NEW ORLEANS, La. – There’s no better time than June to visit New Orleans. Add to jazz, beignets and the French Quarter, the attraction of city residents who have grown to love Southern Baptists, and you have a perfect chemistry for a successful Crossover 2012.
Hundreds of SBC volunteers—from Louisiana and across the nation—will join together June 15-16 for the key evangelistic outreach event prior to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, slated June 18-19 in New Orleans.
Southern Baptists have poured heart, soul and sweat into the Crescent City since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“We all have our Katrina stories,” said Jack Hunter, executive director for the New Orleans Baptist Association and a lifetime resident of the city. “But for the most part we’ve gotten beyond Katrina and we’re now in a rebuilding mode.”
Photo by Joe Conway
Sabino Road Baptist Church Student Pastor Ron Marlin (far right) prepares volunteers from the church and four states (Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas) to go into neighborhoods around the church inviting residents to VBS and other events hosted by Sabino Road. More than 50 volunteers took part in Crossover Tucson 2011 events sponsored by the church.
In city government, in education and in economic stability, New Orleans has a new heart. A recent study suggests the city also has a new attitude toward Christians—Southern Baptists especially.
According to the study, conducted by Turner Research for the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC), New Orleans residents are open to door-to-door visitation, street evangelism and coming to church if invited. The most surprising and encouraging of these findings was that residents favor Southern Baptists above any other faith group.
“Southern Baptists were here with us when we were recovering and mourning with us when we were getting back on our feet,” said Hunter, who served as a lawyer in the city until more recently entering the ministry. “And Southern Baptist work is still going as New Orleans is reborn.”
“Calvary Baptist Church, where I pastored for years, is the most visible church on the west bank of New Orleans but no one knew where we were,” said Keith Manuel, evangelism associate for the LBC. “Now, if you mention Calvary everyone knows where it is because that’s where they got water, food and help from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.”
All this awareness, though, places a greater burden on Southern Baptists to use the opportunity to its fullest. The need is still staggering.
“Our research also shows us that almost 50 percent of the people in New Orleans have never had anyone tell them how they can go to heaven,” said John Hebert, director of missions and ministry for LBC. “And about 75 percent of the total population can’t tell you how to go to heaven. But a majority said they would love to attend a Bible study or prayer meeting if someone would just invite them.
“New Orleans pays more attention to the spiritual world than ever before,” said Hebert. “They’ve been moved by the attention and care that Southern Baptists have given. It’s made a difference and this research really shows that.”
The North American Mission Board is working with the local Crossover coordinating team to provide volunteers with opportunities to share the love of Christ as they participate in block parties, health screenings, prayerwalking, servant evangelism outreach projects and church planting.
Southern Baptists in New Orleans plan to launch four new churches in 2012, with two of those launched during Crossover and the SBC. Crossover will raise the visibility of those new churches.
Local church leaders see Crossover as an opportunity for Southern Baptists to converge and help galvanize New Orleans churches in their evangelism efforts throughout the city.
“Our churches are becoming well trained in evangelism and will lead the way in reaching our communities through Crossover events,” said Hunter. “Our leaders want to create a culture of evangelism in the association, and Crossover, followed closely by other outreach events in succeeding weeks will help do that.”
For churches and volunteers interested in working with a church plant in the New Orleans area with which they can build a long-term partnership, Crossover is partnering with the efforts of City Uprising, June 13-16. City Uprising aids church plants in coordinating missions experiences for potential partner churches. Volunteers of all ages will work with two New Orleans area church plants. To register for City Uprising, visit cityuprising.com.
“It’s a good time to be Baptist in New Orleans,” said Hunter. “Our prayer is that the Cross of Christ would be lifted up across the greater New Orleans area to the end that many souls would be saved and that the church would be increased and that our faith community would have an increased culture of evangelism.”
To learn more about Crossover New Orleans and to volunteer, visit joinnoba.com/crossover.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)