SPRINGBREAK: Southwestern students lead spring revivals
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Say the words "spring break" and most students think of travel, relaxation, skiing and beach parties. Students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary think differently.
Spring break for a Southwesterner means a chance to journey to a church with 20 members in the Arizona desert or a church in New York with only 10.
Ninety-six students from Southwestern Seminary fanned out across the nation March 10-13 to lead revivals and participate in evangelism campaigns in 25 states as part of the seminary's annual Spring Evangelism Practicum, an intensive four-day effort to fulfill the Great Commission.
The practicum, which began 44 years ago, has sent thousands of seminarians to locations throughout North America and into neighboring countries. Students who are scheduled to participate in the practicum must first participate in an introductory course on evangelism.
Dan R. Crawford, professor of evangelism and spiritual formations, directs the practicum course and instructs students on how to prepare and organize for revival meetings. He even teaches the students how to preach a revival sermon. The sermons are the first for many of the students.
"Most of these men who are going to the meetings will preach their first sermons," Crawford said. "The class helps prepare them spiritually before the meeting begins."
Students are required to enlist prayer partners that commit to pray for the revival and the student during the time of preparation and during the revival.
The student's efforts are greatly appreciated according to those who pastor remote churches and churches which are struggling to reach the lost.
When Shane Saunders arrived to preach revival services at Baptist Country Chapel in Lindon, Colo., pastor W. Garland Baker said he was appreciative of the seminary's effort to assist in "pioneer work" areas. Baker's emphasis for the week was to reach the youth in the area.
"We are privileged to have Shane Saunders with us to help us reach our youth for Christ," Baker said. The church in Lindon is 60 miles from the nearest town that has a grocery store.
"Our youth are our future," Baker said, "and we must reach them or we will loose another generation."
Saunders, a native Texan, was not at all surprised at the remote location of the church. As expected, he focused on working with the church in reaching the youth.
"The emphasis of the meeting was on the youth," Saunders said. "The first day we had six youth at the Sunday morning service, but by Wednesday night there were 20 youth."
Students also assisted with new church plants, such as Community Baptist Church near White Mountain Lake, north of Show Low, Ariz.
Southwestern student Ryan Goodroe had the opportunity to conduct a four-day revival meeting at the church. Goodroe and others canvassed the White Mountain Lake community. The area, which has proved unreceptive to most door-to-door evangelism efforts, is also pioneer territory.
"This is a pretty restrictive community," said Community Baptist pastor David Veronie. "With survivalists north of the lake and with the Mormons annoying the people almost daily we have a difficult time getting to know the residents," he said.
The area in which the church is located is also a transient community. Most residents remain in the area for a limited amount of time.
"We are in an area where people are moving out of Show Low and other towns for one reason or another," Veronie said. "Three years ago there were about 700 families out here [near White Mountain Lake], and it is still growing."
Goodroe also assisted in celebrating the Lord's Supper with one of the shut-ins of the community, Joyce Frederick.
"Joyce is one of the pioneers," Veronie said. "She helped start the work in the community."
Frederick recalled when the church first began. "When we first started, we held the prayer meetings here in my home," she said. "I sure enjoyed those days."
Southwestern student Adam Greenway held revival meetings at the long-lived Sierra Vista Baptist Church in Belen, N.M. The church was established south of the Isleta Indian Reservation. The Roman Catholic heritage of the Southwest makes the task of such churches difficult.
"The mindset has to be different in trying to reach these people," Greenway said. "Most are Catholic and believe that when they were baptized as an infant that guaranteed them a place in heaven."
Sierra Vista pastor Al Keenly said, "The people have been so soaked with Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses that they are surprised when we tell them we are Baptist."
Greenway, who is planning to pursue doctoral studies, said his goal for participating in the spring practicum was "to revive the church and reach the lost!" Greenway preached several messages on repentance and taking the time to fulfill the Great Commission.
Greenway said that most people think, "I am too busy to stop and help this guy in need. ...That is the mentality of today. But if we are going to reach the world for Christ we are going to have to change our mentality."
"What we do today, literally has eternal impact, and we minister towards that eternal perspective," Greenway said.
Greenway, along with the pastor and a member of the church, canvassed the neighborhoods around the church daily to inquire about the spiritual needs and beliefs of the people.
Students who participated in the practicum focused on reaching the lost for Christ and encouraging the churches. They accomplished survey work, distributed tracts, and evangelized door-to-door.
For 44 years the Spring Evangelism Practicum has blessed and revived churches, Crawford said. He also noted that students are able to gain valuable ministry experience as they preach their first revival and minister in unfamiliar surroundings. Southwestern students who give up what most students consider a normal spring break participate in the greatest work by "touching the world... and impacting eternity."
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SPIRITUAL PREPARATION, SPRING EVANGELISM.