Approximately 130 students and four professors from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) attended this year’s Crossover mission trip in Baltimore, the largest group from one seminary in the event’s 26-year history.
Crossover is a weeklong mission trip of intense personal witnessing located each year in the city where the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting will be held the following week. The 2014 Crossover Baltimore event took place on June 1-7.
SEBTS students partnered with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to reach Baltimore, one of its 32 Send cities. According to NAMB, 2,729,110 people live in metro Baltimore and only 9.9 percent are affiliated with an evangelical church.
Activities ranged from door-to-door evangelism to free car washes to ministering to the homeless. Groups also spent time working with sex-trafficking victims in partnership with a local safe house ministry.
“Baltimore is very much a broken city,” said Stephen Eccher, assistant professor of church history and reformation studies at Southeastern. “To return to my native state and witness firsthand the poverty, addiction, corruption and desperate state of the people was truly heart breaking. The hopelessness was real and evident everywhere we traveled. That is what made sharing the gospel alongside our SEBTS students such a treasure.”
Thirteen student leaders contacted local pastors and planned the ministry week for their individual teams. “Our students stepped up, served and gave of themselves to share Christ and minister to the broken,” said Alvin Reid, Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism and professor of evangelism and student ministry at SEBTS.
A larger team of 20 students was responsible for mapping “people group clusters,” or collections of like-minded people from the same geography that share a similar culture. This team located communities of Indian, Pakistani, Nepali and West African peoples.
The trip gave students an opportunity to have a renewed focus on prayer and evangelism. One team saw no fruit for two days, then they fasted and prayed. That day they saw nine come to Christ. “I’m pretty sure we cannot give too much focus to prayer and evangelism at a Great Commission school like ours,” Reid said.
Several students had little experience in intentional evangelism with strangers, but the week proved to be a positive experience. “I was convicted that for all we do, helping our students deal with people in evangelistic work is fundamental,” Reid said.
Many were challenged to go beyond their normal level of comfort in an unfamiliar city. Jeffrey McCrary, another SEBTS student, said, “I was blessed to share my faith with backslidden Christians, militant atheists and Muslims. This challenged me to prepare more for sharing my faith in different contexts.”
During the week, Southeastern students had the opportunity to connect with students from other seminaries and hear from various seminary professors.
Eight students from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, four from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 14 from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, nine from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and nine church members from Georgia and 43 students from Liberty University attended for a total of over 200 students in attendance.
“We can talk about unity all we want, but as Jonathan Edwards said, the best way to get unity is to come together to rescue people from a fire,” Reid said. “Nothing brings about unity in the SBC like coming together to share Christ.”
The group saw a total of 49 professions of faith through over 200 students. The students from Southeastern, Southwestern and Midwestern engaged in 275 gospel conversations and 371 gospel presentations.
Bob Mackey, Embrace Baltimore executive director, said “One of my favorite highlights this week is having 200 students from six seminaries volunteering the equivalent man hours of one person working 5.4 years full-time in Baltimore and sharing Christ with compassion, grace and determination.
“The long-term ripple effect of Crossover on our region will last for a lifetime for all of those who met Christ this week. It will alter the missionary focus of so many of our churches to engage their neighbors more often,” Mackey said.
Participants receive three hours of course credit for attending and completing a few additional assignments. Each morning students attended class before going out into their respective communities.
Reid taught students how to share the gospel using a new resource from NAMB, the “3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide.”
“I found the new ‘3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide’ provided by NAMB to be a tremendous aid in the presentation of the gospel during Crossover 2014,” Eccher said. “The second ‘brokenness’ circle resonated with all of the people I engaged with the gospel. This resonance not only afforded me a place of shared commonality, but also offered a seamless transition to the only remedy for such brokenness, the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Local pastors served as guest speakers in the class and shared about their journeys of ministry. Students had the opportunity to ask the speakers questions and connect with them throughout the week.
“One of the greatest blessings of Crossover 2014 was to see the excitement and joy in the faces of our SEBTS students as we shared experiences from each day,” Eccher said. “To see their faces literally light up as they recounted gospel encounters and professions of faith is something I’ll never forget.”