Individuals or groups who want to be a part of Carry the Cross Ministries should call founder Josh Payne at 902-6139, email him at carrythecross email@example.com or visit www.facebook.com/carrythecrossministries.
"If anyone would come after me," Jesus says in Luke 9:23, "he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
One Accord Community Church member Josh Payne is taking that mandate literally and has started Carry the Cross Ministries, an effort in which cross-carrying walkers seek per-mile sponsors in order to raise money for various other ministries.
"It was a calling that God laid on my heart," Payne says.
The walks, which the 18-year-old Payne hopes eventually will occur monthly, are organized not only to raise money but as a visible outreach to the communities in which they occur.
"I plan to keep it going until I have to pass it on or until I can't do it," he says.
Money raised from the first walk held earlier this month -- the amount is yet to be calculated -- will be given to In His Hands Ministry, an organization that helps fund mission trips.
Payne had read information about people carrying crosses before but believed they were more for awareness and as a reminder of what Christ did than anything else.
"None were out there raising money," he says.
The crosses created for the burgeoning ministry's walks were made from simple two-by-fours, Payne says. He had checked one at the church "to see if it felt right" and based the others -- not quite his 5-foot-11 height -- on that.
They're made from wood people don't need, he says, which is "better than spending all that money [on new wood].
"Besides, I think [the older wood] looks better."
The walk earlier this month, according to Payne, involved about 12 people, seven of whom carried crosses. Another walker carried a banner with the ministry's name and phone number, and still another carried Bibles and tracts.
It began at Walgreens on Dayton Boulevard and continued west before turning north and up the hill to One Accord Community Church on Sweetland Drive -- about three miles total.
"People were honking as soon as we started walking," says Payne, a graduate of Lookout Valley High School who is hoping to enter the National Guard. "At Bi-Lo, one lady pulled over, got out of the car and started clapping and saying, 'Praise the Lord.' If we saw people on the side of the road, we talked to them and gave them a tract and a business card."
While signs of support were the norm, one person asked them what they were protesting, and one man at a stop sign "gave them a dirty look," he says.
In all, they made personal contact with 27 people and received one encouraging email from someone who'd seen their walk.
"We saw the impact on certain people's faces," says Larry Hedrick, youth pastor at One Accord.
He says the congregation now looks at Carry the Cross Ministries as "one of the church ministries" and it fits in the "hodgepodge mix" of offerings One Accord supports.
"We try to inspire leadership from within," Hedrick says, "and use the talents and gifts God has given them."
Church member Norman Lowe says it is One Accord's philosophy to take ministry to the community.
"God stopped the rain," he says of the most recent walk, "and the warm sun came out as a group ... carried large wooden crosses ... through Red Bank and then up the very steep hill to the church, as Jesus did."
The next walk, set for March 30, will begin a little farther down Dayton Boulevard and continue to the church, Payne says. At least one church in Alabama will accompany the core group, he says, and both young and old are welcome.
Future walks may happen in downtown Chattanooga, on the mission field or wherever the group is led, Payne says.
"I'm trying to get as many people to do it as I possibly can," he says. "I'm trying to make it grow."