Southern Seminary students challenged to share their faith at Crossover 2018
FT. WORTH, Texas (SBTS) — 175 students from five different Southern Baptist seminaries gathered under the scorching Texas sun for one purpose: to testify to Christian faith in the neighborhoods of Ft. Worth, Texas, June 4-10. Among them, eight students from a personal evangelism class led by Timothy K. Beougher, who is the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Seminary, knocked on doors and ignored their comfort zones as they articulated the Christian faith to others.
“Jesus commanded his disciples in John 4 to lift up their eyes. That command comes through the disciples to us, too. Naturally, if left to our own desires, we begin each day by setting our eyes on ourselves and our own needs. We tend to be self-focused because that is our natural inclination,” said Beougher. “We have to lift our eyes from our own circumstances, problems, and needs and realize there are lost people in a lost world who need to hear about Christ. Crossover helps remind us that this ought to be our business every day of our lives.”
The event is a yearly precursor to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, which took place in Dallas on June 12-13. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, hosted Crossover, and it was organized by Brandon Kiesling, who is assistant professor of evangelism at Southwestern. Each day began on Southwestern’s campus before the schools split up and partnered with local churches to evangelize surrounding neighborhoods.
Students were each encouraged to report statistics from their outreach efforts in three categories: contacts, gospel conversations, and commitments. According to some anecdotal statistics, 10 percent of contacts (knocking on someone’s door or giving them a gospel booklet) will result in conversations (an articulation of the entire gospel), and 10 percent of conversations will result in some sort of faith commitment. The overall numbers from Crossover roughly reflected that, with 19,464 contacts, 3,180 gospel conversations, and 340 commitments.
The eight Southern Seminary students arrived on Thursday during the week of Crossover and contacted 741 people, leading to 205 gospel conversations and five faith commitments during their evangelistic efforts on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Jim Hudson, executive pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and SBTS student, said he had plenty of experience in passive evangelism. He was, as 1 Peter 3:5 commands, “ready to give an account” for his faith if anyone asked him.
But Crossover helped him develop the discipline to leave his comfort zone and actively share his faith, he said. Despite having previously ministered in both short-term mission trips and crusades, Hudson said this event stretched him in new ways.
“I’d be one of those guys who would say, ‘Sure, when the opportunity comes to me, I want to be ready to give account for the hope that is in me.’ But I don’t often lean into the idea of going out and actively sharing my faith.
“Evangelism is worship,” he said. “At the end of the day, we talk about the things we have affection for. The desire to talk about Jesus Christ is a reflection of who Jesus Christ is to us, and if he is our greatest treasure, then we can’t help but talk about it.”
Southern Seminary students also led an evening debriefing session on Friday night, and Beougher taught on developing a healthy theology of evangelism during a morning session. Every orthodox, Bible-believing Christian should affirm the centrality of evangelism in Christian life and testimony, he said during his lesson.
“I don’t care how many points you have in your theology,” Beougher told students from the five Southern Baptist seminaries. “If evangelism isn’t one of them, you’re not biblical. Evangelism is the heartbeat of theology.”
Although Southern Seminary students didn’t see a lot of gospel commitments during their door-to-door ministries, they said they introduced hundreds of people to the gospel with the hope that another evangelist sometime in the future will reap the harvest.
“I think the team did great,” Beougher said. “The conditions were tough — the heat was oppressive and the logistics were complicated. Our students were troopers, as I anticipated they would be. They rose to the occasion. I’ve seen that year after year at Crossover.”
The event culminated in the Harvest America crusade in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on the evening of June 10. Over 35,000 people attended the crusade, including the SBTS cohort.
Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, preached at the event and issued an altar call in the style of the late Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham. More than 2,000 people made professions of faith during Harvest America, according to early reports.