BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- When Johnny Hunt got saved, he was a high-school dropout living in the projects and managing a pool room. Not too long after, a church invited him to come share his story. Hunt said he didn't have fancy words or any idea what he was doing, but he shared the Gospel -- and people responded.
The Gospel message has power no matter the messenger, but it has to be shared in order to change lives, said Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board.
"That's the only hope tomorrow, Saturday or anytime -- that the Gospel comes," he told the crowd listening at the Crossover kickoff rally on Wednesday (June 5) in Birmingham, Ala. "God's Word faithfully proclaimed is the most powerful force in the world. God takes it and uses it to change lives."
Several hundred people gathered for the event held live at The Church at Brook Hills, and via simulcast at four satellite locations around the metro area -- First Baptist Church, Mount Olive; Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, Birmingham; The Baptist Church at McAdory, McCalla; and First Baptist Church, Trussville.
During the rally, Hunt shared a message to encourage volunteers for Saturday's Crossover evangelism outreach event, held annually in that year's Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting host city.
In Birmingham this week, teams of college and seminary students have been going out prayer walking, serving in local churches' Vacation Bible School and doing door-to-door evangelistic visits. On Saturday -- the main event -- volunteers from across the state and SBC will gather at eight hub churches to break into teams and share the Gospel in the surrounding neighborhoods.
After Hunt spoke, Bill Fay, author of "Share Jesus Without Fear," spent about an hour training volunteers in simple ways to talk to people about their spiritual condition.
Fay told those present that he hoped practicing some basic conversations would help them "find a great, great, brand new freedom that absolutely, unconditionally you cannot fail."
First, he recommended approaching homes and putting residents at ease by telling them they were out collecting prayer requests. That separates them from salesmen and other people who might do a cold-call visit at their home. Then if the person is open to it, volunteers can pray with him or her right there.
"Here's why this is different and powerful … when you, who are connected through the power of the Holy Spirit open your mouth and pray, we see people cry, break down, weep, get stunned because they're not used to hearing someone talk to God," Fay said.
From there, he suggested asking them easy-entry questions such as, "By the way, do you have any spiritual beliefs?" and "What is your understanding of who Jesus is?"
That allows them to talk and allows you to listen and find out where they are spiritually and if Jesus is a personal Savior to them, Fay said.
From there, teams can ask questions like, "Do you think there is a heaven or hell?" and "By the way, if you believed something that was not true, would you want to know it?"
Fay said volunteers' obedience to ask the questions and share truth when people are receptive is all God asks them to do.
"It's all about God. No one comes to Christ unless the Father does it," he said. "You can't blow this, but you sure can be part of it."
Hunt also said the Gospel "spoken in human weakness is being confirmed in divine power."
"It's not our job to convince anybody of anything -- that's the work of the Holy Spirit of God," he said. "We ought to have confidence in the message."
As part of the event, each site began the night with its own worship music. Wes Hampton of the Gaither Vocal Band led worship at The Church at Brook Hills, and local choirs and worship teams led at the satellite locations. The rally ended with a corporate call to the altar to pray for Crossover.
Volunteers who were unable to attend the rally can get the same training at one of the Crossover hub sites Saturday (June 8) at 8:30 a.m. Teams will go out visiting -- rain or shine -- starting at 9:30.
For more information or a list of hub churches, visit crossoverbhm.org or call 334-613-2258.
Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.