Today I’d like to share about the church I’ve committed myself to here in Massachusetts. I did not come to Gordon-Conwell with the intention of joining a “church plant.” Nor did I expect to join an Anglican church. But things have come together in such a way, and the worship, vision, leadership, and community of Crossroads have hit so close to home, that I have felt joyfully compelled to say “yes!” Crossroads is a profound fit for me in many ways. And, despite its current small size, I believe it represents contemporary Christianity at its best.
What in the world is a Church Plant?
A church plant is a group of mature, missionally-minded Christians who are sent out from a larger, more established congregation in order to found (or “plant”) a new church in another neighborhood or location that is unchurched or unreached. Church-planters start with only a few clergy and a handful of devoted lay volunteers, and often rent space for worship because they cannot afford a building. Starting from “the ground up,” they establish a rhythm of worship, community, and prayer, while seeking entrepreneurial ways to connect with the local community. As they connect with locals, church members and leaders invite community members into their corporate experience of the Christian life. Faith, hope, and God’s love are shared evangelistically in a relational way. In the process, the church “grows” in its network and develops ministries which meet local needs. In time, the church “plant” becomes a mature and established congregation, capable of sending out new “plants” to unreached areas.
That may sound crazy. But it all comes out of exactly what Jesus told Christians to do as he was ascending to heaven:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Church planters seek to “go and make disciples” of men, women, and children in places where there are few or no churches, and to revitalize individuals, families, and communities which have turned away from or become lax in the faith. They seek to create genuine faith communities in which people learn to love both God and one another. And from this foundation of love to reach out in mission to one’s neighbor. It is a counter-cultural endeavor. But it is fruitful and vitally needed!
I did not come to Gordon-Conwell with the intention of joining a “church plant.” Nor did I expect to join an Anglican church. But things have come together in such a way, and the worship, vision, leadership, and community of Crossroads have hit so close to home, that I have felt joyfully compelled to say “yes!” Crossroads is a profound fit for me in many ways. And, despite its current small size, I believe it represents contemporary Christianity at its best. I could write pages on what that means! But here are four pillars which encapsulate my enthusiasm:
I) A CORE of Spiritually Formed People
The leadership team is comprised of tested, spiritually deep men and women with whom I “click” profoundly and share a number of unique experiences. I trust these leaders, respect them, and have been nourished and challenged as I’ve followed their vision for Salem and our church. Father Nate has shown a great willingness to mentor me, and his tutelage has already borne life-giving fruit in my life.
II) Community Orientation
- Crossroads is a small, close-knit environment
- Our Relationships are characterized by hospitality, gentleness, and grace
- Part of Crossroads’s ethic is to be a haven for the broken, and those in transition. It has been a shelter for me. And I have been privileged to nurture others.
- Crossroads is akin to the “mission wing” of the Anglican church, existing to spread the gospel beyond its doors.
- We’re not looking to make church merely into “a building,” or a “Sunday morning experience,” but to establish organic communities centered out of people’s homes which engage in regular hospitality, discipleship, and evangelism.
- People at Crossroads are relational, sensitive, and spiritually-attuned in their approach to sharing the Christian faith and encouraging one another.
Crossroads is organized and run like a Catholic church, preaches and teaches the Bible like an Evangelical church, and relies on the leadership and transformation of the Holy Spirit like a Charismatic church. Here I experience the rich joy of sacramental, liturgical worship, the solid preaching and application of God’s Word, and open welcome-ness to the Holy Spirit’s movement and leadership.
Crossroads touches on the best of all the Historic Christian traditions which have enriched my spiritual journey! I can express and be my true spiritual self here!
In addition to all the above, Crossroads is special because it affords a seminarian like myself the opportunity to actively contribute to its ministry. In time my involvement will increase, but for now I have become involved in:
- Prayer Ministry (Leadership affirms my gifting as an intercessor)
- Preaching (Nov 2nd!)
