited a Nepali neighborhood to spend time in their homes to share the gospel through a translator. Whitaker and a group of female students also visited a mosque where Muslim women tried to convert the seminary students, opening up an opportunity for the students to share the gospel.
“I don't want to be out-worshiped or out-evangelized by people who worship a false god,” Whitaker said. “The gospel changes everything and for those who don't surrender to him, they're just laboring in vain.”
Dan Siedelman, a Southern Seminary M.Div. student from Kingsley, Michigan, said the week-long course offered “rapid exposure” to evangelism and was helpful for his spiritual growth.
“I was getting over my own sin and arrogance, serving the kingdom with some grunt work, and realizing that everything we're doing is planting seeds,” Siedelman said. “I was being more confident in sharing intentionally rather than hit-and-miss evangelism.”
NAMB’s Crossover event takes place each year prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in the host city. This year, 3,385 people volunteered in the event and initiated nearly 5,000 gospel conversations, resulting in at least 345 professions of faith. SBTS and Boyce students earned course credit for Personal Evangelism.