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Welcome Back, Kevin
The Full Story of how CrossRoads Church at Westfield
uses demographics in ministry. . .
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Sherry and Tom Goins had taken a long detour from the community of faith. They, like many others, were part of the growing population known as the dechurched—those who at one time or other belonged to church, but then left it. Now "rechurched", both they and their new best friends Kevin and Jennifer Chobot serve together as deeply committed members of CrossRoads Church at Westfield. Like other CrossRoads attenders and members, most of whom were also dechurched at one point, they are not like your average churchgoer. What they are, says Amy Fowler, Associate Executive Presbyter for Congregational Development and Services of Whitewater Valley Presbytery, are "exciting and passionate disciples who also happen to be great fun to be around."

Fun is the operative word at CrossRoads, a 100+ member church that's housed in Westfield Elementary School. Come in on any given Sunday morning and you might easily see mothers dancing with their children to music that is contemporary but worshipful, as well as folks moving about freely, hugging one another as they move around the tables where they sit. Sitting around tables rather than partitioned off by pews or rows of chairs arose out of a practical need—taking down and setting up the tables that were already there from the school had become too labor intensive. Now those tables have tablecloths and candles—making newcomers feel like they've just walked into someone's house rather than a church.

"MUST LOVE GOD AND BASKETBALL." That's how the classified ad read. It was enough to pique the interest of the young North Carolina minister, who after years serving as Associate Pastor of a large Presbyterian church in Wilmington, had become restless. Months later Rev. Eric Lohe found himself in Indiana where, after answering the call to move his family to the small town of Westfield, he would begin his
pastorate of the fledging CrossRoads Church. CrossRoads was conceived after Percept's demographics identified the community of Westfield as a fast-growing suburban area comprised largely of younger families, half Catholic and half either Protestant or the unchurched.

Since the Presbytery already had a number of really good traditional churches, they were looking for an alternative that might attract people who wouldn't go to a "normal" church. Lohe, who had already been doing work on how to attract the unchurched to a body of faith in his North Carolina church, felt drawn to this new church start for that very reason. As it turned out, it was not the unchurched, but the dechurched that Lohe's ministry would end up attracting. Today over 85% of his church are made up of these folks—with the other 15% being either the formerly unchurched or transplanted from another church.

It's a brave undertaking. And not one that most ministers are willing to take on. In her book, The Church and the Dechurched, Mending a Damaged Faith, pastor/author Mary Tuomi Hammond talks candidly about the difficulty in ministering to the dechurched. "Ministry to 'the one' [dechurched] is time intensive, profound and filled with contradictions," says Hammond using the analogy of Jesus leaving the 99 to go after the one. "'The one' often has more questions than the ninety-nine combined. 'The one' has buried sorrows that require patience and gentleness to unearth and heal. 'The one' may be bent on going his or her own direction...off the beaten trail, perhaps too unorthodox for the ninety-nine, too needy, too confused, or even too cynical. Jesus is clear. "The one" will not be found without the dogged pursuit of the determined shepherd, the faithful pastor, the helpful neighbor, the loving friend, or the persevering spouse...but the joy of finding the one lost sheep belonged to the gathered community, not just the single shepherd. When the lost was found, the whole people of God appropriately threw a party."

Perhaps that explains the party atmosphere you so often feel at CrossRoads. Undeniably, there's great joy in having worked through the angst of questioned faith and come out on the other side. That kind of passion unleashes creativity which is the reason, perhaps, that CrossRoads feels so unchurchy, so free. Much of that creativity comes from their vision and from tapping into an incredible wealth of gifts that are represented in the body.

Lohe believes it is his job to help release those gifts. And that can only be done, he believes, by dispensing of the pastor-centric model and instead training up and releasing leaders—mature disciples who are actively engaged in the Great Commission.

"The people who have had church experience, but have largely had a bad experience in some way—these are who were attracted to our ministry and who we are now seeking to serve, " says Lohe. "Our members come from across all denominational lines—Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran—we get them all," says Lohe. "And what our mission has been is to help those people understand why—the experience they had, why they had it and how God can help them heal and help them move on from that." And moving on is just what dechurched members like Kevin Chobot and Tom and Sherry Goins have done—in some amazing ways.