- Scripture Reading (Lector)
- Recently Elected a Member of the Mission Council
- Outreach Efforts (Salem State University, South Salem Neighborhood)
- Co-leading children’s worship (once to date, and more to come)
- Administrative Assistance
I will continue to include updates and prayer requests about Crossroads in the months to come. For now, here are some excellent ways to support our church plant in prayer:
- For Leadership and Laity to remain in prayer, following the Holy Spirit’s leadership
- Encouragement, Protection, and Inspiration for the leadership team, as they steer and inspire this entrepreneurial church-plant
- That more people would join our church (We have only 15!)
- More mature Christians, willing to take roles of service and leadership (especially evangelism and administration)
- Christians who are in need of ministry, encouragement, and community
- Non-Christians who are open to or curious about Christianity
- Ideas and opportunities for reaching out to the Salem community, inviting them into our midst
Grace & Peace be yours in abundance,
Crossroads is a vital part of my life and spiritual formation here at seminary. Allow me to indulge, then, in another joyful update on what’s been going on at my local church!
My First Sermon!
Last Saturday (Nov 2) I preached my first “official” sermon at my church’s worship service. It was well received! You can listen to it by clicking here <https://www.evernote.com/shard/s165/sh/d7db29d0-2267-46ff-8653-b7a01c3511b6/fbd0bfe4432d895b7e7b46b7d121b479> ! Several church members commented that they appreciated my message and believe I have a gift for preaching! Father Nate also had very positive things to say. We met this past Thursday for further feedback. As a professor of communications, his input is helpful and valuable.
The best part about preaching, though, was knowing I was using my gifts courageously to serve and love my church. “Church” should not simply be some “place” that you passively “go to” each week. It should be a living community of faith that you actively contribute to. It gave me profound joy to contribute in this way: to show, through my actions, that I value, believe in, and am committed to Crossroads and the vision we have for bringing God’s loving kingdom to Salem! Pray that I would have more opportunities to show this love.
Brothers, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
My ministry at Crossroads Church has been – and will continue to be – multi-faceted. I serve on the Mission Council, assist with administration, occasionally help with children’s worship, and read scripture as a lector. (I also now preach from time to time!) But my most heartfelt contribution is the ministry of prayer. Nate, Jennifer, and Kristen affirm and bear witness to my gifting in this realm. So, what does that mean? Well...
- During the service I often lead the “Prayers of the People” portion of the Liturgy
- I co-lead a time of healing prayer in the back of the sanctuary after each worship service
- I have set aside three 30-minute blocks of my spare time each week (MWF) to intercede for Crossroads. Pam, another church member on campus, often joins me.
Nate and the other leaders recognize that prayer is one of the most important ministries of the church. Besides expressing gratitude for time spent on my knees, they have encouraged me to dream about how I can expand my ministry of prayer in the months to come. The prospect is invigorating to me! Pray that God really would use me powerfully and creatively in prayer for my community.
For months Crossroads has met on Saturday evenings for worship, prayer, and a shared meal. This has been wonderful! But I have often longed for an opportunity to connect with the members of the church on a more personal basis. Well… I need wait no longer! This January, members of Crossroads will begin gathering together weekly, in one another’s homes, for a shared meal and a time of mutual spiritual encouragement. Community groups are going to be the core centers of community, hospitality, discipleship, ministry, and mission as Crossroads church grows. This is where we will grow, share, and empower one another to do life together. This is where we will be able to go for refuge when we are struggling. And this is what we will be able to invite friends and Salem community members into to share the love of Christ with them. I am so happy to hear about this plan! Pray that it would be a life-giving experience!
Invitation to Prayer
What we’re doing in Salem as Crossroads Church is bold. Out of the box. And risky. We often need to operate outside of our comfort zones. And in everything we are dependent on God for guidance, provision, and empowerment. We know can’t do this on our own. It’s got to be God. What we most need, then, is prayer. We want to build a prayer network of 1,000 people to bathe the lives and ministries of our church in prayer as we walk forward in our mission. Would you be interested in joining the Crossroads Prayer team? If you are indeed open to this, please respond with a “yes!” and I will gladly begin sending our weekly email prayer updates your way.