Legacy of Crossover’s evangelism efforts set to continue in New Orleans

Preston Nix

Preston Nix, professor of evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, attended the first Crossover evangelism event in Las Vegas in 1989, and he’s been a part of Crossover more often than not throughout its history. This June 2023, the event will be taking place in his backyard as the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting comes to New Orleans.

“We were out there in Las Vegas and the churches needed help, encouragement, and here were Southern Baptists coming to Sin City, to Las Vegas,” Nix recalled. “It was set up so that we would have evangelism training in the morning and then go out sharing the gospel. It was over 100 degrees, and I think that’s the most I ever sweated sharing the gospel.”

The Home Mission Board, now the North American Mission Board, worked to encourage what was then labeled an “evangelistic blitz” during the week leading up to the meeting. The event has become an annual effort called Crossover hosted by NAMB in conjunction with state, associational and local church partners. Following the inaugural Las Vegas outreach, it has taken place every year the meeting has been held, and an estimated 40,000 professions of faith have been recorded in its history.

“Southern Baptists have a rich history of sharing the gospel through Crossover,” said Tim Dowdy, vice president for evangelism at NAMB. “For the North American Mission Board, it’s all about the gospel, and we want to continue seeing Crossover lead people to encounter Christ and respond to the eternal hope of the gospel.”

As Crossover has endured several different permutations, Nix has been an eager evangelist throughout its 33-year history and looks forward to welcoming Southern Baptists back to New Orleans.

From 2009 onward, Southern Baptist seminary students have been able to come together and spend the week learning about and practicing evangelism as part of their coursework, and Nix has been a key figure who has helped facilitate what’s affectionately called “evangelism boot camp” by those who attend.

NAMB provides the room and board as the seminary students receive their training and become boots on the ground for Crossover.

“The churches are enlisted through the associations and the state conventions, and they partner with us,” Nix said. “We connect with those churches, and we go into their neighborhoods and share the gospel door-to-door and on the streets where we meet people. We get the word out that there is a church there that cares for them, but the biggest thing is sharing the gospel and seeing people come to faith in Christ and making sure those churches have the contact information to do the follow-up after we’re gone.”

This year Send Relief, the Southern Baptist compassion ministry that is a partnership between NAMB and the International Mission Board, will be hosting a Serve Tour event designed to meet physical needs and open doors for gospel conversations as a part of Crossover. There are several ways for churches in the New Orleans area and for those visiting to plug in and engage in evangelism — opportunities that can be found online here.

More than 70 churches are hosting outreach events on Saturday, June 10. Those and other churches in the area are being encouraged to host evangelistic worship services the next morning, Sunday, June 11.

Crossover provides opportunities to learn lessons about door-to-door evangelism that encourages participants about how to engage their own communities when they return home.

In recent years, Send Relief, the compassion ministry of Southern Baptists, has featured prominently in Crossover each year, bringing physical help to open doors to share the eternal hope of the gospel. Dentists and cleaning specialists volunteered their time in Birmingham, Ala., to offer free cleanings and checkups in Send Relief’s mobile clinics. (BP file photo)

“I’ve learned that God still uses street witnessing,” Nix said. “Paul said, ‘I’ve declared to you publicly and from house to house,’ in Acts 20. Naysayers have said it doesn’t work, but I’ve said it doesn’t work if you don’t work it.”

As a seminary professor, Nix needs to get outside the walls of the seminary and the church in order to engage with those who don’t know Jesus, and continually engaging in evangelism helps him better teach evangelism in the classroom. That same impetus is needed for vocational pastors as well.

“We’re called to be fishers of men — and if you want to catch fish, you’ve got to go where the fish are. So, I say you’ve got to get off your seat, on your feet and out into the street to get out there and share the gospel,” Nix said. “Most people will be open to talk with you — if you’re kind, caring, not bombastic and not terribly aggressive, but you’re assertive, you can share. People will know if you care for them and care for their soul, and they’ll respond.”

Ultimately, Christians need to have faith in the power of the gospel and recognize that the message still has the power to save.

“We project on them that they will not receive what we have to say,” Nix said, “but most of the time, the issue is not that they don’t want to hear but that we don’t take the time to share.”

— Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.