Southern Baptists Blanket Nashville with Evangelistic Events

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Thousands of Southern Baptists across the nation gathered Saturday at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville for Crossover 2005 - one of the denomination’s largest evangelistic efforts in history.

Crossover has been held each year the weekend prior to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)’s annual meeting, throughout the host city’s metropolitan area since 1989. Typically about a thousand evangelistic enthusiasts would join the effort to “blanket” the city with block parties, festivals, free meals and door-to-door evangelism.

This year, some 12,000 church members registered and pledged to “witness, win and baptize” through the event. Although final numbers for this year’s event had not yet been released, organizers said “there was definitely more people than normal.”

“We know for a fact there were more people than normal in all of the crossover events,” explained Jay Johnston, a director at the SBC-affiliated LifeWay Christian Resources. “We had more than in past years in all the events, not just door-to-door [evangelism].”

Another difference at this year’s Crossover was the focus on the denomination’s “Everyone Can! Kingdom Challenge to Witness, Win and Baptize…ONE MILLION!”

The Everyone Can goal was planted by Bobby Welch, president of SBC, since his term began last year. Welch, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, started his yearlong tenure with a bus-trip around the nation to rally support for the Everyone Can initiative and to bring more Southern Baptists to Crossover 2005.

The Everyone Can effort will officially launch this October and will run through 2006. Supporters of Everyone Can hope the 16-million-member denomination will break records by evangelizing and making disciples of 1 million people in a one year stretch.

Crossover 2005 is a precursor to the Everyone Can launch. However, to Welch, the success of the one-million-member effort is dependent on the spirit that is molded through Crossover.

“It’s not just about the million but what it takes to get to the million,” explained Welch. “People are making huge sacrifices to come to Crossover and they’re coming because they believe something God-glorifying is going to happen.

“My prayer is that when these people go home, they will go home passionately, concerned that everyone back home could catch what they caught – and that’s the Holy Spirit,” Welch said during an interview last week.

That same spirit was reflected Saturday evening at the end of the Crossover rally.

“It’s not all about the numbers but what God is doing in you and through you,” said Welch, as he faced the thousands who returned from various evangelistic activities across the city.

Welch himself attended several events, including two a multi-cultural festival, door-to-door evangelism, a FAITH (motorcycle) Riders rally, and two block parties held in the backyard of local churches.

In one of those block parties, two Muslim sisters and their children came out to meet their neighbors.

“We wanted to meet a few people in the neighborhood,” said Shahhada Samad, who said she heard of the event through an advertisement. “We have no problem being here at this Christian event because we have to meet different people.”

To Welch, such meetings are at the heart of Crossover and the Everyone Can initiative.

“How would we have met these Muslim ladies if it wasn’t for this?” asked Welch. “This is the effort that brings us here, and it’s overwhelming.”