By Tobin Perry
PHOENIX — The goal of this year’s Crossover is to “Engage Phoenix with the Gospel” through a partnership with Harvest America.
North American Mission Board and Arizona Southern Baptist Convention leaders are praying for more than five thousand salvation decisions through this summer’s Crossover activities prior to the 2017 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
But for that to happen, they need the help of Southern Baptists to come and serve as volunteers, according to Eddy Pearson, evangelism director for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. This year’s Crossover efforts will center on a June 11 Harvest Crusade led by Greg Laurie. Prior to that, 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.
“We can’t do this if Southern Baptists don’t show up,” said Pearson. “We are not having the typical fifty 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 four to six thousand 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.
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.
Organizers hope more than fifty thousand attendees will participate in the crusade. Pearson says Harvest Crusades typically see 8 to 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.”
More than one hundred Southern Baptist seminary students will take part in on-the-ground evangelism in the area around the crusade the week prior to the event. Pearson hopes these students will invite twenty thousand homes to the crusade during the week.
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.
“I think people see the great potential of this crusade,” said Joel Southerland, NAMB’s executive director of evangelism. “In years past we’d have three hundred, four hundred or five hundred people come to faith in Christ. With this crusade, we could have four, five or six thousand people come to faith in Christ.”
Greg Laurie, who serves as senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., has been leading Harvest Crusades since 1990. More than 5.7 million people have attended Harvest Crusades since that time.
Those who come to faith through this summer’s crusade will be connected to local churches for follow up. Each participating local church will have a follow-up coordinator who will lead the congregation’s follow-up efforts. Every person who makes a commitment to Christ will be connected with a person to pray and follow up with them that night. They will receive a new believer’s Bible and a copy of their commitment to Christ. The Harvest America team will process all the decisions that night and mail the information to churches the next morning. Once local churches receive the information, they will follow up with new believers through e-mail, a phone call and possibly a visit.
Monty Patton, who serves as NAMB’s city missionary for Phoenix, says the spiritual need is significant in Phoenix. According to the North American Mission Board, only 12.6 percent of Phoenix residents are affiliated with evangelical churches.
Patton says that new church plants in the central and west sides of the city are particularly excited about the potential of new believers coming into the congregations through the event.
“Phoenix has not seen this kind of crusade or a gathering of like-minded churches since I’ve been here,” Patton said. “It’ll be great.”
North Phoenix Baptist Church will host a “day of evangelism” on June 9 at 7 p.m. to help train Christians in evangelism and prepare them for the June 10 evangelistic blitz of the city preceding the next day’s crusade.
Pearson asks that Southern Baptists would pray that “God’s Spirit would permeate the city of Phoenix.”
“Pray that we have boldness,” Pearson added. “Pray that we share about this where we live, work and play.”
For information about volunteering for the Sunday crusade, visit harvestamerica.com/serve. For information about outreach opportunities on Friday and Saturday, visit harvestamerica.com/pre-events.
For more information about Crossover and how you and your church can be involved, visit harvestamerica.com/crossover-events.
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.
Published March 28, 2017