To friends of CrossLife:
We send greetings in the name of our Holy King and Savior, Jesus Christ. We hope this message finds all of our friends doing well and prospering in their relationship with our Father.
The past year and a half has been an arduous and sometimes painful journey. We have not shared much information with you, because we have been busy in the harvest. However, as of late, we have felt the time has come to share the realities and some details about our adventures here in Southaven, MS.
Many people have visited our website and our personal blog’s in order to see what is going on here. We fear that these sources of information have often caused more confusion than necessary. Many things have been taken out of context and/or misunderstood. Many people tend infer what they think we are saying, rather than simply listening to our hearts cry. Much of the confusion has been caused by a lack of clarity, most often due to our lack of communication skills. So, if you’re angry, agitated, curious, saddened, convicted, or any other potential reaction to our ramblings, please read on. We hope to clarify some things.
- We are practitioners of what is now commonly referred to by some folks as simple/organic/house church. Why? Because that is what God has placed within our hearts. We didn’t make these terms up. They are just being used by a wide range of people to describe a world-wide movement that is taking place within the Body of Christ. We are not perfect, and this doesn’t come without its struggles. Please understand, we don’t think we are better than anyone else, just different. The way we think about our relationship with Christ and our relationship with the church is different. Our current understanding of past experiences, observations of present realities, and Scripture has led us to our position. We have NOT been unduly or blindly persuaded by anyone or group. We have made determined, purposeful, and thoroughly researched and prayed through decisions about where we are and where we believe God is leading us. We don’t claim to have arrived, but instead acknowledge the fact that we are in process.
- We are NOT against institutional/traditional church. If this is the sphere God has placed you to serve Him, that is fantastic. Who are we to question God’s working in your life? Let it be understood what we mean by institutional church. We identify it as that form of church which arises out of history with a set structure of practice, programming, financing, professional clergy and volunteer laity, and a varied assortment of traditions, depending on the denomination or affiliation, of which most Christians in America are closely associated with. While these practices and structures may not be inherently wrong, they are also not found within the context of Scripture, and, therefore, are not NECESSARY for the people of God to be the church representing Christ.
- We are, at the same time, NOT huge proponents of institutional church. Why? Because we see much of what HAS to be done inside the institution as distracting from Jesus’ mission of simply making disciples of HIS Way. (i.e. buildings, budgets, programs, structures, conformity to certain “rules” that exist outside of Scripture, etc.) This doesn’t mean that we have withdrawn from or are against institutional churches. Further, we believe we can work together to bring Christ to our nation.
- We are very orthodox in our beliefs. We are affiliated with the American Baptist Association of Churches. Our “doctrine” is biblical and aligns fully with historical Baptist teachings. Most of our friends, and unfortunately also our detractors, are within this fellowship. While our practices may not be common among our fellowship, our beliefs are. I hope that in time all who are confused and even negative about our path, will come to see this truth. We are NOT heretics, confused, misguided, “tossed about”, or any other reference to our current positions and/or ignorance that may be used. We fully acknowledge that the word “Baptist” does not appear in the “name” of our church. Frankly, we don’t see the big deal about this and refuse to argue pointlessly about it. Instead, we choose to be identified by our actions rather than our name or set of beliefs. We are simply CrossLife. Our life exists only for the glory of the One who died on the cross to give us the very life He gave up. Our hope is that CrossLife will actually become a network of simple churches that gather throughout the Memphis metro area, and ultimately the world, which exist for the sole purpose of helping lives transform into disciple-makers for Jesus Christ. The way we seek to do that is by being available for God to use to influence one life at a time. If He sees fit to do more with that, it is His business. After all, Jesus said He would build His church, not us.
- We are not different just to be different. Our path is not one of rebellion against the establishment. We fully believe we are on the path that God has led us to travel. It is certainly not conventional, but nothing we are doing is outside the bounds of Scripture. In fact, we can easily show you where our practices fully align with Scripture. Please understand, we were not originally looking for this path. In fact, our original goal was to plant a very traditional functioning church. We soon realized that this was not the desire God had placed in our hearts, and thus began a thorough search for what God was leading us to do. We have not arrived, but are fully persuaded that we are on the right path. This has been a frightful, aggravating, persecuted, misunderstood, misrepresented, and very difficult journey thus far. Some of our “friends” have only served to add to our torments; however, we also have true friends that have been sources of encouragement, love, grace, and mercy. I choose not to list them here for fear of people taking out their own insecurities on these friends, which has, by the way, been a common practice thus far. We are very thankful for those have been our friends through the toughest of times.
