Sharing Jesus in New Orleans can be as unique as the city itself.
In a place filled with people from other worldviews and religions, students and faculty members from New Orleans Seminary and Leavell College joined Crossover to share the gospel around the city.
Jeff Farmer, professor of church ministry and evangelism at New Orleans Seminary, led Crossover teams in the community of Christ Baptist Church in Harvey, Louisiana, where he also serves as pastor. Students from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, also participated in Crossover in New Orleans. Farmer noted it was a blessing to serve together with other seminaries.
“We have one purpose, and that’s to make disciples. We love each other. We have a sweet worship time in learning and equipping, and we’re out to share the gospel,” Farmer said. “That’s the SBC.”
‘No one ever asked’
Rachel Darling, a 21-year army veteran, is not afraid of long hours and hard work, but the demands of coursework for Crossover in the mornings and sharing the gospel each afternoon had taken its toll. By midweek, she prayed that God would give her strength and encouragement.
God answered her prayer.
As Darling, a Leavell College student from Orlando, Florida, and her Crossover partner were approaching their first home for the day, she saw a young man on the street wearing “hip-hop clothing” with earbuds in. She felt the Holy Spirit leading them to speak to him first, Darling recounted.
The 18-year-old told her he had attended church many times through the years, but had never made a commitment to follow Christ. When she asked, “Is there any reason you can’t do that today?” his simple “No” led to him praying and committing to Christ.
Remembering other experiences that week, Darling thought, “This can’t be that easy.” Then she added, “But I needed the [encouragement] that day.”
Though the young man had been in church many times, no one had ever asked him to commit to following Christ, Darling related.
“He just needed someone to ask,” Darling said.
Crossover left its mark on Darling, as well.
“To sum it up — amazing. Life-changing,” Darling said. “A little challenging but worth it.” Darling contacted her pastor and pastor’s wife during the week to give updates.
“I cannot wait to share what is happening here,” Darling said. “I cannot wait to let my pastor know so that we can incorporate these things in our church.”
Filling in missing information
Conner McDonald, a Leavell College student from Clinton, Louisiana, and his evangelism partner were headed back to Gretna Covenant Church in Gretna, Louisiana, at the end of the day when he spotted two boys on bicycles. As he handed them information about the church’s block party on Saturday, he asked them what they thought of Jesus.
One said Jesus was “the GOAT” — Greatest of All Time. The other called Jesus his “favorite person.” But neither could explain why.
“I can tell you why,” McDonald told them.
From there, McDonald walked through the gospel story from creation to redemption. To ensure the boys understood, McDonald questioned them as they talked. Finally satisfied that they understood, McDonald led them in a prayer of commitment.
Knowing the church would follow up later, McDonald left the boys with three instructions: Turn from the sin they had acknowledged, tell their families about their decisions, and “keep their eyes on Jesus.”
As the boys rode off, McDonald watched them ride past a typical New Orleans cemetery with above-ground graves. McDonald saw the significance. “These kids rode away from physical graves. They also rode away from their own spiritual graves,” McDonald said.
A weak spot in evangelism
Brian Parsons, a NOBTS graduate student and pastor of two rural churches in northwest Tennessee, preaches twice on Sunday and shares the gospel frequently. Still, he discovered a weak spot in his evangelistic approach.
“It seems I get up to that part of ‘Would you like to accept Jesus?’ but do not ask [for a commitment] regularly enough,” Parsons said. “I believe that’s the one thing that’s kept me from progressing with people.”
Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons and other nonbelievers filled the neighborhood where Parsons’ team went door to door. Parsons said his team began to wonder if they would really reach anybody.
“It seemed we were having to break ground in order to plant seed,” Parsons said.
One conversation turned when a misunderstanding about salvation was cleared up.
Parsons spoke with a woman who admitted at the beginning of their conversation that death, for her, would mean going to hell, Parsons recounted. Though she and her husband had been attending church, the woman knew they were not “saved.”
The woman hesitated to make a commitment knowing she would sin again and believed she would “lose” her salvation, Parsons explained.
Pointing to Scripture such as 1 John 2:1, Parsons explained that only God can change the heart of a sinner.
“He’s not asking you to be perfect. He’s asking you to accept the One who is perfect,” Parsons explained. The woman understood and then prayed to commit to Christ.
At the end, Parsons again asked what would happen to her when she died. This time, her answer was, “I’d go to heaven,” Parsons recounted. When Parsons pushed for clarity, she answered, “Because Christ has forgiven me of my sin.”
Doors pushed open
Doors for the gospel remain open as New Orleans-area churches follow up on the work of Crossover teams.
Farmer, new in his role as pastor at Christ Baptist, said he has been praying for a way to reach his community. After a Crossover team met a Muslim woman in the neighborhood, she asked if she could “practice her English” if she came to Farmer’s church.
“Absolutely,” Farmer replied. He then realized he may have found the open door he had been praying for — English as a second language classes might be it.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by Marilyn Stewart and is part of the team coverage of Crossover and Serve Tour events by staff members from the Baptist Message, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, The Alabama Baptist and The Baptist Paper.