News: Building People

Forget religion; get comfortable at church

Jan 17, 2002 at 2:06 pm

The former Home Quarters warehouse on Madison Road still offers tools for improvement projects, but not the kind accomplished with hammers and saws.

It's become a place to build spiritual health. The former Home Quarters is now Crossroads Community Church.

Meeting in a warehouse is not the only thing that sets this church apart. If you go to worship at Crossroads, bring a beverage — and don't be surprised if the music sounds like what you heard last night at the bar.

Crossroads started as 11 people meeting in a school in the mid-1990s. Today their number has reached 2,000.

"We have created an environment here where people can come and explore what they think is a commitment with God," says Cyndi King, director of staff development. "It's a safe place to ask questions."

Everything but ashtrays
Spiritual health, like physical health, is a component of people's lives, according to Brian Tome, senior pastor of Crossroads.

"One of the mistakes that we believe people really make spiritually is that they divide out their life," he says. "Spirituality is where you honor God in every single area of your life. The areas of our life that tend to bring us the most pain are almost always the areas we're not giving God access."

The church refers to itself as "interdenominational," rather than nondenominational.

"We're not really into defining what we're not," Tome says. "We're into defining what we are."

What they are is different from the stereotype of most churches. Crossroads breaks the rules of what many are used to seeing on Sundays.

Tome says the type of band the church has is closer to what one would find in a bar than at a traditional church service. Half of the music during the service is written by musicians who are members of the church. Sometimes Pop music is used to illustrate a message.

"There's nothing in the Bible that says music has to sound a certain way," says Brian Wells, director of spiritual development.

The atrium has seats with cup holders so coffee or juice can be brought in during services.

The church has a large lobby with chairs, couches and a fireplace in the corner. Parents can sit with children on couches and watch the service on a monitor if they feel more comfortable outside the atrium. Building a community where people are comfortable is important, Tome says.

King recalls trying to find a church after she moved to Cincinnati. She says what she found were congregations concerned with finding people like themselves to join, rather than focusing on introducing people to a relationship with Jesus. Five years ago she found Crossroads.

"There was nothing that was religious about it," King says. "It was just a very real place. The message was about how to incorporate God into your everyday life. It was God without all the religion and that's just refreshing."

Tome says that is the kind of environment he wants for the church.

"If you want to be Captain Church, this is not going to be the domain for you," he says.

Spirituality isn't a list of rules of what to do and what not to do, according to Tome. Spirituality is the relationships we build with God and the people around us.

"We don't do religion," he says. "We do relationships here. We believe in Biblical community."

Happy Gilmore meets the Lord
If people are not attending church, Wells says, it often has less to do with belief in God and more to do with secondary issues.

"I think there's a feeling of community that we feel is lost," he says.

Crossroads tries to draw its members into active participation.

"This is a place that is heavily run by volunteers," Wells says.

The church tries to present the lessons of the Bible in a way that relates to members' everyday lives, using clips from Happy Gilmore and U2 songs.

"All of us get stuck wondering which way to go sometimes," Wells says. "You get out of college and you start to figure out pretty soon, 'Man, there must be something more to this thing than a job or a house or a relationship — something bigger than me.' "

Wells says he had his happiness equation, the possessions and relationships he wanted. But he knew something was missing and started to look at his spiritual needs. He found a sense of community at the church.

"We want the church to be where our friends are," he says.

Tome says the church tries to focus sermons to help people in their lives. This month, the focus is on managing the mouth.

"Jesus says that what's in your heart naturally comes out of your mouth," Tome says.

To him, this means a person with an angry tongue has an angry heart, and those who gossip have insecure hearts. By drawing awareness to such issues, people might be better able to handle problems they face throughout the week, Tome says.

He tries to illustrate how working on spiritual growth — the heart and soul — is important to everyday life and relationships.

For Tome, bringing God into everything we do fills a hunger we have for our spiritual needs.

"I think they come here because they're hoping that that little gnawing sense they have internally is going to go away," he says.

For him, talking to God is where it all begins.

"There's arguably no more spiritual thing you can do than pray," he says.

The bid to purchase the former Home Quarters had to be made at an auction in Manhattan, according to Tome. Before the church went to put in its offer, 20 or 30 people were praying in the parking lot outside the building as the company liquidated its merchandise, asking God to make the building their next home.

Tome says three major businesses were planning to bid on the building, but for some reason didn't make it to the auction. The church's offer of $4.6 million was accepted. A business that missed the auction offered Crossroads $10 million a week later.

"We feel really called to this area of the city because we feel it's where we need to be," Tome says.

An $8.5 million renovation project took less than a year of construction time, completed ahead of schedule and under budget. The church moved into the facility in November.

The 17-acre lot and 86,000-square-foot building that are now home to the church, however, aren't the focus of Tome's faith.

"We're not about building buildings," he says. "We're about building people. Big whoop! We have a building. God doesn't care about buildings. God's only treasure is people." ©