Anniversary Highlight: Crossbridge Church
Recently, our church celebrated her 15th birthday. I wasn’t a part of the launch team. I couldn’t even place Tallahassee, Florida on a map until I agreed to serve as Crossbridge’s lead pastor at the beginning of 2017. Yet before I ever started working here, the thing I always found most attractive about our church is our mission. We’re here to help disconnected people connect to God. The most critical word in that statement to me is “disconnected.” We’re a church whose mission is relentlessly focused on reaching those who do not know Jesus.
According to statistics in Leon County, Florida, where our church is located, that is 200,000 people. Read that number again: 200,000. It’s something that demands our relentless urgency, action, and focus. These are our family members. Our co-workers. Our friends. Our neighbors. I hope that reality sinks in and bothers us—not in a judgmental or religious way, but in the compassionate way of Jesus. There are nearly a quarter-million people in Leon County who are disconnected from the life of God that comes to us through Jesus. That should rip us apart on the inside.
Before accepting the assignment at Crossbridge, I was a campus pastor for Suncrest Christian Church, just outside Chicago. Greg Lee, our lead pastor, would occasionally ask people what they thought his most important job responsibility was. People would usually respond with the stuff you’d expect: preaching sermons, counseling people, coordinating ministries and leaders. While all of those were important, Greg was fond of saying that his number one job was to make sure that Suncrest kept a laser-sharp focus on lost people. He practiced what he preached, whether it was neighbors on his block or his clear and apparent passion for church planting in the U.S. and abroad.
I share his conviction. Every church, planter, or pastor genuinely seeking to follow Jesus would agree with the sentiment that keeping a focus on lost and disconnected people is important. (Have you read Matthew 28, bro?) But the problem is that while important, this facet of the church’s mission too easily gets lost in the shuffle. By nature, disconnected people aren’t here yet. They aren’t around to advocate for us to remember them. They aren’t texting or tweeting to remind us of our calling to reach them. Their cries are non-existent, as compared to the all-too-real demands of the people already in our churches. Out of sight often equates to out of mind in regards to our relationship with disconnected people. That’s not okay.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul wrote that he became all things to all people so that by any means he might save some. But Paul didn’t intend for that to become a high-minded, lofty sentiment. He followed it up with a calling to effort and discipline: we must train our bodies and run the race in a way to get the prize. Yes, it is a gift of God’s grace to see the heart of a person turn to him. But we also have a part to play. I fear we are often more interested in the idea of connecting the disconnected than putting ourselves out there in day-to-day life and joining God in his work.
This is probably “New Testament 101,” but recently I found myself meditating on Matthew 9 and Jesus’ famous words about the harvest being plentiful, but the workers being few. I’m ashamed to admit it, but despite hearing those words dozens of times over the course of my life, I never really listened to them and heard what God was saying. Jesus’ solution to the problem had nothing to do with praying for people’s hearts to be prepared. No doubt that’s a good idea, but people being ready to receive good news appears to be assumed by Jesus. No, his solution was on the supply side: “ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers” (Mt. 9:38 NIV). The central issue of helping disconnected people connect to God has never been “Are people interested?” but instead, “Are God’s people going?”
I used to think spiritual growth was limited to spiritual disciplines and maybe a small group study or occasional service project (Usually involving yard work, which I hate). But the funny thing is that as I have attempted to engage a more “going-oriented” posture toward the world around me, I’ve discovered more spiritual growth than I ever thought possible. I’ve also come face-to-face with my spiritual immaturity more than I think I would have in the confines of another Bible study or Christian living book. I think I’ve tapped into some of the excitement that the disciples had when Jesus sent them out in twos and they came back, excited to share what they got to watch God do.
I’m grateful that fifteen years ago, a group of people in Tallahassee decided they weren’t going to be just another church. They weren’t going to be content with a safe faith that simply hoped for God to do something; they wanted to join in the work. I’m grateful for Stadia’s partnership in helping to organize that work. I’m also grateful that today, in some small way, Crossbridge is able to partner with other churches through Stadia to help what happened in 2005 Tallahassee happen in other communities too. Helping disconnected people connect to God has and always will be the heartbeat of the church. When partnered with God and others, we get the privilege of being his hope-delivery mechanism to the world.
Wes Blackburn is lead pastor of Crossbridge Christian Church in Tallahassee, Florida. When he’s not working, he’s probably annoying his beautiful wife, Brittany, listening to another sports podcast, or baking something beautiful in hopes of making it onto the next season of The Great British Baking Show.