Crossroads Church had to get out to reach out.
The nondenominational church recently sold its spacious-but-pricey property on Ooltewah-Ringgold Road, renovated a Rossville building that doubled its space and moved in debt-free.
"The Lord really placed on our hearts that we needed to get out from underneath the debt in the building," says teaching pastor Bryan Boyer. "We were tired of the money that people gave going to a debt payment. We don't see it as our money [but] as God's money."
One of the church's members found their new Carline Road property, a foreclosure that once housed a daycare center and a karate studio.
Boyer, his father John Boyer and Crossroads Church praise and worship leader Dewayne Taylor did most of the renovation work. The first floor, according to the younger Boyer, needed only remodeling. The second floor, he said, was taken down to the bare floor and redesigned. The electrical work, carpet laying and painting were contracted out.
All along, they tried to be eco-friendly, he says, reusing and repurposing items such as doors for tabletops. In the end, he says, they had a 10,000-square-foot church for about $300,000.
With a debt-free building, the congregation is now able to do more of what it desires.
"We've never had money to throw at a problem," Boyer says. "[But] our people want to serve and help other people."
In Rossville, which has lost most of its manufacturing base, the congregation has come to the right place, he says.
"We know this [area has] been hard hit," Boyer says. "They're in need of help. So we knew [moving here] was a good fit."
The outreach emphasis is not far removed from the church's original intention when it was founded in 1995, which was to minister to people who had been hurt in church situations, he says.
Founding pastor Bill Belva says the congregation has moved into "a neighborhood that really needs us."
"On any given Sunday morning," he says, "we have people sitting in the congregation that have different needs, maybe have different sexual orientations," he says. "It's allowed us to reach out and minister to a totally different group of people."
Now, Boyer says, "we're desiring to serve God's love to people right where they're at."
As such, he says, they engaged in "random acts of grace" such as doling out scrap metal taken from the building renovation so several needy individuals could get a little cash, beginning a small food pantry for the area hungry, finding occasional work around the church for people who need money, renting a booth to give out bottled water to flea market shoppers and holding periodic giveaways in which people can take what they need.
The giveaways are advertised as yard sales in order to draw customers.
"It takes a moment to grasp," Boyer says. "It takes them out of the troubles in their lives. They say, 'Can I get this for my nephew?' or 'Can I get this for my aunt?'"
Boyer says they don't worry about people taking advantage of them.
"It's not our place to judge," he says. "We give away what God has given to us. It's free because our salvation through Jesus Christ is absolutely free."
Going from a suburban to urban church has taken some getting used to for some members, Boyer says.
But, he says, the move furthers the church mission statement: "Knowing and loving God; loving and serving others."
"It's a whole different approach," he says. "We don't care what you wear, what you smell like. We just want to show God's love to you."
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...