The Crossover organizers don’t want you to come to Columbus this June to start a Gospel movement. They want you to come and join one.
The best part, they say, is that through two complementary parts, Crossover will escalate what they have seen God doing in recent years. First, it’s the next step in making Crossover bigger and more influential than it’s ever been as a kickoff event to the national Convention. Second, it’s about building Gospel-ministry momentum in a city where the organizers say God’s favor is evident.
“We wanted to do a ministry that would have, obviously, immediate impact and at the same time be able to build some connections for churches so that they would be able to do ongoing ministry,” said Jack Helton, evangelism strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.
In 2013, Crossover Houston was planned in conjunction with the Union Baptist Association’s “Loving Houston” initiative to serve communities throughout the city. Last year in Baltimore, the focus was on church projects. This year, Crossover Columbus is focused on both church and community projects, plus the integration of one thousand college students coming to Columbus for training in church planting. And much of Crossover will last the entire week of June 8–13 preceding the Pastors’ Conference and the SBC annual meeting.
Brian Frye, collegiate evangelism strategist for SCBO and national collegiate strategist for the North American Mission Board, is organizing the college piece of the event called ForColumbus. He hopes for half of the thousand students to come from Ohio and the other half from outside Ohio.
The plan for the students includes quiet times based on Acts and TED Talks-style sessions in the morning, working on projects with local churches in the afternoon, and coming together for worship in the evenings.
“The goal is we give them a healthy script for understanding what church planting is,” Frye said.
Frye’s challenge to the students is for 10 percent of them to return to Columbus and be involved in church planting.
“Our goal would be to see them saying I picked my job not based upon where’s it going to move my career, but I picked my job based on where I saw God’s activity,” Frye said. (See a related story on collegiate ministry in Ohio in this issue.)
ForColumbus will play a big role in the church projects that Rich Halcombe, director of missions for the Metro Columbus Baptist Association, is organizing. The association has grown in membership from sixty-three churches to 119 in the past ten years, mostly through church plants.
So far sixty-six churches are on board with 103 events. The goal is eighty churches and about 120 events. About 2,300 volunteers are needed, including local church members, those one thousand college students, and others who will come from around the state and out of state.
“It will help us ramp up what God is already doing here,” Halcombe said. “And I also think it will help people see that what God is doing here He can do in their cities also.”
Some projects will be in motion from June 8–13 and others will be one-day events on the thirteenth. The list includes beautification projects, evangelistic events, block parties, sports events, comedians, magicians, community fairs, health clinics, and building and renovation projects.
“Just about anything you can think about that would give a church an opportunity to connect with their community for the cause of Christ we will be doing during that week,” Helton said.
The Gospel will be proclaimed at these events, but the goals of Crossover also seek lasting discipleship for those who accept Christ. They don’t want to disappear and leave new believers unconnected, which makes the local churches the key component to the process.
“One of the things we’ve really stressed is to make it church-centric instead of convention-centric,” Helton said. “Meaning that the projects that people will be coming in to volunteer for have been originated by the local church.”
The third piece to Crossover, the community projects, could make a great impact on the inner city. Halcombe said he has learned much from Bob Mackey of the Baltimore Baptist Association and Tom Billings of the Union Baptist Association that he says is opening doors in the needy and under-reached Linden area of the northeast part of the city.
The template for reaching Linden is the Stowe Mission that has been serving South Columbus for over thirty years and is the top social mission in the city. Stowe, a ministry of the Metro Columbus Baptist Association, provides meals, vision and dental clinics, a mobile medical clinic, tutoring, school supply and Christmas toy giveaways, and employment education and training. Crossover may provide a starting point for similar ministries to be launched in Linden.
Halcombe approached community leaders in Linden about doing beautification projects and other things during Crossover and was told yes.
“How we landed on Linden, definitely God was a part of that,” Halcombe said. “There were a lot of arrows that pointed in that direction. That was amazing how we’ve been received there. These are community groups. These aren’t Christian groups, these aren’t churches primarily that we’re talking to. That’s been amazing.”
The Crossover efforts started a year ago. Halcombe said he has seen God accomplish things at every step and turn. He points to an event last August when Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, came to Columbus for a luncheon with church leaders and pastors from around Ohio.
“He’s helped us more than we even realize,” Halcombe said. “His personal attention and focus—it’s blown my mind. I never expected that. That part’s been overwhelming.”
The growth the organizers have seen in Columbus in recent years gives them hope that Crossover will continue the momentum they’ve seen in Gospel mission. Organizers and church members from all around Columbus have been praying for this event for almost a year. And since July many have taken part in the First Friday Fasts that will continue into June.
“We’re really asking the Lord, ‘Why wouldn’t You begin a revival, and why wouldn’t it begin here,’” Helton said. “We prayed for the city that God would have favor on the city. We’re really anticipating and expecting God to move in a mighty way.”
Jeff Gilbert is assistant professor of journalism at Cedarville University and is a member of Grace Baptist Church in Cedarville, Ohio.