PHOENIX – Even as scorching temperatures bumped 102 degrees
in Arizona’s Urban Corridor, Southern Baptists mobilized in
Crossover 2011 to bring the Living Water to people throughout the region’s
Some 5.2 million people live and work in the corridor, which stretches from the
Phoenix metro area down to Case Grande and Tucson. Several hundred of those people are new believers in
Christ following a week of community evangelism and Crossover’s Saturday
Phoenix was the 23rd year for Crossover, an evangelism event
coordinated by the North American Mission Board, local associations and
churches that precedes the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting. This
marks the second time the annual meeting has converged in Phoenix, the first time in 2003.
“This past week, Arizona Baptists have truly shown their neighbors the love of
Christ in action through Crossover,” said Kevin Ezell, president of the North
American Mission Board. “This has been a model for how we can show people we
care and then tell them why we care. It’s exciting to celebrate those who have
given their lives to Christ this week.
“I’m also excited that this has been an opportunity for existing churches and
some of our new church plants to gain a higher profile in the community,” Ezell
added. “I’m praying all of our churches in the Phoenix and Tucson areas will benefit from Crossover and keep this
momentum going long into the future.”
To share the Gospel the week of June 7 and on Saturday, Arizona Baptists used
dozens of block parties, a skateboard-a-thon, bottled water distribution,
painting and landscaping projects at area schools, community arts and cultural
festivals, women-only events and, of course, door-to-door evangelism.
The most creative event had to be six-hour Skateboard-A-Thon, sponsored by
Mountain Ridge Baptist Church in Glendale, Ariz., attended by hundreds of kids
and parents on Saturday.
A 19-year-old college student and member of Mountain Ridge, Presleigh Boulos –
herself an avid skateboarder – knows skateboard enthusiasts are one of the most
unreached groups in any community. So she envisioned a dynamic event that could
reach skateboarders with the Gospel.
“I was just hoping to grow God’s Kingdom,” Boulos said. “We had 33 kids go up
there and accept Christ. That was my goal, not how many attended.”
“If the North American Mission Board and Cooperative Program giving wasn’t
here, we probably couldn’t have been able to do this event, although we’ve
wanted to for a long time,” said Monty Patton, pastor of Mountain Ridge Church.
through local churches in Phoenix held prior to the Southern Baptist
Convention Annual Meeting June 14-15 at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Arts, Cars, Mariachi
In Tucson, four SBC churches in the central part of the city hosted a
Crossover community arts festival at Reid Park, with activities for children, live music, food and
booths with artisans’ hand-crafted items. By noon,
volunteers from Calvary Baptist Church, Rising Star Baptist, First Southern Baptist and
North Swan Baptist – along with Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) teams –
had shared the Gospel scores of times, leading 12 kids to faith in Christ.
That number was on top of the 12 children and five adults who accepted Christ
the night before at a Tucson car show – attended by 4,000 – hosted by the same
four churches. A week-long series of cultural events, capped off by Crossover
Saturday, was also a gift to Tucson from the city’s SBC
churches and the Catalina Baptist Association.
“Our prayer was to strengthen our association and churches, and reintroduce Tucson to Southern Baptists, said event organizer Gary
Marquez, pastor of North Swan Baptist for 24 years. Marquez’s wife, Dianna,
choked back tears as she told of the 17 children who made decisions for Christ
at a mariachi festival at nearby Kennedy Park earlier in the week.
In east Tucson, Sabino Road Baptist Church sponsored a landscaping project at a local school and
conducted door-to-door witnessing in the area’s neighborhoods, joined by
volunteers from Kentucky, North
Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Back in the Phoenix metro area, one of the earliest Crossover events for
women only, was held at the Christian Challenge Building on the campus of Arizona State University at Tempe. ASU has 3,500 international students from 140 countries.
“Ministry to international students is a big thing at Arizona State,” said Terrie Sullivan, executive director of Arizona
Woman’s Missionary Union. “Our event was designed to allow international women
– either students or wives of students – to practice their English and give us
an opportunity to love on them and show them God’s love. Most are not
Women from several Asian countries and Kenya spent the session getting free manicures and learning
how to make necklaces and scented bath salts. Following a luncheon, they all
left with scented candles – and an aroma of the Gospel.
Snow, Magic, Paint
In spite of the heat, snow was the featured attraction at the three-acre campus
of Royal Palms Church – site of one of Crossover’s larger block parties – in
north central Phoenix.
After a vendor ground up bags of ice to make “snow” for the rubber slide, local
kids lined up to make the run on plastic sleds. The neighborhood children also
enjoyed giant water slides and “bounce house” attractions.
