LYONS — Jeff and his family have added a new dimension to their summer vacation which they hope will become a tradition: turning it into a missions experience. In fact, he hopes it will become so ingrained in the lives of his children that they will pass it along to their children.
While Jeff and his wife model the need to be faithful witnesses where they live, they feel that being on mission during summer vacation will be just as educational – both culturally and spiritual – as experiences closer to home. This summer that commitment will take them to the Valley of the Sun as they join thousands of Southern Baptists in Phoenix, AZ, for the denomination’s annual convention.
Jeff is hoping fellow Georgia Baptists will join his family for the Crossover evangelistic events the weekend prior to the convention and model Christ-like behavior to those they encounter. This will be their second missions vacation encounter.
“While this is our first Crossover, this is not the first time I’ve heard about it. For various reasons, its has never worked with our schedule to participate,” the associate pastor at First Baptist Church says.
Family mission trips help develop a Kingdom mindset
“The idea is for our three children – ages 3, 15, and 16 – to develop a Kingdom mindset to learn how to share their faith. My wife and I model it for them on these trips and we pray it will take root in their lives,” he explains.
In just under three weeks that modeling will take shape on Saturday, June 10 as they and thousands of other volunteers nationwide take to the streets to share the Gospel. The family will be paired with one of many evangelism groups led by an experienced team leader with some going door-to-door, others distributing water bottles with labels announcing the Sunday afternoon rally.
That is when evangelist Greg Laurie’s Harvest America crusade will culminate its three-day blitz – June 9,10, and 11 – at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
The family will be working alongside more than 225 local churches that weekend, which is being co-sponsored by Laurie’s evangelistic team and the North American Mission Board.
Seeking a ‘bookmark moment’
The minister. hopes the experience will be one of those “bookmark moments” (as he calls it) where his children see God working first-hand in the lives of people, and that those moments will become a permanent memory.
“The goal is not that they necessarily become full-time missionaries. We are certainly open to that for them – that is something between them and the Lord. But I do want them to always ask God how they can be on mission for Him.
“Bookmark moments are special because they teach us the potential for God’s work through us and build anticipation of, and strength for, future opportunities.
Jeff said he was interested in attending the ministry side of Crossover long before the final events were announced. The Harvest Crusade was just icing on the cake.
With 80% Georgians unchurched, must be a higher percentage in Arizona
Over in Sylvania, Associational Missionary Bobby Braswell, Jr. of Middle Baptist Association will also be attending his first Crossover. He plans to serve as a counselor at the Sunday rally.
“With 80 percent of Georgians estimated to be unchurched here in the Bible Belt, you would expect an even higher percentage in Arizona. Participating in the Saturday outreach and the Harvest America crusade appeals to me as part of my call to missions,” he says.
He hopes other Georgians will join him for the evangelistic event and the three days of the SBC annual meeting.
“It’s very easy to sign up and there is great information on NAMB’s website.” Braswell, a member of First Baptist Church of Springfield, will be accompanied by fellow Associational Missionary Greg Bentley of Altamaha-New Sunbury in Jesup.
Bentley, who has been in his current role for just 11 months, will also be experiencing his first Crossover. He also plans to serve at the evangelistic rally as a counselor or in any capacity in which he is needed.
“We need to not only talk about the Great Commission but live it out in events like these. Sometimes we settle in to our ministries and become too inward focused and don’t actually get out to practice what we preach,” he noted.
It’s not too late to register as a volunteer and show up for the Friday, June 9 street evangelism training, according to Eddy Pearson, evangelism director for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.
Prior to Sunday’s rally, organizers need volunteers to help local churches conduct door-to-door visitation across Phoenix, engaging residents in Gospel conversations and extending personal invitations to attend the crusade.
Up to 6,000 volunteers needed for three-day emphasis
“We can’t do this if Southern Baptists don’t show up,” said Pearson. “We are not having the typical 50 or more block parties [for Crossover], but we are focusing on inviting the community to Harvest America and sharing the Gospel as the Lord provides opportunities.”
Pearson said they need 4,000-6,000 volunteers to fully staff the event. Many of those volunteers will come from Arizona churches – both Southern Baptist and other churches – but not all of them will. Georgia Baptists could play a significant role in that outreach.
In addition to Friday night training and Saturday outreach, volunteers will participate in a variety of roles at the Harvest Crusade on Sunday evening, including decision follow-up workers, prayer support, security, and ushers. Volunteers must sign up through the Harvest Crusade online portal (see below). Once they sign up, they will receive instructions for training in preparation for the crusade.
More than 50,000 expected to participate in the Harvest America crusade
Organizers hope more than 50,000 attendees will participate in the crusade in the massive football complex. Pearson says Harvest Crusades typically see 8-10 percent of attendees make professions of faith.
The crusade will be simulcast online and include a gospel message by Laurie and music by top-name Christian artists including Needtobreathe, Trip Lee, and Phil Wickham. According to the event’s website, the crusade will focus on “bringing the cross over into people’s lives.”
Laurie, who serves as senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA, has been leading Harvest Crusades since 1990. More than 5.7 million people have attended Harvest Crusades since that time with 60,000 professions of faith.
How to volunteer
For more information about Crossover and how you and your church can be involved, visit harvestamerica.com/crossover-events.
The crusade marks one of the most significant shifts in the history of the Crossover outreach efforts.
Crossover began with an SBC resolution in 1983 that urged Southern Baptists to plan an evangelistic outreach to coincide with the 1989 annual meeting in Las Vegas. Since that year, Southern Baptists have annually led city-wide evangelistic celebrations in the host cities of the SBC annual meeting. Co-sponsored by the North American Mission Board and the local SBC association, the event has typically included local church outreaches like block parties and service projects.
June 2017 will mark the twenty-ninth consecutive year Southern Baptists have hosted Crossover events. Southern Baptists met in Phoenix in June 2003 and 2011.