Serve Day at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary yielded two professions of faith and numerous gospel conversations as more than 200 faculty, staff and student participants shared the gospel and served across the city, September 28.
The once-a-semester event mobilized evangelism teams into the French Quarter and New Orleans’ popular City Park. Prayer teams walked the perimeter of the parking lot of the grocery store next to the seminary and in surrounding neighborhoods. Others served at the Baptist Friendship House that cares for women and children in transition, picked up trash in yards and on the streets, and ministered to the homeless community and at a senior retirement home.
Thomas Strong, vice president of spiritual formation and student life, thanked participants at the closing debriefing and challenged them to make evangelism and service a part of their everyday lives.
“We can’t isolate this to once a semester,” Strong said. “It’s got to be our lives.”
Jamie Dew, president, urged participants also to remember the day’s impact when someday they serve in leadership positions.
“Just imagine the ripple effect for the kingdom and for the gospel if a generation of people start leveraging their lives,” Dew said. “Wherever it is, wherever you’re going to be, always remember that followers of Jesus Christ go where He goes, do what He does, they are about what He’s about, and they love what He loves.”
SOME HAVE NEVER HEARD
Kelby Beeson, a Leavell College student, shares the gospel weekly in neighborhoods near the seminary with a team of students supervised by Preston Nix, professor of evangelism and evangelistic preaching. Frequently, they encounter people who claim a religious belief or background, Beeson said.
Serve Day was different.
“Today, we met someone … that had never heard the name of God or Jesus and had no religious background at all,” Beeson said. “It was a beautiful opportunity for the gospel … that was the perfect seque to tell him of the hope I have in Christ.”
Bailee Dixon, a Leavell College student, told participants she saw God’s sovereignty at work. Dixon found an opening to sharing the gospel when a woman told her she had made a delivery to the campus earlier that day.
“[The woman] said she knew she didn’t believe in Christ, but that she wanted to. Now she is a believer,” Dixon related at the debriefing. “We’re going to connect her to Gentilly Baptist and Dr. Taylor [pastor and missions professor] so she can connect and get plugged into a church.”
‘THE GOSPEL CHANGES NEIGHBORHOODS’
At the grocery store next door to the seminary, Mark Johnson, assistant professor of evangelism and pastoral ministry, led teams in prayerwalking and sharing the gospel in the parking lot. Johnson drops into store daily to befriend and minister to employees. On Serve Day, Johnson’s conversation with one woman helped clarify her beliefs and led to her profession of faith.
Other participants told of gospel conversations, prayers with those and need, and opened doors for follow-up as they left contact information with those they encountered.
“The gospel changes neighborhoods,” said Donna Peavey, professor of Christian education said at the debriefing. Peavey explained that a nearby neighborhood once plagued by crime and blight now was a safe and stable community. “That’s the power of the gospel,” Peavey added.
Peavey, a longtime resident of New Orleans, linked the change to the investment of Mel Jones, pastor of Bethel Community Baptist Church and director of the Bethel Colony South Transformation Ministry. Jones’ ministry has helped rebuild dozens of homes in the neighborhood. Jones and the seminary are frequent ministry partners.
“One man had a vision,” Peavey told participants. “The world can change because you have a vision.”
Cody Moore, assistant dean of students for spiritual formation, said the number of participants increased by more than thirty for this semester’s Serve Day. Moore added that students requested more opportunities for evangelism and for serving the homeless community.“It’s shows the hearts of our students,” Moore said. “They want more hands-on opportunities because they understand that the gospel is the best means for pushing back the darkness. It’s pretty incredible. It’s encouraging."