Our church started as a mission of the Shartel Church of God in downtown Oklahoma City. They sent 55 people to a small, rented, church building on the far northern edge of the city to begin this new church.
Our first pastor was Dwight Dye. He and his wife, Sue, led the church for a very productive ten years. The church attendance more than tripled; the gentleman who owned the building became a believer and gave them the building, and further additions were made.
Larry and Maxine McCaw led the church for the next decade. Maxine, a cousin of my father, and I grew up hearing a great deal about Oklahoma City. My dad was a frequent guest speaker.
The third pastor, Tedd, came out of my dad’s church in Dayton, Ohio, the Salem Church of God. Tedd had been a very instrumental youth leader during my years in high school. It was Tedd who made the call to me and asked me to spend a week with him and his wife, Susan, in Oklahoma City.
Two months later, in a shocking change of course for me, I moved to Oklahoma City. Fourteen months later, Tedd left our church and a new pastor from Northern California, Larry Ortman, became the fourth pastor of the church. Larry and Joyce were fantastic pastors, but felt led back to the West Coast two years later.
Through the changes of the previous four years, we lost a few people, but there were still 145 people who believed we could have an impact in this city. They were convinced God had great plans for their future. In August of 1985, I became the interim pastor, which is a role I’ve had now for 33 years! Their largest step of faith ever taken was probably that Sunday in October 1985 when I was voted in as the new Senior Pastor. Kim and I had been married just over two years; I was 26 and Kim was 22 years old. We hardly knew our way around our young marriage and we sure didn’t know how to lead a church, but our church believed in us and loved us. They stepped into our lives and have walked alongside us on this trip of a lifetime.
One of the first things we did in Fall 1985 was boldly pray that God would allow us to reach 200 people. If you don’t think God has a sense of humor, think again.
It has now been 34 years since that October Sunday changed the trajectory of our church in ways we could have never predicted. It's a story of people choosing to take radical–humanly irrational–steps of faith simply because that is what God has called us to do. They just did what the Bible calls followers of Christ to do.
For our 60th anniversary, we’ve decided to not throw ourselves an extravagant (and costly!) party in 2019. We thought about going to Chesapeake Arena so the whole church could be together at one time, which is a luxury that ended in the early 90s, but that was going to be a very expensive party. We will celebrate–and we should!–but we will celebrate the faithfulness of God. We will thank Him for allowing us the privilege of this journey.
What I think you will find interesting is the party we are throwing four weeks after our 60th Celebration. We are having another anniversary of sorts–one I never dreamed could happen. May 5 is a one-year anniversary: one full year for our first Crossings Satellite campus...in a prison. On May 5, we are putting up a big tent on the prison yard, catering in a fantastic dinner, and on stage with me will be our worship pastors, Larry Harrison, Don Peslis, Cole Grubbs, and Josh Edington. (There is a surprise guest who I will have to tell you about later. Just in case the guys read this blog post, I don’t want to spoil their surprise!) We will have a bus load (or two) of our Crossings family all gathered to love a few hundred guys who don’t feel loved or valued by anyone.
In my frequent trips to the Joseph Harp Correctional Center, I have found a band of brothers–men who committed serious crimes in their youth, some who will never leave the prison, and a few others who have a chance. I have found guys who chose to check out God and see if he was real. They’ve read their Bibles more than I have. I’ve never seen so many Bibles with torn covers, bursting with underlines, starred verses, and pages of notes stashed between the chapters.
And just in case anyone might think it’s all for show–or perhaps deathbed-type confessions, or a last-ditch-effort with God–when you hear how many verses and passages they have memorized, you’ll see how real their faith is. You find yourself standing in front of a guy who is depending on the Scriptures like no one you’ve ever met.
The only freedom they will ever see is when they die, close their eyes here, and wake up in heaven with no cage-like rooms, no bars on windows, no memory of their past failures, and no lingering thoughts of wondering if they could ever be loved again.
In my thirty-eighth year with this church, I think I may be getting a glimpse of how our church prayed for 200 and got 10,000. I have a hunch as to why we’ve been blessed in ways we could have never planned or predicted. They decided to tithe ten percent on all the money given every Sunday, a practice we continue to this day. In 1959, that ten percent tithe on all the offerings was around $800. This year, that tithe will be $2,200,000.
They decided to open a free clinic. A few years later, a brand new clinic was built and a community center was added. The community center feeds people who are hungry and encourages kids who never hear many kind words. Prisoners coming out of prison are given new clothes so they can interview for jobs, go to church, and in some way hide the scars they will bear for life. Some of them need serious dental work and healthcare; the clinic takes care of all that, too.
Could it be that God has blessed our church–just like he does individuals who trust God with their resources–who treat people like Jesus taught us to treat others, to love like he loved us, and to forgive as we’ve been forgiven?
For I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. -Matthew 25:35-36 NLT