Shine: Illuminating the Darkness
Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from the Summer 2010 edition of the Southwestern News. To view the magazine online, visit www.swbts.edu/swnews.
Students at Southwestern Seminary are discovering the world at their doorstep. Shining the light of the Gospel in downtown Fort Worth, gathering to pray for the nations, and proclaiming Christ’s love among Muslim refugees, these students are motivated by Christ’s command to reach everyone and make disciples of all nations.
Moving a City to Faith
A movement that started as an evangelistic jam session on the streets of Fort Worth is changing the city one Friday night at a time. Move This City is a student-led, weekly gathering and outreach ministry that shares the Gospel with the downtown community.
Austin Crownover, a student in the College at Southwestern (CSW), and fellow Normandale Baptist Church member Mike Dye developed this idea after discovering a mutual desire to witness as well as a mutual talent for music.
Facilitated by local students, musicians, and church members, Move This City sets up every Friday evening outside a local Jamba Juice on a street corner near downtown Fort Worth’s Sundance Square. As the sun sets, the group uses their musical abilities to draw a crowd in order to share the Gospel. They have talked with the homeless, struggling musicians, store owners, and other seekers while performing faithfully every week from 7:30 p.m. to the wee hours of the morning.
Crownover laughs as he relays that people think they are crazy, but he remembers his reason for going down there in the first place. “We’re not going to leave that place until we’ve talked to people about God,” he says. “It’s a really cool tool to witness to people.”
Crownover plays percussion, Dye leads worship on his guitar, and fellow members sing, play instruments, or just clap along, depending on their musical aptitude. Some passersby, often dressed up for performances at Bass Hall or for time in the nearby bars and nightclubs, glance over at the singing but continue walking. Others, however, pause and listen, and the musicians or their friends then engage them in conversation and seek to present the Gospel.
One night, the size of the crowd had grown to between 20 and 30 people. Crownover remembers looking up to see fellow CSW students Andrew Gombossy and Van Komatsu moving in and out of the crowd.
“Oh wow, this is amazing,” he thought. “They’re talking to people who don’t have a real understanding of Christ, who don’t really question whether they’re going to heaven or hell or if there is an eternity or not.”
Crownover says his classes have helped him and other CSW students with the ministry because the ideas that people downtown present to him about life, humanity, and God are actually recycled from old philosophies and religions, about which he has already been studying and reading at length. In answer to these futile philosophies, he shares the unique hope of Jesus Christ as the Savior from sins.
“Being able to go downtown and talk to these people through Move This City has been really beneficial,” Crownover says. “I feel we’re supposed to do evangelism, that we’re supposed to do missions wherever we are, and for me that’s with homeless people or random people downtown.”
Reaching the World
Move This City, however, is only one way that students at Southwestern are taking the initiative to shine for Christ in their city and in their world—without even stepping outside of Fort Worth. In another display of their One Magnificent Obsession—that is, their passion for the Great Commission—as many as 85 students have gathered in the seminary’s World Mission Center on Friday nights throughout the semester to learn about the nations and pray for them.
During One Magnificent Obsession, student volunteers, many of whom have served on the mission field, lead in worship and prayer for nations such as China, Germany, the Arabian Peninsula, Zimbabwe, and Israel. They feature a specific nation or people group for prayer during each gathering, and they listen to missionaries, who, either in person or through Skype, report on God’s work among the nations.
“It is incredible to see what God is doing all over the world,” Kevin Sheppard, a student in the College at Southwestern, says. He was especially blessed to hear about what God is doing in Afghanistan.
“My heart was broken for those people as I saw pictures of them,” Sheppard says. He was moved by the continuing need in Afghanistan, “realizing their lostness and just the difficulty of reaching them.”
According to seminary student Ayman Ibrahim, One Magnificent Obsession was one of the most successful on-campus events at Southwestern during the spring semester. Ibrahim often attended One Magnificent Obsession, and he was glad to see students “praying and praising God, eager to hear about different nations.”
Ibrahim, however, believes that seminary students in Fort Worth have many opportunities to put their passion for worldwide missions into practice without even leaving the city. “We have great opportunities to reach out to Muslims here,” says Ibrahim, who works with Muslims living in Fort Worth’s many refugee camps, where thousands of families from around the world have fled for shelter.
“God has given us an opportunity to be a refugee city, … but they don’t need only shelter. They need the Gospel.”
Born to a Coptic Orthodox family in Cairo, Egypt, and saved in an evangelical church service at age 10, Ibrahim has traveled throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, witnessing the power of God’s Word to transform lives. In January 2007, Ibrahim moved to Fort Worth to begin his Master of Divinity degree at Southwestern. Having graduated with his M.Div. this May, he will begin his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies in the Fish School of Evangelism and Missions this fall.
This summer, Ibrahim is teaching a class on the history of Islam in the College at Southwestern. Ever since he moved to Fort Worth, he has endeavored to help Christians better understand Islamic culture and know how to reach out to them with the love of Christ.
“Since I came to America, I have been hearing different views on Muslims and Islam,” Ibrahim says. “Some views are relational, friendship-based, and some views are just confrontational.” Ibrahim emphasizes the importance of befriending Muslims and learning about their culture and religion.
“Muslims are also people, and we need not be scared of listening to them, of communicating the Gospel with them,” Ibrahim says. “We need to know that we are called to understand their mindset and their worldview.
“It is about how to understand properly, so that we will communicate in a proper way, knowing that God has called us to reach everyone.”
Like Ibrahim, students at Southwestern Seminary want to gain knowledge and experience that will enable them to take the Gospel to all people. Even while completing their degrees, they have taken the initiative to fulfill the Great Commission by bringing Christ’s light to their community and to the world.