Southern Baptists hope to engage 20,000 homes during Crossover Birmingham

By Tobin Perry

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—As Southern Baptists make plans to gather in Birmingham, Ala., in June for the Southern Baptist Convention, they’re also preparing to engage more than 20,000 homes in the metro area of Birmingham with the gospel through Crossover activities.

North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Alabama State Board of Missions (ASBM) will mobilize 400 teams to knock on 20,000 doors on Saturday, June 8, the weekend before the annual meeting.

“This year we have a really simplified approach that will help us make as big of a concentrated push as we can make in one day,” said Joel Southerland of NAMB’s evangelism team. “I think the good thing about this year’s event is that it could all be done in one day. We already have student pastors bringing students and pastors who are bringing van loads of volunteers because it can all be done in one day.”

Southerland notes that teams interested in participating can arrive on Friday night, get trained on Saturday morning, and then go out on the streets to share the gospel that day.

Former SBC president and current NAMB vice president of evangelism, Johnny Hunt, and Bill Fay, author of “Share Jesus without Fear,” will train volunteers on Wednesday, June 5 in how to have gospel conversations. The training rally will be held at the Church at Brook Hills and simulcast at other local Alabama Baptist churches. That same training will be available via video at seven “hub churches” throughout the metro-Birmingham area on the morning of June 8.

According to Sammy Gilbreath, the state director of evangelism for the Alabama State Board of Missions, there will be a hub church in each of seven associations in and around Birmingham, which will serve as a base of operations on June 8.

Gilbreath also notes that Birmingham has a metropolitan population of 1 million people. Two million people live within 30 minutes of the city.

“I think it’s a great way to do a mission project, even for a one-day project,” Gilbreath said. “They can come in on a Saturday and impact a major metropolitan area that is changing demographically. It gives us the opportunity to present the gospel to an area that is very unchurched. While we have a lot of churches, 3,280 in Alabama Baptist life, there are a lot of people, a huge population in metro Birmingham, that are not connected to any church.”

Gilbreath believes the Crossover activities will be a catalyst for future evangelistic engagement throughout the state as churches get trained in personal evangelism.

“Events offer us opportunities to train,” Gilbreath said. “Not only are we getting the opportunity to knock on 20,000 doors, it’s giving us an event that provides an opportunity to train our own people in the state of Alabama to do this in their own communities.”

Although Gilbreath says they’ll knock on 20,000 doors, he knows some people won’t be home. When volunteers come to homes where they don’t have an opportunity to share the gospel, they will drop off a bag with an invitation from the local association to local churches, some brochures and likely some kind of gospel tract.

Crossover will also include a major evangelistic push into the inner-city of Birmingham. A Send Relief mobile health clinic and mobile dental clinic will be set up outside of an inner-city church in a high-poverty area of the city. Evangelistic teams will be at the clinics sharing the gospel with participants.

As in previous Crossover events, Southern Baptist seminary students will partner with local churches to do door-to-door evangelism in Birmingham throughout the week prior to the main event and will be a part of the 400 teams blanketing metro-Birmingham on June 8.

For three decades, NAMB has partnered with local state Baptist conventions and Baptist associations to engage the communities hosting the annual SBC meeting. Last year, a record 4,229 people came to faith in Christ through Crossover events in Dallas.

“It’s a really good opportunity for a pastor or a student pastor to train their church how to witness in their own community,” Southerland said. “Sometimes it’s a safer environment for people to learn to share their faith outside of their own communities.”

To register for Crossover Birmingham or for more information, visit

Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.
MASHALLTOWN, Iowa (BP) — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams have begun cleanup work in Marshalltown, Iowa, following a devastating tornado July 19.

A Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief team arrived Tuesday to set up incident command at Iglesia Karios in Marshalltown. Chainsaw teams from Iowa have dispersed throughout the city to clear debris. An SBDR feeding team has prepared meals for recovery workers in the area.

Additional SBDR volunteers from Kansas-Nebraska and Florida already are on the ground in Marshalltown. Carlson, co-director of Iowa Baptist Disaster Relief, expects volunteers from other nearby states to arrive later this week and early next week. Teams from other states interested in providing assistance should contact their state disaster relief director.

“It looks like a war zone to tell you the truth,” Carlson said. “When you go downtown, you’ll see a lot of glass and brick everywhere.

“On the east part of town, there are about 10 blocks that are very heavily hit. There’s really not many trees standing. A lot of those homes aren’t livable,” Carlson said.

The EF-3 tornado injured at least 235 people in the town of 27,000 located 50 miles northeast of Des Moines. Carlson estimates that at least 100 homes were destroyed. Many more homes will take substantial work before people can return to live in them. Carlson believes it will take months, if not years, for Marshalltown to rebuild.

Some of the worst damage in Marshalltown came to the town’s courthouse and the brick buildings in the town square. In recent years officials and property owners had slowly worked to revamp the buildings, many of which are now destroyed. Jenny Etter, executive director of the Marshalltown Central Business District, estimates that the city had spent $50 million in building renovations since 2002.

A dozen or more tornadoes hit central Iowa last Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. The two biggest tornadoes, both rated EF-3, hit Marshalltown and Pella, with peak winds of 144 mph.

SBDR chaplains are also in Marshalltown to provide support and counsel to residents impacted by the tornado. Sam Porter, the North American Mission Board’s executive director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, prays the SBDR response will provide volunteers opportunities to share the Gospel.

“[The] number one goal with disaster relief is to earn the right to share the Gospel,” Porter said. “We work with those impacted. We treat them with respect. We pray with them. When they ask the question, ‘What makes you do this for no charge?’ that’s when you’ve earned the right to share the Gospel.”

The Marshalltown tornado comes on the heels of the SBDR response to flooding in Des Moines, Iowa, where teams wrapped up work last week. Eight people came to faith last week during SBDR efforts in the capital city, Carlson said.

Porter and Carlson urge Southern Baptists to pray for Marshalltown and the rest of Central Iowa.

“Pray for all the people who live here,” Carlson said. “A lot of them lost their homes. They lost their cars. They lost their job. There is a lot of a need here.”

Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board.,

Published March 14, 2019