Southern Baptists prepare for Crossover 2011

By Adam Miller

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Cheri Mills of Louisville, Ky., prayed with Autiyana Evans during Crossover Orlando last June. Crossover 2011 in Phoenix will focus on new helping church plants reach their communities. To volunteer or for more information, visit www.crossover2011.org.
PHOENIX, Ariz. – Southern Baptists braving the Phoenix heat for Crossover 2011 Saturday, June 11, will encounter an oasis of local churches ready to slake spiritual thirst in their communities.
Crossover, now in its 23rd year, is an evangelistic outreach event held the weekend before the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, June 14-15.

Dozens of congregations will join volunteers from Arizona and across the nation at 70 ministry venues throughout the Phoenix-Tucson Corridor, a 120-mile stretch encompassing 5.2 million residents. 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, prayerwalking, Intentional Community Evangelism outreach projects and acts of kindness.

“We're excited about getting our churches into the streets and sharing the gospel with our community,” said Jerry Martin, associational missionary for the Valley Rim Baptist Association. “We want to be a presence in our communities and begin to make a difference in unreached places.”

Martin, Crossover coordinator for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, asks Southern Baptists to pray for their brothers and sisters in Arizona as they prepare for the June event.
What makes this year’s Crossover unique to the 22-year tradition is that it will directly impact and strengthen 10 new church plants in the five Baptist associations of the Phoenix-Tucson Corridor. These include the Central, Estralla, Valley Rim, Gila and Catalina Baptist associations.

“We are so delighted that our [SBC] family is coming out,” said Steve Bass, executive director for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. “Our people had a great experience in 2003, and they’re absolutely looking forward to this. I think all up and down the line we are grateful for Southern Baptists who come and help engage the harvest field.”

Bass said Crossover will help existing churches identify and engage their neighborhoods. The event also will help spread the word about the new churches, many of which are only beginning to form relationships and core groups in their communities.

“Many of our churches need to be introduced or reintroduced to their neighborhoods. Crossover makes that happen,” Bass said. “Pastors and churches need encouragement, and to have the Southern Baptist family come and walk with them in their neighborhoods or work with them at a block party is incredibly encouraging. It’s absolutely a blessing to us.”

New church starts participating in Crossover 2011 include Vintage Church in Tucson with pastor Tommy Russell; Community Church of Red Rock with pastor Jimmie Wo;, Symbiotic Church in Phoenix with pastor Dennis Conner; Mission Point Baptist Fellowship in Chandler with pastor Bill May; International Baptist Ministries Fellowship in Gilbert with pastor Yaw Poku; Silent Hope Ministries, a church to the deaf in Mesa with pastor Jeremy Fass; Seyenna Vista Apartments Church in Mesa with pastor Louis Spears; Valley Life Church in Phoenix with pastor Brian Bowman; El Puente Church in Phoenix with pastor Armando Barraza; and New Jerusalem Missionary in El Mirage with pastor Clarence Bradley.

“We have 30,000 homes in this area with no church around,” said Bowman, pastor of the Valley Life Church. Sent in January by the Mullins Baptist Association in Oklahoma, Bowman is starting to develop a core group and plans to make a splash in local shopping centers and neighborhoods during Crossover.

Valley Life Church will not launch officially until next year, but Bowman hopes Crossover will provide follow-up opportunities that will help ensure a successful start.

“Our challenge is getting our name out there and gaining exposure,” Bowman said. “At Crossover we’re able to take over this huge parking lot in the community of Norterra. We’ll be giving away movie tickets. We’ll have bounce houses and a block party at this shopping center.”

NAMB church planting missionary Louis Spears says one in three Phoenix-area residents live in multifamily-housing communities closed to door-to-door evangelism. And only 3 percent ever leave their communities to attend church. The Valley Rim Baptist Association has made it a priority to start churches in these communities.

Bass also highlighted the vibrant work among international communities, including ministry among Hispanics and Chinese.

“Our Hispanic ministries are leading the way in gathering volunteers and casting vision for reaching Spanish speakers,” Bass said.

Sixteen of the state’s 23 Hispanic churches will host outreach efforts and block parties. The churches will gather June 5 for a rally, spend the week doing outreach, finish with block parties on June 11, and then come together again the next day for a celebration of the week’s successes.

Bass noted some challenges as well.

“One challenge is having an outdoor event in June in Phoenix,” he said, alluding to the sweltering heat. “Another challenge is that while we are the largest evangelical group in Arizona, we’re not the only religious group here spreading their message. We have to distinguish ourselves from the LDS (Latter Day Saints) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses who also go door to door and have a huge influence out here.

“You never make a clear presentation of the gospel in a vacuum,” he added. “You’re always presenting over and against competing views.”

Since its beginning in 1989 in Las Vegas, Crossover has provided Southern Baptists an opportunity to collectively shine light in communities across North America as equipped churches mobilize to encourage each other and make disciples.
“I hope thousands of Southern Baptists arrive early for the convention this year to participate in Crossover,” said Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board. “What’s so exciting is that after we leave, the new churches we’re helping will be reaching people for Christ and making disciples for years to come. I’m thankful that Steve Bass at the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and the local associations near Phoenix are making church planting such a priority for Crossover this year.”

To learn more about Crossover 2011, visit www.crossover2011.org. To assist new church plants in the Phoenix area, visit www.churchplantingvillage.net/crossover2011.

For those unable to travel to Arizona this summer, Southern Baptists can join in an online prayer community at www.facebook.com/SBCpray4AZor by following www.twitter.com/sbcpray4az.

Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

Date Created: 3/21/2011 6:14:30 PM

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