“It’s been a wonderful week for our church,” said Charles Lord, pastor of Royal
Palms, who said they were expecting up to 1,000 on Saturday. “Many people have
come to know the Lord. But the block party is not the end of what we are doing,
but only the beginning.” Lord says his church runs about 220 in worship and is
in the center of a neighborhood with students, suburbanites and refugees from Africa
and the Middle East.
Another highlight of the Royal Palms block party was Christian illusionist
Robby Lashua, who did three 30-minute magic shows, wowing audiences with his
jaw-dropping illusions. Only 27, Lashua has been doing magic for 19 years.
“It’s easy to weave the Gospel into my tricks,” Lashua says. “I tell the
audience that everything I do is a trick that can be explained. I tell them how
David Copperfield requires trucks of equipment to do his illusions. Then I
compare him to Jesus, who walked around Palestine doing His miracles without the need for trucks or
tricks. That’s when I tell them Jesus’ miracles were real, not magic.”
In South Phoenix, about 25 members and staff of The Puente Church, a
two-year-old church plant, volunteered to paint interior walls at Maxine Bush School, despite the stifling heat.
As he neatly painted the gray trim of the principal’s door, Tim Lesher,
associate pastor of The Puente’s sponsoring church – The Bridge Church – said,
“we’re doing this to build relationships and meet families in the community. In
south Phoenix, the best way to reach people is through the schools.
We’re here to give them some hope.”
The Puente, pastored by Armando Barraza, is a three-year-old “Spanglish” church
running about 120. As a Spanglish church, its goal is to reach
second-generation Hispanics who embrace the Hispanic culture but prefer to
speak English. “We want to be a culturally relevant church for second-gen
Hispanics,” Barraza said.
SBC president Bryant Wright, who took in the block party
at South Peoria Baptist Church northwest of Phoenix, said it was clear the
church was well organized and put a lot of effort into its event.
“Crossover gives the local church an opportunity to reach out into its
community in a creative way,” Wright said. “I think that’s a wonderful product
of Crossover. They’re building relationships with people coming to this
festival in the hopes that one day they’ll be able to share the good news about
South Peoria Baptist didn’t have to wait long to see that happen. Not long
after the block party started on Saturday morning, a mom and her three children
gave their lives to Christ, led by Jeannine Carter, a member of Judson Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., who came as a volunteer to support the outreach.
“That’s the greatest joy you can have – to know that someone is in heaven
because you share the Gospel with them,” Carter said.
The church’s pastor, James Haynes, said, “VBS and block parties are the two
most effective ways for our church to reach out to our community, make a
difference and meet people.” For this block party, the church set up numerous
inflatables and games, and served food.
Haynes believes that the evangelistic efforts during Crossover represent much
of what’s good about being Southern Baptist.
“We’re cooperating Baptist churches that are Kingdom-minded, and that work
together to reach our world,” Haynes said.
At Glendale’s The Church at Arrowhead, hundreds of families
showed up for cool, refreshing fun at a Crossover event billed as “Summer
Splash,” which featured water slides, inflatables and lots of free food.
“We put out 4,000 door hangers, sent out 2,000 cards and handed out 2,000 to
3,000 invites,” said Dennis Adams, the church’s senior pastor. “Part of it is
just name recognition for us.”
Another church that used Crossover to introduce themselves to the community was
The Way Fellowship, a four-year-old church plant in Glendale. The Way offered a water block party for neighborhood
“We hope our community feels loved,” said Scott Gourley, the church plant’s
pastor. “We want them to be intrigued and inspired enough to check out why
we’re doing this. Then hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to explain that
we’re disciples of Christ, that we’re loving them as He loves us, and then be
able to share the Gospel.”
The Way Fellowship received substantial financial and volunteer support from Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia. Pastor Gourley said the partnership of Parkwood and
others has been crucial to the block party’s success, since The Way only has 17
In addition to the Crossover events throughout the Phoenix metro and Tucson
areas, Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) teams, organized by the North
American Mission Board, spent the week of June 7 going door-to-door in metro
Phoenix, Tucson and smaller towns like Casa Grande, Coolidge, Florence, Eloy,
Picacho and Arizona City.
“Unofficially, we’ve recorded more than 400 professions of faith this week,”
said NAMB’s ICE coordinator, Victor Benavides.
“We’ve had a great partnership
with the local associations and 18 churches in 13 cities.
“We’ve had teams of 24 ICE volunteers from Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, and Texas – along with evangelism students from New Orleans, Southwestern and Golden Gate
One of the volunteers was 81-year-old Hiram Acree of Duluth, Ga., who started sharing the Gospel with the Intentional
Community Evangelism method in 1981. He says he’s only missed two Crossover
events since they began in 1989.
Acree was unfazed by Phoenix’s triple-digit temperatures.
“I do it because the Lord gives me strength, wisdom and understanding,” Acree
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mickey Noah, Joe Conway and Tobin Perry are writers for the
North American Mission Board.)