Church Planting and Worship: A Conversation with Rick Anderson from Crosswalk Church - Chattanooga

Best Practices for Adventist Worship (BP): How did Crosswalk Church - Chattanooga get started? 

Rick Anderson (RA): There are lots of Adventist churches here in the Chattanooga area, but in October of 2017, there was a group of us who felt a stirring to do something new. We had a number of friends and family in the area who were no longer attending Adventist churches and although we had poured ourselves into ministry in other churches in that community, it wasn't the right fit for many of those on our hearts. We felt God was calling us to something new. Two of us in that boat—myself and Brooks Pruehs, our Leadership Team Chair—were out in the Loma Linda area; I was there for work representing Southern at a number of academies and he was there for an event at the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. We decided to meet up at Crosswalk that weekend—we both had known Pastor Tim Gillespie for years. Brooks had led worship at Re:Live, a previous ministry that Gillespie pastored.

We were both very moved by the worship, the message, and every part of our experience. It was cohesive and felt right. After the worship service, Brooks and I caught up with Tim. We shared our excitement about what was happening and that it gave us hope for the Adventist church. When he asked us how things were going at our church in Chattanooga, we shared that we felt moved to do something new and that we were even just thinking about having a house church for a season. Tim's eyes lit up; "What would you guys think about starting Crosswalk Chattanooga?" He continued, "Our leadership team feels called to equip more communities, not build a bigger building or start more services here in Redlands."

The idea was too big for us to process in the moment, so the conversation didn't stay there long. When Brooks and I were back in Chattanooga, we started to talk and pray about it though. We brought a few of the others in on the conversation and felt compelled to at least explore it. That led to a number of conversations. A group of four of us met with Tim at the One Project in Atlanta, Tim called administrators at the NAD and then, the Southern Union, and then the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, and things progressed. We started a small group - watching messages from Pastor Tim and working through a study guide of questions, while also asking ourselves and God if this was the answer. That small group became three small groups, and soon we had 50 people involved in launching a church plant.

We decided to host a pop-up service in June of 2018. We advertised on social media and shared with our friends who were looking for a church. We worked with another non-denominational church plant in our area that met at a public elementary school to secure the location and rent equipment. We had our core team serving in Kids programming, First Impressions (parking, greeting, hosting, etc.), making coffee, and leading worship. At the first pop-up service, we had 186 attendees and we knew beyond any shadow of doubt that this is what God was calling us to. We heard stories from people who had left the Adventist church years before or been church hopping and spiritually unsettled, saying "this is what I have been hoping and praying for." Chattanooga has more former Seventh-day Adventists than attendees in its congregations each Sabbath. It is a huge mission field.

So, we continued our pop up services. We moved to a more suitable location for the long term. Five months later, the Georgia-Cumberland Conference approved our application to be a church plant and we started weekly services on November 3, 2018. Our attendance was mostly 140-180 for the first few months, then it began to push over 200 around Easter. We only dipped slightly during the summer, then continued to grow slowly. Now, for the past 2 months we have had over 400 attendees and have gone to two services and added more Crosswalk Kids classes.

BP: How is your leadership team structured? Is everyone a volunteer or are some also paid?

RA: We began completely lay led, but a number of us have had ministry experience. We set up a Leadership Team, which is essentially our board and is comprised of our ministry leaders who were there from the start, or elected into roles as things grew or changed. We have had to be somewhat fluid in structure because of the fast growth. As we grew, it became clear that we would have to pay some of our team members for the amount of time that was being put into leading in various areas.

The church has only become what it is because of the passionate people who volunteer. A church plant creates an opportunity for people to engage—they know that the church is theirs and they invest themselves into it because they believe that Jesus is using it to touch them, their family, and their community. Currently, we have three administrative positions on a part-time monthly stipend: Campus Administrator, CW Kids Director, and Creative Director. In addition to those three positions, we pay a few other operational positions such as Facilities Management, CW Kids Associate Directors, Security, etc. for their time. 

BP: Were you a worshipping community from the very beginning? 

RA: Worship at Crosswalk in Redlands is dynamic. Those worship leaders are inspiring and passionate, and that culture was part of what compelled us to join the Crosswalk movement. We were also blessed to have a number of experienced worship leaders and musicians within our core group from the start, so worship music was a shared passion for many of us. 

BP: Do you livestream sermons from Crosswalk’s Redlands, California campus? 

RA: Each week, Pastor Tim records the message for two weeks ahead so that we have the material in advance and can track with Redlands campus from week to week on the same theme. He records the message for us and other satellite campuses that are in development elsewhere. We show the message on a large center screen that comes down during a bumper video, after worship and prayer. Pastor Tim is in a still medium-full shot, so we see him moving on his stage as he records the message. He has really developed a skill for speaking to an empty room in Redlands and it translating on video in our venues!

BP: What’s the biggest challenge with planning and leading a worship service in which the preacher is not physically present? And how did you address it?

RA: Planning in advance is the key. Pastor Tim has his entire sermonic year mapped out by January 1, so we have had plenty of time to build out experiences that match the biblical texts and narrative and the "narrow dominant thought" he is going for. Pastor Tim and Pastor Isai Moran, the Worship Pastor at Crosswalk Redlands, are also very available to our team to help us process things.

BP: What’s the biggest benefit of your church’s approach to sermons?

RA: Pastor Tim is a gifted communicator. I believe he is anointed with a gift and compelled to use it wherever God wants him to. While there are many gifted communicators in the Chattanooga area, Pastor Tim brings a different approach to his teaching style, and it feeds into a clear culture within the rest of the church. There is strong alignment organizationally and it starts with the teaching.

BP: What about this type of church plant have you found most exciting?

RA: At the end of our first pop-up service, I had a very close friend who has been outside of the Adventist church for a decade and outside of any kind of church for the past three or four years come up to me after the service, put his arms around my wife and I and with tears in his eyes say, "guys, this messed with me today. God is tugging at my heart and I'm not sure whats next, but I'm excited." I wish I could say he attends every week now, but this is a long game. He attends regularly enough and we hang out enough that I know God is using this movement to bless this man—and there are many more like him. I'm in it for the spiritual well-being of those in our community who have found themselves disconnected. And I can't wait to see what He does next.

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