By Jerry Harris
For almost two decades, Doug Crozier has had big dreams for The Crossing, my Midwestern church home for 25-plus years. And all during that time, Doug has worked with us to remove whatever obstacles stood in the way.
When the idea of a multisite church was still in its infancy, The Crossing decided to reach out into micropolitan and rural communities with a fresh approach to the gospel. Conversations with Doug gave us the confidence to push forward beyond what we ever imagined. Eleven campuses and thousands of baptisms later, the dreams we dared to imagine have become realities. Following through on these dreams required big steps of faith into previously unknown territories. Following through also called for trusting God to provide the increase . . . and God did not disappoint.
When I came to serve the church 25 years ago, it was a small congregation of about 230 meeting in a rented facility on weekends and maintaining offices in its original, outgrown, 8,000-square-foot church space. While our worship space was inadequate and we had adopted the mobile worship concept, we were debt-free, which freed up money for ventures other than buildings.
Then things changed. The congregation quickly grew and expanded into new spaces that required a high debt load to manage the additional people. We adopted the multisite model in 2006 when we launched out into a new community 60 miles away; this required even more funds. Not only did Doug dream with us for what we needed, he challenged us to dream about a future with five locations. And in 2011, when The Solomon Foundation was formed, dreams at The Crossing grew even larger.
God provided abundantly for our church; we not only managed our debt, we were able to make triple-sized repayments every month. Still, as the years went by, I dreamed of a day when our church could completely pay off the debt. But with every capital campaign or generosity initiative, new ministry opportunities would arise, the church would grow, and the quiet personal dream of being debt free seemed a bridge too far.
As 2021 ended, so did my senior ministry at The Crossing. Although we had seen many victories during my years here—and the new senior pastor had been raised up from within our church over a 16-year period—one thing had escaped us . . . escaped me . . . one thing I couldn’t pass on to him. We still were not debt free. I reflected on being the one who led the church into debt. Selfishly, I wanted to be the one to lead us out.
In September 2021, four months before my transition to teaching pastor, I got a text from Doug Crozier asking about a beautiful church camp that The Crossing had acquired and had just started using. He talked about putting that equity to work for the kingdom and how it might also allow our church to become debt free. I wondered about the equity we had in the camp property and in our other locations; soon I shared with our elders the possibility that was unfolding. Our debt was low enough that we likely would retire it in three years, but Doug shared a dream of putting that equity to work not just for us but for other churches across the nation that were struggling (as our church once had struggled).
As I mulled over these ideas, it occurred to me that the church never was called to own property; the church was called to make disciples. And while church properties are incredibly valuable tools for making disciples, if owning property were the point of our existence, then property would be our idol.
What if we, once a small, rural, off-the-beaten-path church, could become a catalyst for reaching people we would never meet in this lifetime? What a fresh thought! Being debt free was just an added benefit to a blessing that God alone could measure!
Leveraging Our Equity to Make More Disciples
Our elders were not overly concerned about being debt free; they were most focused on paying it forward and being a blessing to help other churches get to the next level in the same manner we had been helped. Appraisals on 5 of our 11 locations showed their value was more than $18 million and that we had over $13 million in equity. Doug proposed a gift/leaseback arrangement to put that equity to work in order to increase opportunity and make disciples in other churches. Not only could The Solomon Foundation immediately pay off our debt, but they also could provide money for needed upgrades to the gifted properties and outreach we never thought possible. All of that was incredible, but the most important thing was that the property’s equity would allow for loans of $2 million each (on average) to 81 other churches that needed a hand up.
In 30 years, the five properties we have gifted to The Solomon Foundation will revert back to The Crossing’s ownership. (I wonder whether the leaders of that future church will see an opportunity to leverage that equity once again for the sake of the gospel. I hope so.)
I look back on the last 25 years and marvel at a God who can turn 8,000 square feet of space into more than 500,000 square feet under roof fully utilized in serving God and discipling people every day. I marvel at more than 7,000 baptisms over those years. I marvel at God’s provision that we could be debt free. I marvel at what only God knows he will do with what was never ours to begin with . . . and I wonder if someday, in the glory of heaven, I will get to see an incredible harvest of souls that came from that one decision.
Scripture says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
I thank The Solomon Foundation for looking beyond the simple and predictable things with an eye toward innovation. Thank you for not insulting God with small thinking and safe living. Thank you for doing fresh things in fresh ways to reach people no one else is reaching. But most of all, thank you for listening to and honoring God first!