When 34-year old Kevin Chobot left home to go to college, he also left behind the church of his childhood. Raised the very model of a modern Presbyterian, Kevin did not abandon his belief in God, he just didn't see any reason to go anymore. For him, church was little more than a place where he was always told to behave—something he admits  he had a hard time doing. After all, church—like the library—seemed made
for misbehavin'. During his long absence from the community of faith he studied hard, partied a little, then began his climb up the corporate ladder. "My religion was me," says Kevin, "and it seemed pretty satisfying." He made a few obligatory attempts at reconnecting with a church over the years, but it took decades and a series of "coincidences" that ended with them moving to Westfield and then Kevin's wife, Jennifer, starting to attend CrossRoads, until Kevin found himself back in the fold. Today Kevin is not only one of CrossRoad's most passionate people, he is also one of their most active Missions recruiters. Committed to taking a new church that isn't currently doing Missions with them on their annual Mexico missions trips, Kevin has singlehandedly recruited dozens of people from several surrounding Presbyterian churches to join them in building houses.

This new-found passion for helping others—especially the poorer, homeless people in Mexico—was nothing short of miraculous, to hear Kevin tell about it. He credits his transformation to both the Holy Spirit and to Eric. While Kevin may not have wrestled with the deep issues that many dechurched people have, he still needed to feel the unconditional acceptance of where he was on his spiritual journey, while at the same time allow himself to be challenged at intervals to give of himself to help others.

"The way that Eric engages people and the way that CrossRoads engages people, is to give them something to do and trust them with it—whether it be leading a missions trip, whether it be taking care of any aspect of the church," says Kevin. "And one of the key things that I've noticed about him is that he makes sure that he does it in the right order."

"Dechurched people are often very spiritually astute and searching people," says Lohe. "Yes, it could be easy to judge them and say, 'Oh, they left the church what could they be like!' Yet, what I have found is that often there is a lot going on there and the reason they are here is because they are seeking to be faithful to God, and that is of great value. And to try and pull them back into the community of faith where they can share and use those gifts and help explain that journey and connect with other people who are also on that journey, is I think, what our task is as a church."

Tom and Sherry Goins are another example of the CrossRoads success in both attracting and then developing disciples from the dechurched. For the most part, Tom who grew up Methodist, had been out of the community of faith for decades. A manufacturers rep, he traveled extensively and looked forward to Sundays as a day when he could completely veg out. Due to his being placed in a ministry that did not suit his spiritual gifts, his one attempt to reconnect with a church was  dismal. Sherry also had a dissapointing and painful experience which left her traumatized. She was the first to reconnect. Visiting CrossRoads at the invitation of a friend, Sherry fell instantly in love with the church, especially the contemporary band and Eric's message. Curious to know why his wife was spending so much time in this new church, her husband decided to check it out. "Well, it's a little different" was his initial response. But before long he was hooked, so hooked that within just a few months he volunteered to co-lead a bible study along with

his wife.

That wasn't the first surprise that Tom gave his wife. Or the pastor. Just recently he gave the church that had become his second home an amazing gift—10 acres of his 150-acre family farm. It is on these 10 acres where The Barn now sits—a landmark that has become a gathering place for members of the community. Tom's step out of the Lazy Boy Chair and back into church had taken him further down the road than either of them could imagine. And for that, Sherry is immensely grateful to God.

"In a relatively short time my husband had gone from never going to church to leading a 34-week bible study, to suddenly giving away part of the family farm for the Lord," says Sherry. It blew me away because this
is a man who is a family farm person and I just didn't think he would ever do anything like that. So it has been so awesome for me to sit back and see how God has worked—in both of our lives."

"I think part of the reason that it's so easy for people to open up to us is because most of us have been where they are," says Kevin. "And speaking for myself I guess, it's also because I really am the same person—inside church and outside. I don't change who I am for where I am." And I think when you are working with the dechurched and the unchurched you have to be sincere and genuine. Which means that you are going to have to find out who you are and be that person."

This is perhaps a key factor in the success of dechurched people who have reconnected to being so relatable to those still outside the faith community—whether they be dechurched or unchurched. Long-time church-goers, on the other hand, tend to forget what it feels like to be outside the faith. That sometimes makes them un-relatable.

"If you're uncomfortable with people swearing and drinking, then maybe you haven't hung around enough swearing and drinking people," says Kevin.

Kevin knows about swearing. During his first sermon at church, in which he was understandably nervous, he inadvertently punctuated his message with an unplanned expletive. No one gasped or walked out. Instead, after a long silence, they broke out in uncontrollable laughter. Kevin knew then, if he didn't know it before, that he had truly found his home.

For Kevin, his wife Jennifer and Sherry and Tom, CrossRoads has become just that, another home. They have discovered something that many Christians have yet to discover—not only the joy of being connected to a faith community but the inherent power within.

The results of such labor-intensive recovery work on the part of Lohe is nothing short of phenomenal, that is, if one can go by the changed lives of formerly dechurched people like Tom and Sherry Goins and Kevin Chobot.

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