Criswell students participate in Crossover

PHOENIX?Snow cones, inflatable water slides, even a shower provided by the hose of local firefighters could not quench the evangelistic fire of Criswell College students as they shared the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Valley of the Sun. From the heart of Dallas, twenty students led by Alan Streett, Criswell’s professor of evangelism and pastoral ministry, came to the Arizona desert determined to share with as many people as possible.

Kennedy Young, a student from Pflugerville, commented on the Criswell mission, “Wherever we have stopped, restaurants, gas stations?we have tried to talk to anybody and everybody about Christ.”

Criswell students shared the gospel with Chandler, Az., residents at a neighborhood block party sponsored by the congregation of Wellspring Baptist Church, a local mission church. The block party was one of many ministry efforts comprising Crossover Arizona, a joint venture of Arizona Southern Baptists and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Approximately 3,000 Southern Baptist volunteers from across the country participated in the evangelistic effort. Crossover events are held each year on the weekend preceding the SBC annual meeting.

The students’ participation in the effort began on June 11, at the Interfaith Evangelism National Workshop, “Challenge of the Cults.” The workshop met from Wednesday afternoon through Saturday morning, learning about groups including the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Learning more about Jehovah’s Witnesses was a big thing to me because we have a Kingdom Hall right next door to our church, and I would like to be able to reach out to them,” said Scott Gray, Criswell student and pastor of Lyon Road Baptist Church in Garland. “In the conversations I have had in the past with certain Jehovah’s Witnesses, everything that I ask them they will normally say, ‘Well that’s what I believe,’ or ‘I agree with you.’ So, I think the conference was really helpful; it gave us a little more insight into what to ask when dealing with people from these cult backgrounds.”

Young was also very interested in information obtained about Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Jehovah’s Witnesses stood out because they are more ‘evangelistic’ than even the evangelicals. They are more consistent to touching the needs of others.”

Jason Valleau, a member of First Baptist Church of Dallas, said he learned some of the steps that cults use to influence people. According to Valleau, “Cults prey upon peoples’ insecurities such as not feeling that they are loved by their parents. Also, cults tend to catch people when they are not in the best situations of life. Some of the cults will do things for you so you feel indebted to them.”

Valleau also stated he appreciated the training he received on how to speak to those who are either already involved, or are possibly considering becoming involved with a cult. “Speak to them in such a way, not as far as just the words themselves, but the process as well, that does not offend them or put them down. Always use the Word of God, don’t just say, ‘You’re wrong, you’re wrong.’ You have to show it to them.”

Dallas native Elisha Fuqua stressed that reaching cult members must be done through building relationships. Through these relationships the cult members come to realize that someone outside the cult cares for them enough to reveal the truth to them, she said. Fuqua explained, “Many of the people in cults have been brainwashed to think that there is no other religion. They are it. There is nobody that is going to accept them, and even if they did, it is supposedly a false religion.”

For Fuqua, one of the telltale signs of a cult is obvious. “The thing that I mainly noticed about it was that it is real easy to get cult members, because it is not something manufactured by God, it’s something that men manufactured. I found that to be very interesting,” she said.

Following the conclusion of the workshop on Saturday morning, the students moved on to the field experience portion of their trip to the desert – sharing the gospel.

The Chandler block party drew an estimated one hundred people who were not a part of the sponsoring church.

Almost all in attendance were presented with the plan of salvation, resulting in four professions of faith. Of those who made commitments to Christ, one came from a Roman Catholic background, one from a New Age worldview and two were teenagers claiming no religious background.

Streett related that the group had many strong witnessing opportunities stating, “I spent 15 or 20 minutes sharing the gospel with a girl who is living with her boyfriend. She was convicted because she understood what Christ did on the cross, that he took the wrath of God instead of her. Now she had a decision to make. Was she going to submit to him or not? And she knew the implications in light of her lifestyle?and she said, ‘No. I’m not ready.’ We had several like that.”

The witnessing work of the students did not end when the block party ended on Saturday. The group worshiped with the Wellspring congregation on Sunday, and then the students split into groups. The first group continued to minister to the local residents by serving at Wellspring’s Vacation Bible

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