Students overcome fear, make eternal impact during Crossover 2019
“I was extremely excited about sharing the Gospel and very much wanted to do it, but when it came time to be face-to-face with a stranger, I would be lost for words.”
This ambivalent state of eagerness and fear characterized Rebekah Palmer as she stepped foot in Birmingham, Ala., to participate in this year’s Crossover, June 3-7. A bachelor’s student in Scarborough College, Palmer was excited to join the annual evangelism effort of the Southern Baptist Convention, but she feared that in the midst of witnessing door to door, she would not know the right words to say.
Midway through the week, she and a fellow student from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were moving from house to house knocking on doors, but few people answered, meaning the evangelists’ only option was to leave some Gospel literature on their doorsteps. Palmer then saw a man drive away from the next house on the street, so she decided to settle for simply leaving literature there as well. Her teammate, however, suggested knocking on the door anyway, just in case someone else was home.
The two normally discussed ahead of time who would begin the conversation if someone answered the door at a given house, but in this case, they did not. But when they knocked on the door and a teenage girl answered, Palmer, “without even realizing it,” started talking to her.
Palmer asked if there was any way they could pray for her, and the girl requested they pray for her mother, who was ill. Palmer and her teammate did so, and then Palmer asked whether the girl went to church. In fact, she went to a Baptist church in the area. But when Palmer asked if she had ever given her life to Christ, the girl admitted that she had not.
Palmer proceeded to walk her through the Gospel, explaining who Jesus is, what He did by dying on the cross, and how to respond in repentance and faith.
“I asked her if she wanted to pray to ask Jesus into her life, and she said yes, she wanted to do that,” Palmer says. “She wasn’t sure what to say, so I encouraged her that it wasn’t the prayer that saved her, but it was putting her faith and trust in Jesus Christ.”
Using a tract from Palmer as her guide, the girl then prayed to surrender her life to Christ, professing Him as her Lord and Savior. Palmer and her teammate then rejoiced with her over her newfound salvation.
“I learned that it is not about saying the right words,” Palmer says. “Just like I shared with [the teenage girl], it wasn’t saying the right words that saved her, but it was putting her faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
“God taught me that I, too, just need to put my own faith and trust in Him; that He will give me the right words to say; that it wasn’t about what I did or what I said that saves another person, but that it’s Christ in me sharing what God did for me, and He can do the same for them.”
Palmer was one of about two dozen students from Southwestern Seminary and Scarborough College to participate in Crossover this year, under the direction of Carl Bradford, assistant professor of evangelism. Every student was a first-time participant, and so Bradford says that many, including Palmer, were fearful of what the week would bring. But the students learned that God is faithful, Bradford says, and they collectively saw 14 people give their lives to Christ.
“He allowed us all to endure heat and anxiety, knocking on 565 doors and having 115 Gospel conversations over just 10 hours,” Bradford says. “I’m encouraged that our students had the opportunity to overcome the fear of rejection, put into practice information learned from the classroom, and, most importantly, be utilized by God to have an eternal impact on the souls of 14 new believers for Jesus Christ. ‘Won’t He do it!’”
One of these 14 professions of faith came about through the efforts of master’s student Ricardo Devine. On what he says was “one of the hotter days” of the week, Devine and a teammate were ready to be done before they arrived at the last house on their assigned street. There, they spoke with an 18-year-old boy whom Devine describes as “bubbly”—“which was surprising,” Devine says, “because you typically don’t get a bubbly person at 10:30 when it’s already 95 degrees outside.”
“We’re out here telling people about Jesus Christ,” Devine told him. “Do you know who Jesus Christ is out of the Bible?”
The boy said “yes,” but when Devine pressed him, the boy could not articulate who Jesus truly is. After the boy shared that he was already a believer, Devine said to him, “Pretend that I and my teammate are lost. How would you share the Gospel with us?”
The boy answered, “I don’t know, man. Go to church?”
Devine asked him whether anyone had truly explained the Gospel to him before, and the boy said “no.” So, beginning with creation and proceeding to fall and redemption, Devine presented the Gospel, backing everything up with Scripture.
“At the end, he was puzzled,” Devine says. “The Lord had captivated him.”
Devine assured the boy that he could receive Christ that day and begin a “lifelong adventure” of growing in his relationship with the Lord. “I want it now,” the boy said.
Devine led him in a prayer to profess faith in Christ. The boy’s mother then arrived home, and when Devine and his teammate explained what had just happened, the mother told them that her son was already saved. Devine confidently answered her, “He is saved now, from what he has heard.”
“You could just see the joy that he had,” Devine recalls. “Even though he was bubbly in the beginning, you could sense that there was a peace now within him.”
Beyond these door-to-door encounters, the Southwestern Seminary students strived to share the Gospel “everywhere, to any one, at all times,” Bradford says. This included speaking with students at the University of Alabama, homeless people they encountered on the streets, and Lyft drivers as they traveled to various locations. In one instance, two students led their Lyft driver in a prayer to accept Christ while stopped at a red light.
God used experiences like these to greatly impact not only those to whom they evangelized, but the students as well. Post-Crossover evaluations included such testimonies as “I’ve changed my mind about door-to-door evangelism from being non-profitable to profitable. Will come back”; “I cannot deny door-to-door evangelism is mightily utilized by God. I also have been given a burden for equipping my church”; and “I am encouraged to initiate conversations more. I realize the Great Commission is my responsibility.”
“For students desiring to go deeper in their walk with the Lord, Crossover gives you the chance to see that Christ is moving,” Devine says. “The Gospel is alive and active, and we are just called to proclaim it. And if we don’t proclaim it, we’re not doing what God has called us to do.”