Monday, February 23, 2009

Church Experiment #8: Crossroads

Crossroads (www.crossroads.net) is one of the most seeker-sensitive churches in Cincinnati. Perhaps the country. On their “Explore Crossroads” page, they even ask, “Is this really a church?” (I’ll give you my answer later.) In fact, I am pretty sure they used to be called Crossroads Community Church, but I believe the “Community Church” part was dropped to appeal to more non-Christians. After weeks of visiting churches that felt like exclusive clubs for members only, I wanted to experience a church famous for welcoming newcomers. Also, fifty other churches in Cincinnati joined Crossroads yesterday to begin a six-week journey called “Reset.” It is a series designed to help people examine their presumptions and reset their views of Jesus. (And I got a free book in the deal, so jackpot!)

I had actually been to Crossroads before my visit, but only twice, and it was long before they moved into their new auditorium. Also, Crossroads and my former church have a similar feel, so leading up to this visit, I felt more comfortable than I had all year. I knew what to expect.

Or so I thought.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.

21 comments:

Jamie said...

Just wondering if you had an LDS church in your lineup?

Christopher Day said...

Great post, Fuller. Very well written and fair.

This experiment is has become one big metaphor to me. I now have this picture of a huge forest. Very dense and thick. I can't see the edge (or end) of the forest but I can tell there is a huge bright light in the distance. You are pointing out to me that if I look around, there are tons of paths through this forest. All seemingly leading to the same place, the same light. Some paths seem to veer way off course *cough, cough, Scientology, cough, cough* and others seems to be more direct. Some paths are littered with debris and distractions. Others are plain and neatly drawn out. I actually LOVE the fact that there are so many paths through this forest. That I may take one, and you another. More than that, I love the fact that I still get to meet up with everyone again on the other side of the trees.

Denise said...

A friend forwarded your blog to me because they know I attend Crossroads. It was a very accurate post about this weekends service.

I am troubled that new visitors are still having trouble initially connecting with people. When I first started coming to CR nearly 6 years ago I too experienced that. In fact my husband and I attended for nearly 3 months with very few words of interaction with other people. For us at that time it was a good thing. We did start making lots of friends once we became involved in small groups and also volunteering at the church. That's were the true friendships are formed and deep relationships as you really dig down deep and get to know people. Finding that at the weekend service is a difficult thing to do. Your blog has busied my mind wondering what my role should be in reaching out to visitors. One thing I have run into when meeting new people at CR is that they have been there for years but I had just never run into them. Thats easy to do with a church that is large.

I'm glad you picked CR as one of your 52 churches to visit. As one who was also burned out on "religious" churches and people I have found the teachings at CR to be refreshing and eye opening on how "religious" I had been myself. I have had to repent many times for my judgemental attitude towards others as God helps me to realize He put us on the earth to love others. I look forward to reading your weekly posts and hearing about other churches around Cincy and the midwest.

Anonymous said...

JW has also been named a cult so be aware of that information.

Dan Kalbach said...

Steve,

Keep up the good writing.

I found the part about painting over the Jesus pictures especially interesting. It reminded me of a time when I was 9 years old and I wanted to play with my friends after church, so I tossed my Bible against the wall. A man I had known for most of my life, and a man I respected as much as a 9 year can, grabbed me by the shoulder and gave me a 5 minute lecture about how disrespectful I was to throw my Bible; how I should think long and hard about what I had just done. I went on to play with my friends but that experience stuck with me. A year or two later, that very man was found having sex with a friend's wife on a camping trip with their two families. It turned me off to the church and Christians for a long time. Fortunately, I was able to reset my image of God and Jesus (which both very similar to the previously mentioned man).

It took me a long time to realize that Jesus is so much bigger than a bounded book or seemingly reverent painted depictions.

Steve Fuller said...

Jamie,

Yes, LDS will be somewhere down the road.

A Modern Ancient said...

