Enthusiasm and professions of faith were in abundance in Phoenix, Ariz., during Crossover 2017, the Southern Baptist Convention’s evangelism push prior to its annual meeting. For visiting evangelists and evangelists-in-training, “there are so many good benefits,” says Brandon Kiesling, instructor of evangelism at Southwestern Seminary, who coordinated this year’s outreach.

Crossover provides seminary students the opportunity to sharpen their skills in evangelism, and each student gets multiple opportunities to share his or her faith with the lost. “This experience is invaluable to students as they are preparing for Gospel ministry,” Kiesling says. “They will take this experience with them the rest of their lives.”

Crossover also revitalizes evangelism efforts in the host city, he says, by reaching many more homes than a single congregation could reach in a week. “They started evangelizing the night they arrived, and they didn’t stop working,” Kiesling says.

These benefits were reaffirmed during this year’s Crossover event, which saw 75 students and staff from Southwestern Seminary participate. Working alongside local church members June 6-12, the Southwestern group visited more than 5,200 homes during the six-day period, and their collective efforts ultimately yielded 62 professions of faith. Half of those people prayed to receive Christ during a single two-hour period.

The group evangelized in conjunction with Harvest America Crusade, an annual event that is a hub for worship, Gospel study, Christian music performances and evangelism. This year’s Harvest America event was attended by more than 945,000 people at the University of Phoenix stadium, and was seen via televised and web broadcasts in 83 countries. The event yielded more than 7,500 professions of faith, including 494 online.

Unlike past years, when a single church hosted the Southwestern evangelists for a week, this year, the group partnered with a different area church each night. On their final Sunday in Phoenix, Southwestern Master of Divinity student Steven Palmer preached at Starlight Park Baptist Church.

At midweek, Kiesling recalls, there was excitement as they saw 31 professions of faith in a two-hour period, and the group’s two-way radios buzzed with reports of success. Driving through the neighborhood to monitor activity, Kiesling saw students praying with people everywhere he looked, on street after street.

Breaking down language barriers

For M.Div. student Bruce Gale, persistence paid off with a profession of faith. They were working in groups of three in a distinctly poor neighborhood that had a reputation for gangs. Students Tae Hwang, Rainie Le and Gale were grouped together.

“We knocked on our first door, and a lady opened the door,” Gale says. “I began to explain to her that we were there to personally invite her to Harvest America and talk with her about Christ. It became very apparent that her English was broken at best, and she only really spoke Spanish. I tried to explain as best I could, with my English and little Spanish, about Christ.

“Then Rainie pulled up a 1Cross app on her phone that explained the Gospel,” says Gale. As they shared the message of Christ, the woman was holding back tears, and the students prayed with her. 

As they left and went on to the next house, Gale wrestled with the situation and wanted to go back in order to ensure that the woman understood the Gospel message. Two blocks away, they encountered another student group, and one of them, Luis Gonzalez, spoke Spanish.

“I told him about the situation,” Gale says. “He asked me if we should go back, and without missing a beat, I said, ‘Yes,’ and went speeding off to her house.” 

They knocked on the woman’s door once again. Gonzales walked her through the Gospel in Spanish, and when it was clear that she understood the Gospel and wanted to respond with repentance and faith, he translated as Gale prayed with her. Gale recalls, “The presence of the Holy Spirit was evident and so beautiful that before the prayer was over, all four of us were in tears.”