- We don’t take criticism lightly. We understand that in both positive and negative criticism God has something for us to learn. We have received very hurtful emails and phone calls from “brothers” who seemed to have axes to grind. The rumor mill has churned out all sorts of lies and fantasies about what we are or are not doing here. Some of these have brought pain, but some of these have been used by God to point out our own egos and arrogance. These are issues, we are still repenting of. Yet, even with the most hurtful words, God has continued to lead us. WIth that being said, anyone who wishes to dialogue with me about our decisions may feel free to call me at 662.393.8733.
- Our support is primarily from our own personal jobs/businesses. However, we do want to point out some loving and caring folks who sought to help us. First, we want thank the Steve Peace family. Their children were heavily involved in our youth ministry in Magnolia, AR. They have faithfully sent us money every month to help us carry on our ministry here. We especially send kudos out to Matt Peace who was in our teenage group. This past summer he worked at a Christian youth camp. At the end of the summer, he sent to CrossLife ¼ of his tithe to help our efforts in the harvest. Thank you, Matt. Second, we thank Bethany #1 MBC in Grapevine, AR. Austin’s dad has pastored there for a number of years, and led them to be regular and faithful supporters of our work for quite some time. Thank you. Finally, we recognize the contribution of Trinity BC in West Memphis, AR. This church shared a vision for planting a disciple-making church in the Olive Branch/Southaven area. This vision, unfortunately, came as a result of a church dying. The former pastor of this church, Liberty MBC, was left with all the assets which consisted of over $100,000 and 3 acres of property. He, as a very faithful and honest steward, handed these assets over to Trinity for a new church to be planted in the same community the original church existed. Many thanks and admiration is given to Greg and Melinda Kelly for their faithful service to our King. These assets were ultimately handed over to us. In addition, for the first several months of our arrival to Southaven, Trinity sent each of our families $400 a month. This was to help offset some of our costs of living, which had significantly increased. A small portion of the original assets were used at various times to help members of our ministry team. These funds along with our own offerings have also bought several dozen Bibles and other discipleship tools, meals for homeless and poverty stricken families, a warm bed for a few people to sleep in, our own educational development, and a sizable down payment on a ministry house. This house was originally purchased as a place for single guys who were struggling in life to live for low costs as they got on their feet. At the time, we were working with several young men who needed strong accountability and guidance, plus a place to stay. This ministry was short-lived for a variety of reasons and we were left with an empty house, to which our team decided to allow my family to move into. This has been a huge blessing for our family, to which we are very thankful to God. CrossLife, also, uses this house for our weekly gathering on Sunday evenings. Both we and the Taylor family regularly invite people to dinner and other activities opening our homes to people in our community. Our house now serves as somewhat of a “home-base” for our ministry efforts. Ultimately, my family will buy our own home, and CrossLife will sell this property for a sizable profit for, which we hope will only serve to further our stewardship of the resources God has blessed us with.
We, again, hope this serves to bring a little clarity to what we are doing here in Southaven, MS. We have tired of the rumors and lies that only serve to detract us from our mission to make disciples of Jesus. Our only desire is for people to know the truth. We appreciate all those, and they are many, who have helped us through prayers and words of encouragement. For every negative attack we received, we had at least 10 positive experiences.
In addition to what we are and how we live out our faith, there are the people we have encountered. Space or time does not allow us to share all the stories we have lived and encountered. We have ministered to single moms, former strippers, prostitutes, homeless, drug addicts, homosexuals, pagans, and self-proclaimed atheists. We have fed the hungry and housed the down-trodden. We have met face-to-face with the bitter realities of life on the streets of Memphis, which leads the country in violent crime. We have had people arrested in our homes and even had to take one friend to jail ourselves. We have rescued some from within hours of their certain death. Through all of this our minds have been opened to the reality of the brokenness around us. Some of these situations left us desperate for comfort for ourselves, while others have motivated us to never give up. I will be using the “Trenches” section of this blog to share some of these stories in the future, so be sure to check that out over time.
May God be glorified.
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