SBC 2024: Southwestern students lead people to Christ, learn lessons of evangelism through Crossover

Twenty-two Southwestern Seminary students and friends participated in Crossover in Indianapolis June 3-7. SWBTS PHOTO

Trying to share the gospel with a 73-year-old man who was “rude,” reminded Joo*, a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Master of Divinity student from East Asia, how God “patiently waited” for her when she came to Christ about seven years ago.

Joo recalled the man told the team to “stop” talking about Jesus before he walked away. She said when she “faced his rejection,” she thought about her “personal journey” and how God “used different people to reach my life.”

Joo was one of 22 Southwestern students and friends who participated in Crossover, an evangelistic outreach the week before the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, in Indianapolis, Ind., June 3-7. The Southwestern students spent each morning in classroom instruction alongside other students from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, before they would disperse in the afternoons to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through door-to-door evangelism in groups of three to four people.

Through Thursday, the Southwestern team saw 13 salvations, shared the gospel 126 times, and engaged 342 people in conversation.

Carl J. Bradford, dean of Texas Baptist College and assistant professor of evangelism, has led Southwestern’s Crossover teams since 2018. He said Crossover “provides opportunities for further cooperation within our convention.”

“Students partner with churches and NAMB to engage the surrounding community of the SBC’s annual meeting of that particular year through door-to-door evangelism,” Bradford said. “It’s fulfilling the Great Commission together.”

Bradford said during the week of sharing the gospel in Indianapolis, students’ hearts “broke” for the lost, which resulted in “the students embrac[ing] the uncomfortableness of evangelizing with strangers.”

McLain Johnson, a Master of Divinity student with a theology concentration from McKinney, Texas, participated in Crossover for the first time. Johnson said he learned “teamwork” from his week in Indianapolis as the “neatest thing” was “seeing everyone be encouraged to evangelize and work together and figuring out how to help each other and giving advice.”

He added “seeing the Spirit move between the different team members, while we’re actually out talking to somebody” was the “coolest thing” as they would see “a light go off in somebody’s head” as they understood what the team was sharing. Johnson explained it led the team members to understand “this is the perfect time to share this part of my testimony” or to apply something they learned earlier.

Johnson recalled a Tuesday afternoon experience in a group sharing door-to-door with Joo and Richard Silva, a student in the 5-year program from Brazil. He said the trio encountered Laverta who said she was “curious” about God. He said as the group talked with her, they learned she was “open to different religions and just wanted to know the true way to God.”

As the group spoke further with Laverta, Johnson said she mentioned that her late father was a preacher and she had his Bible. They also noticed she had stickers of the cross on her car because “she said it made her feel closer to God,” he said.

“We just thought that was a great bridge, a great opportunity,” Johnson said. “We talked about how, you know, the true meaning of the cross … is God bringing us closer to Him. He’s coming close to us” and “uniting us with Him through that cross.”

Carl J. Bradford, dean of Texas Baptist College and assistant professor of evangelism, was one of the evangelism professors who taught students from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, during the morning teaching sessions of Crossover. SWBTS PHOTO

Laverta told the group, “I don’t know what the true way is,” and Johnson said the group explained, “God was here to tell her that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” based on Jesus’s words to His disciples in John 14:6. Johnson said they asked Laverta if she wanted to “commit” her life to Christ that day, but the woman “struggled,” and said she would “go to church” and “she would give her life [to Christ] when she got to church.”

Johnson said the group “pleaded with her” telling her “you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.” Laverta “gave her life to Christ right there” as Johnson said he led her in prayer—his first time to lead someone to Christ “in a prayer like that.”

“As far as prayers go, it was a pretty poor prayer,” Johnson recalled, adding “I was not prepared for that. But it wasn’t about me. I had no part in it. So, it was just neat to get to see God do that, despite me.”

Spending the week sharing the gospel caused Grace Kim, a Doctor of Philosophy student from Korea who grew up as a missionary kid in Japan, to understand the importance of evangelism in Christian education. Kim, who was participating in Crossover for the first time, said attending a Christian college for her undergraduate studies and two seminaries afterward caused her to have a “mindset” that is “really focused on discipleship.” Subsequently, she said she has sought to “encourage the Christians around me making sure that they fix their eyes on God and encouraging them in God’s Word.”

However, her Crossover experience was “stretching” as she said it was the first time she was “so exposed to the world, and realizing how much they are lost people in the world,” adding that she “knew it in my head, but actually seeing this is a great awakening moment for me.”

During the Thursday afternoon opportunity for door-to-door evangelism, Kim and her teammates, Anna Matsuura, a Master of Arts in Christian Education student from Japan, and Josh Okoye, a Master of Divinity student in evangelism from Houston, encountered a man who had experienced depression and at one point in his life tried to commit suicide. Kim explained as they talked with the man in his 40s, they learned he did “firmly believe in God,” but was “struggling to find a church” and was grieving the loss of both of his parents within the past year.

Kim noted that Okoye pointed out it was “not a coincidence” that the team encountered the man as the man could “be led to church and have that Christian fellowship together.”

“And so in that sense, yes, in evangelism, we do want to reach out to non-Christians, but at the same time, God allows these Christians to meet and help them [and] encourage them in faith,” Kim observed. She said encountering Christians allowed the opportunity to “testify Christ” and that “the Gospel itself is so powerful.”

Okoye said that hearing about Crossover through participating in Everyday Evangelism with Bradford led him to think it was an “opportunity to come out and evangelize in a different context.” Everyday Evangelism, a weekly evangelism initiative led by Bradford during the academic year, allows students to share the Gospel at parks, shopping centers, and other places around Fort Worth.

Okoye said during the week he “saw God bring people to salvation.”

Okoye, who helped lead people to Christ through door-to-door opportunities, said “one thing” that he “definitely” likes about evangelism is that “despite our weaknesses, … He’s still able to do His work.”

He added that it “creates an environment where we have to rely on Him more than we have to rely on ourselves and, honestly, the more I think that that happens, then the greater that we can expect to see from God.”

One of the experiences from the week that stood out to Okoye included when he was witnessing to three men “and they all eventually ended up coming to Christ. They were convicted about the message that we were sharing.” He said preparing the invitation and “helping them in the process of placing their faith in Christ or praying through it” was something that he found to be a “struggle.” However, he learned from Bradford who “sort of stepped in and helped me with that process.” Okoye said the next time he applied what he learned from Bradford as he led a man to faith in Christ.

Okoye said his first experience participating in Crossover showed him God’s sovereignty “to answer other people’s prayers” as he encountered two people who had been praying about finding a church and “to see people come from halfway across the country, not even just in their environment, but to see people come from halfway across the country and have the need met.”

As he prepares to return to Fort Worth at the end of the week, Okoye said he brings with him the lessons of keeping evangelism as a “practice” and helping people in the local church body “get more acclimated to having the conversations or having that on the forefront of their mind and going out.”

Okoye concluded that he believes there is an “intentionality that is key” to evangelism and he wants to help those in the local church to have “conversations” within their own “spheres” that are “that are Christ-exalting and are evangelistic.”

Bradford observed the long-term result of the Southwestern group’s participation in Crossover was committing “themselves to take the next step in their evangelism practice, whether knocking on a stranger’s door, praying for an individual, getting through an entire Gospel conversation, or answering an objection to the gospel. Simply put, they allowed God to work in them and through them.”

*Name changed for security reasons.

 

Ashley Allen
Director of News and Information
Ashley Allen
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
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