Three things:

First, to Anonymous... all religions are technically a "cult." So, to label JW with that is nothing terrible... unless you are suggesting they are of the ilk of the Branch Davidians, Jonestown, or Heaven's Gate... which I don't think is a fair comparison since there has never been a JW mass suicide. That being said, only JWs and those who classify religious groups solely based on the groups they sprung from put JWs under the Christian umbrella. So that would make us all Christians and Muslims Jewish... or better yet it would make us all Zoroastrians. JWs use a version of the bible but they go off somewhat corrupted manuscripts (of course don't we all to some extent). The "generic website," Watchtower.org, would be like going to Vatican.org to find out about Catholics... it is the home office.

Second, I agree with a lot of your post about Crossroads. I have family and friends who all go there (and even work there... those fancy videos are made by friends of mine), and I will sometimes listen to the sermon podcast. But, I too struggle with the difficulty mega-churches inherently have in regards to forming community. I was taken aback when I literally couldn't see the people sitting next to me. I have trouble calling Crossroads a "church" because my definition entails a focus on community, but I agree that they are attempting to bless the city, and I trust they are filling a gap in the Kingdom... one that I am not particularly called or gifted to fill.

Last, I am wondering if you have many other mainline denominations on your list? What about any Eastern Orthodox (there are a bunch and each one of them are different). Also, the Catholic church actually has 23 different rites. The majority use the Latin rite but each one is unique. Since the majority of Christians in the world are either Catholic or Orthodox are you planning on going to any of those besides the one Latin rite mass? Not a critique, just a question.

Jeremy Pryor said...

Wow Steve, what a great journey. I have a similar story of getting consumed by church, jumping on staff, getting disillusioned, running away and then rediscovering the church.

One issue I have with your approach, however, is this: had I done it your way, I doubt I would have discovered true Christian community which, I now believe is the essence of a local church. I gave up on the institutional church and didn't have enough hope and thus energy to do what you're doing.

After losing hope for the church I moved to Boston for grad school and joined a small group Bible study to find a few friends and after 6 months of developing community I discovered and then fell completely in love with the church and have been deeply engaged ever since (this was 8 years ago). But the church that captured me was a community, an interdependent body (1 Corinthians 12), a loving family (Mark 10:28-30) not an institution. There are hundreds of us in the Cincinnati area who live life together, serve together, but you'll never find us by going to a worship service or be able to experience our life together for 2 hours on a Sunday morning so I guess my question is, if "church" is more of a community and not a building or a two hour worship service, how are you going to find her by only attending one worship service after another?

Steve Fuller said...

Jeremy,

I'm not even sure I'm looking for a church. I'm less worried about the outcome and more concerned with the journey.

I am enjoying seeing different types of people worship in different ways. I am learning a ton. I am experiencing a more complete picture of the "Body."

I have no idea what the end result will be, but the process has been great.

And, I agree churches are so much more than a service on Sundays, but the reality is that for many people, that service is their first impression of a church. So how do you create an experience that naturally leads people into all of the other stuff?

Jeremy Pryor said...

Got it. I guess I'm hoping you get to experience the non-institutionalized church on your journey.

People typically get connected with us via relationships. Hospitality is a huge value (we all have large meals in our homes at least once per week). If a friend gets interested in our community we have a 10 week process they enter into to explore and understand the Christian life (it's called the Story-Formed Life). We have 3 of these happening now (Norwood, Union KY, and Lexington).

Usually at that point their relationships deepen and they check out our weekly Gathering of a small community (body) which is not a worship service but based on the 1 Cor. 14:26 idea where everyone brings something - a teaching, a word, a song with no leader, no fixed agenda etc. and they begin to serve with us and begin to adopt more of common life with us through syncing weekly activities etc.

If you want to add this to the journey let me know. I can try to figure out a way to expose you to our life together.

Cara said...

found your blog through pastor ryan (VWS) love it!! I attend VWS and but have been to crossroads a couple times...and study there on occasion and sit on the big couches :) I LOVE their coffee but they don't discriminate against those who don't...on sunday morn they have Pop and juice machines too i believe...just a lil FYI :)

Anonymous said...

Having gone to a few large churches over the years that I have been a Christian, I found myself feeling lost in the crowd. Then one day it hit me, I would have to extend myself a little bit, dig in for myself. So I got crazy and asked someone at an information booth for more information; of course I could have gone online or picked up the phone and called the church office. I think it comes down to individual responsibility. It's my quest for Jesus, my quest for community, and therefore, I better get involved.

