Editor's note—Welcome to a new Spectrum series for 2023: The 12 Churches Project.
Thanks to readers like you who donated to our Grow the Vision campaign for the Bonnie Dwyer Journalism Fund, we’re commissioning reporters to visit a different Adventist church each month and write about the experience. Post-pandemic, what’s church like? Who’s showing up and who’s not? What’s changed? What’s working? What needs to change? The goal is not deeply investigatory but merely to witness worship and share. Hopefully, we can all learn something from these first-person experiences.
Readers will learn about 12 churches in the North American Division this year. We’ll aim for diversity—at least one in each of the nine NAD unions—with a focus on key examples of various church bodies and worship styles.
The Crosswalk Seventh-day Adventist Church, located in Redlands, California, is home to one of the more well-known worship services in the area. Crosswalk offers services on Sabbath at 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 12:00 p.m. There is also the option to attend Sabbath school at various times during the morning and afternoon.
Redlands is the main campus, but Crosswalk also has four satellite campuses in Los Angeles, California; Portland, Oregon; Clinton, Massachusetts; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Satellite campuses have their own pastors (or lay pastors) and worship teams, with some primarily receiving a weekly sermon virtually from Tim Gillespie, the lead pastor since 2014. Crosswalk also has Lovewell Groups—smaller congregations that meet in areas without official campuses, sometimes meeting in homes. The groups also sometimes lead children's programs and their own worship services. Weekly, the Redlands campus has about 1,000 visitors between the three services, all of which are livestreamed. The 10:30 a.m. service is the most popular, ranging from 400 to 500 visitors.
The Redlands campus is in a business mall and looks more like an office space than a traditional church. Three to five greeters stood near the entrance giving warm welcomes upon entry. The entranceway is relatively small, so an individual walking in may receive several hellos from the multiple greeters. Inside, there is a fully stocked drinks Cafe, around which are tables and places to stand and mingle. The cafe is open for the duration of the morning and afternoon services.
The worship room resembles a concert hall more than a traditional sanctuary. A large screen covers most of the front wall, with smaller screens on the side walls. The stage is the most prominent feature of the room, which is dark for the entire program except for the footlights, spotlights, and theatrical lights that strategically direct your attention to everything happening on the stage. The lights sync perfectly with the music, creating the desired worship atmosphere.
Crosswalk is known for having excellent music. The band consisted of nine individuals: four vocalists and five instrumentalists. Two cameramen were also on the stage, livestreaming the band on the big screens, which allowed the audience to look directly at the musicians or the screen to get a different angle. The music set included songs traditional to the contemporary Christian scene. Although a lot of intentionality goes into curating the worship experience, the congregation was mostly reserved in its response to the music set.
The dark room and intricate lights created an atmosphere for connecting with the music but not an atmosphere connecting with each other. After being greeted by the welcomers at the door, unless you know someone in the church, it's easy to go unnoticed for the rest of the day. Depending on the service you attend, you can sit in an area where you don't have to speak to anyone, and no one will talk to you. There is also little opportunity to mingle after the service. Due to the tight schedule, the church gets emptied quickly. Though you can stand in the foyer around the cafe, the influx of people for the next service hinders extended mingling.
Each service runs like clockwork. There is a predetermined amount of time for every program element, with little room for error. The songs, sermons, jokes, and other parts of the program were the same in each service. Lead Pastor Tim Gillespie continued the series "Lovewell: A Theology." One of the key points of the sermon was, "We will not embarrass you if you bring someone to the church even if they haven't been to church before." Loving well is not only the theme of the sermon series but is one of the tenants of Crosswalk as a congregation.
Crosswalk prides itself on inclusion and strives to be a place where even nonbelievers can feel safe. This is made evident in the lack of a traditional dress code, the nonrestrictive worship atmosphere, and even the design of the building and worship room, which gives the sense that "this is different from your traditional worship experience." Crosswalk’s push for inclusivity is also shown by the diverse demographics of the worshipers. Although the band and much of the leadership are young adults, there were diverse ages—as well as cultures and races—present at the worship services. Crosswalk is a place where both young adults and families can feel comfortable.
The atmosphere of Crosswalk lends an exciting and dynamic worship experience. For this reason, it could be a place where people enjoy the service but have little involvement and commitment otherwise. However, for those who want to put down roots in the community, there are plenty of opportunities to serve and invest. Like many other churches, Crosswalk has experienced a shift in attendance post-pandemic. Before the pandemic, all three services were so well attended that they considered moving to a larger space. Nonetheless, Crosswalk still maintains its influence and reach in the Southern California Adventist community and through its campuses across the United States.
At the end of the service, Pastor Gillespie invited worshipers to come and pray with members of the prayer team. This simple but meaningful invitation was a reminder that Crosswalk is not just about good music and coffee but also impacting the lives of those who worship within its walls.
"Lovewell, A Theology" by Tim Gillespie, Part 1
Ezrica Bennett is a writer, public speaker, and coach passionate about working with young adults to help them navigate life and faith. She is also committed to helping churches, and church leaders, find innovative ways to integrate young adults into church leadership and empower them to honor God's calling on their lives.
Photos by the author.
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