The Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting left behind a lasting legacy when it came to "The Big Easy" in 1996, but it wasn't necessarily from the business and reports in the convention center.
The impact came through nearly 3,000 individuals who made professions of faith during the pre-convention Crossover New Orleans evangelistic initiative. The changed lives helped push the number of baptisms to an all-time high in the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans the following year.
The convention returns to New Orleans this June, and local leaders once again are asking their Southern Baptist brethren to join them in impacting the city with the gospel.
"We really need people across the nation to pray that people would be receptive to the gospel, and that people would be willing to come from across the nation," said Fred Dyess, director of missions for the association.
The Crossover evangelistic initiative has been a companion to Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings since 1989, when volunteers first showed up en masse to share the message of Christ in Las Vegas. Coordinated nationally by the North American Mission Board, it is a partnership of local churches in convention host cities and volunteers from across the country.
As in the past, the bulk of the activities will be held the Saturday before the convention, which this year falls on June 9. Other events and special projects will continue throughout the week.
Among the volunteer opportunities for New Orleans are:
Block Parties - At least thirty community events throughout the city are designed to help local churches get to know their neighbors and introduce them to Christ as opportunities arise.
Door-to-door Canvassing - Teams of volunteers conduct spiritual opinion surveys as a way of helping local churches understand their community better and share Christ with those who are interested.
Street Evangelism - Music, drama, and other forms of entertainment help draw crowds and illustrate gospel truths — a particularly significant venue in a city known for its street performances.
Kindness Explosion - Free bottles of water and gift packets for street artists and craftsmen will bear a written presentation of the gospel — and the associated goodwill that could lead to further conversations about Christ.
Ethnic Festivals - Groups of ethnic churches will sponsor citywide festivals for those of their nationality, offering a chance to build lasting relationships with those their churches are seeking to reach.
Inner City Evangelism - Trained individuals will spend the weekend walking through low-income areas of the city sharing Christ.
Dyess said one of the most significant changes since the 1996 Crossover is the emphasis on follow-up with new Christians.
"We're making sure that in every place we have a block party we will have one or more Southern Baptist churches to follow up on the converts," he said. "And we're having a lot of training for follow-up. We found out that was a weakness in 1996."
One of the specific evangelism tools being used this year is also new: a prepaid long-distance phone card designed to encourage runaways to call their parents. Each card will include the plan of salvation.
"When they pick up the phone to call, there'll be a voice to encourage them to make 'the most important call of your life,' to find out how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ," said Don Smith, an event evangelism associate for the North American Mission Board and national coordinator for Crossover.
Plans also call for using Crossover events to help with the startup of at least four new churches, Dyess said. The association typically plants ten new congregations each year.
The Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans includes a diverse mix of 146 churches and missions, including forty African-American congregations and thirty-eight language missions.
Further information and online registration are available via the Internet at www.bagnola.org/crossover_2001.htm. Interested volunteers also may call the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans at (504) 282-1428.
New Orleans Baptists Opening Their Homes For Convention Housing
by Art Toalston
Ministers and missionaries planning to attend the Southern Baptist Convention — but facing tight budgets — are being offered lodging in the homes of New Orleans Baptists.
The housing assistance is being sponsored by the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans and the Local Arrangements Committee helping to plan the June 12-13 SBC annual meeting in the Louisiana Superdome.
The guest housing will be available beginning Sunday night, June 10, for attendees of such pre-SBC meetings as the Pastors' Conference and Woman's Missionary Union. Some housing also may be available for participants in the Crossover New Orleans evangelistic outreach June 9.
"We are excited to have Southern Baptists coming to New Orleans for Crossover New Orleans and the convention meetings," said Fred Dyess, director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. "Our desire is to extend hospitality to all our guests and a place to stay for those who need it."
To qualify for housing assistance, applicants forward a letter on their church letterhead verifying they are current or retired ministerial staff or missionaries and are credentialed as messengers, as well as providing their address and phone number.
The host families are not being asked to provide meals, and no pets can be housed, but applicants are asked to note any handicaps or other special needs.
Requests should be sent by May 1 to New Orleans Baptist Hospitality, 9220 Jefferson, New Orleans, LA 70123; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org; or fax, (504) 737-8101.
First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., initiated the effort to provide guest housing for ministers and missionaries on tight budgets yet wanting to attend last year's SBC annual meeting in Orlando.