Actually, now that I think about this, the small churches that I have been too, suffer from the same problem. It's considerably more awkward however, as I was clearly THE new person in a room of 50 people, yet everyone just acted like they didn't notice. Or there is the other small church awkwardness, "if you are visiting with us today, please stand up and tell us about yourself." I can just see it now...."Yes, Hi, I'm an alcoholic who umh... hit bottom they other day and a...beat up my 4 year old. I am broken and desperate and disgusted by myself and I just hope that you will uh... accept me, love me, and introduce me to Jesus."

Hmmm...what's the solution here?

As for my thoughts on Crossroads. I believe I heard that they have experienced 40% growth in the last year. Something is going on. I find that Brian Tome is very honest and direct about God and scripture. Truth does amazing things.

Anonymous said...

I just picked up your article in Cinweekly and thought I'd check out what you said about Crossroads.I agree with you 100 percent on everything you said. I do like Crossroads it is a nice church but as far as what you said and pretty much what everyone else said is true.When I first went to Crossroads not one person said hello.In fact I even got yelled at for going in the auditorium too early.How was I supposed to know?? And getting yelled at isn't very christian like and would be nice if the pastor interacted with people instead of bolting right after service.Maybe that's just me...

Anonymous said...

Steven, I happened to come across an old CinWeekly today (6/2/09). You're a great writer and your experiment is something I've thought about doing myself. You're much better equipped for the task and I'll be happy to experience your experiment vicariously.

I've been to and served in various christian churches over the years. I read your blog about MCC and my experience there was similar. My partner and I plan to visit again some day. When my partner and I first met over a year ago, we went to Crossroads' Christmas play and continued attending church on a regular basis until my partner became repeatedly pissed about Brian Tome's "homosexuality is unnatural" casual occurrences/comments.

I told him Brian's comments were mild when compared to how 99% of churches address homosexuality. I became troubled by my partner's displeasure and soon we became disinterested in attending Crossroads. We enjoy attending The Gathering on Main just south of Liberty. They are an open and affirming church. The Gathering is very progressive in its thinking and Pastor Steve's messages are often challenging and intriguing. The liturgy is rather traditional with a highlight being a time for the congregation to discuss the message and perhaps other things apropos.

Also thank you for your support of gay marriage. It's only been during the last two years that I've gone from being a bit bewildered about the concept of gay marriage to wanting it for myself. I was one who "struggled," mostly closeted, with homosexuality, married and divorced twice, father to beautiful kids, and who believes Jesus is absolutely amazing.

God bless you on your amazing Jesus journey. I look forward to meeting you some day, if not in the flesh then in eternity.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I just started attending Crossroads at the first of the year. I wanted to ask you if the greeters were holding open the doors as you walked in? Also, at the beginning of each service, we are encouraged to take a moment and introduce yourself to your neighbors. If these things did not happen when you attended a year ago, I'm thinking Brian came across your blog and decided CR needed to be a little more friendly!

Anonymous said...

I was at the service you went to at Crossroads. That was the beginning of our RESET series. There is no "typical" Crossroads experience. The creativity of that team is amazing. You never know what to expect as far as the experience goes...but the beliefs are solid and the teaching is engaging. I've noticed alot of people writing about community in general....well you can't expect to experience community in just one service at any church. If that is what you are looking for...I suggest going somewhere more than one time and actually becoming a part of things...that is the best way to experience community...be involved. Just my thoughts. Take care.

Anonymous said...

This is the funniest thing I have heard this week and I watch the Office and Outsorced so that's saying a lot. Can't wait to hear more....

Anonymous said...

Why would you expect Crossroads to be any different than the city it is based in? Cincinnati is not really a friendly town. People don't say hello and introduce themselves anywhere here. I think expecting anything more from an organization that is only about bringing in money, self-promotion, and fear of those who are different (their homophobia is just the tip of the iceberg) is beyond reason.

Richard Collins said...

I have attended Crossroads about 7 or 8 times for Sunday service. I think its a great church.

http://www.crossroads.net/

There are people everywhere standing in front of doors just to be there to open them for people as a kind gesture. I was told "Good Morning" by at least four strangers. I felt very safe considering the Cincinnati police officers that surrounded the place directing traffic and protecting entrances. They make it a point to tell you "NOT" to give offerings if you are a newcomer. Aside from the perks such as free Coffee and excellent day care for all ages they also have an area in the atrium were they offer free CD's covering topics the church has covered (audio recordings of services). This week I got the "Game Change" series of 7 discs. I showed up with two dollars to my name and placed them in the offerings collection because I feel as if it is a worthy place of worship. I was even under a quarter tank of gas and had no means of getting more money for a few days. In return I received an excellent cup of coffee, a STACK of 7 CD's that allows me to have church in my car or home, I enjoyed the band that was great, and mostly I enjoyed the speaker "Brian Tome" that talked throughout most of the service about relative Bible scriptures. I felt comfortable with the people there. They have FREE Bibles available. They are having a Show called "Awaited" for Christmas and the tickets are FREE.

http://www.crossroads.net/awaited/getTickets.php

They have raised over 40 Million dollars toward their campaign efforts. So you ask Campaign??? Money for what??? This is just one small example of how Crossroads is truly awesome. Please read the page that this link directs you to.

http://www.crossroads.net/blog/view/5/73

Also;

http://www.crossroads.net/gamechange/#updates

Saving the best for last;

http://www.crossroads.net/gamechange/#game-change

One last recommendation aside from Crossroads, check out the "Holman Christian Standard Bible" HCSB Study Bible. I had to go buy one myself.

May GOD Bless you all. If you have any questions for me please direct them to ESPNMATV@Gmail.com Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

I was invited to the Crossroads Church in oakley, cinti. oh. by very nice friends who rave over the church. But after your greatful and detailed description I am hesitant. I was raised baptist, married a catholic 15yrs., got into Unity New thought (reincarnation psychic stuff) for few years in my quest for the truth and god.
Finally in march 1986, I found the truth and was re-baptized in jesus name as the book acts says to do it and was filled with the Holy Ghost speaking in unknown tongues.
I became apostolic, (the dress and hair thing) and then when i switched back to pants they hit the roof literally and i became the victim of every sermon, until i finally left in 2009.
I found the Community Pentecostal (Family church) in Taylorsville KY with Tommybates.com sun nites on the web. and my life came back and I can enjoy jesus, lots and lots of worship and freedom to be me in God again. Check this out next. Dont mention you speak in tongues at the Jehovah witness church or they will throw you out...they believe it is from satan even tho their own bible says the holy spirit poured out and filled them. They dont understand their own bible. I have witnessed to many of them. They dont believe Jesus is god's son and I always got them with WHO GOT MARY PREGNANT....not a man.

Also, Jehovah is only in the bible 7 times in OT and Jesus is in the NT 969 times so there is something about that name.

Ask them: what does Jehovah mean in hebrew...trans I AM...what does Jesus mean in Greek...trans I AM..what do you know. they are the same and the Jehovah witness still dont understand.

god bless...i have been there....and in every church too. there is no reincarnation and tommybates.com is full of the holy ghost and it is large but the place fills early and the crowd disperses slowly and no one wants to leave and they all shake your hand and so hello even if you are a woman and wear pants....ha ha gail

Anonymous said...

Very interesting writing. I would like to point out however that if you are looking to re-define your faith by going to buildings labled church prepare to fall short. You, the Chritstian, you are the chruch. It is not defined by how you worship the living God. We are all part of the body of Christ, we all form "The Church." Take a look at Paul for example. He did not belong to a particular organization, not did the rest of the diciples, that carried The Truth throughout the known world. They were known by thier love and compasion for humanity, something the majority of our members need to remember. Everywhere the word was preached, love, and community were at the forefront of the message. We have become so accustomed to labeling each other by the "denomination" that we belong to instead of the relationship we have with our God. You want to re-define your faith? Pray, read and learn his word, and study the life that Jesus lead on this Earth. You will find that the more time you spend with God, the stronger your relationship will become, and the more you will hear the leading of the spirit. As far as what church to go to? Try asking God to lead you in the right direction, just because they claim Christianity dosnt mean they are in tuned with God. Your Relationship with God is a personal one. Make it so, and live your life with this simple statement in mind. Look for a need and meet the need. Through those actions, the world will see Christ Love through you and will want to know the Savior for themselves.