By Mike Willis
Several years ago, the Crossroads church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida began to draw national attention. Ira Rice rarely published an issue of Contending for the Faith without devoting some attention to the Crossroads movement. Some early articles had trouble elucidating the problem at Crossroads. Several years have passed and one is able to write more clearly about the Crossroads movement for we are well beyond the crossroads and able to see where the philosophy and doctrines espoused at Crossroads lead.
The Crossroads church in Gainesville, Florida was formerly known as the 14th Street church. They changed their name to “Crossroads” for they were at a crossroad in their thinking. Would they continue in the mainstream of liberalism and walk in the path which other liberal churches were walking or would they venture into new fields and try something different? They were at the crossroads and chose to reject the option of staying in the “traditional” path walked by most liberal churches in order to cut a new path into territory previously unwalked by churches of Christ.
Crossroads Is A Big Liberal Church
Whatever one might not be able grasp about other aspects of the Crossroads groups, he should have no trouble grasping that the Crossroads movement is thoroughly committed to and entrenched in liberalism.
The 1982 Budget of the Crossroads church listed these expenditures:
World Bible School $5,600
Alan Cloyd, Restoration Ministry 600
Bus Ministry 12,600
Christian Family Services 45,000
Kitchen Supplies 4,000
The Crossroads church is a liberal church committed to ministering to the “whole man.” “God expects benevolence, personal and family counseling and every other ministry to be emphasized and utilized in seeking and saving the lost.”(1) Committed to this philosophy, the following programs were a part of their ministry:
1. Fanning Springs Development. A retreat with accommodations for about 250.(2)
2.Christian Family Services. 120 acres of land at Riegel Ranch were purchased for this facility.(3) Group care facilities at Riegel Ranch were projected to care for 40 to 60 children in 6-8 cottages. “We want to start with one cottage to house eight children with house parents. We estimate the first cottage will cost about $250,000. In addition, operating funds of about $100,000 per year must be raised.”(4)
4. Girl Scouts troops meet in their building.(7)
5. An annual “Play Day.” “Our annual Play Day will be coming up on Saturday, March 24 and will be held as usual at Fanning Springs. A nominal fee will be charged for the meal. A full day of games, recreation and sports activities are planned for the entire family.”(8)
6. Donations have been taken at times other than the first day of the week. “Our annual Bring Your Neighbor Day is coming up April 1. There will be two services that morning, the first at 9:30 and the second at 11:30. Following each service there will be a barbecue lunch and a program by the Crossroads Singers. On Wednesday evening, March 28, we will be taking donations to pay for the chicken.”(9) Churches which developed from the Crossroads movement have followed in their footsteps of not being content with the pattern of a contribution taken on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:1-2). The Boston Church bulletin wrote, “Our elders in Boston have provided us with an opportunity to meet the needs of the poor around the world by scheduling a Wednesday night contribution.”(10)
7. The Crossorads church receives donations from other congregations. In a bulletin stating that their Sunday worship attendance was 991 and their contribution was $12,679, the following statement appeared: “I want to bring you up to date on our fund raising for the new facilities. The initial response to our new building program has been tremendous. Despite a world-wide recession and economic problems in our country, our members and brothers and sisters around the country have given generously and have made sacrificial pledges.”(11) What a departure from the New Testament pattern in which one church sent another church money! In the New Testament, one church sent another church money to relieve the benevolent needs of its members (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8-9; etc.). The church in better financial circumstances sent to a church in worse financial circumstances, not the other way around.
8. Black History Weekend. The Crossroads church conducted a “Black History Weekend” in connection with Black History month. A musical drama entitled “We’ve Come This Far By Faith” was conducted at the Crossroads church.(12) Another concert was conducted in February 1988.(13)
9. Crossroads Singers. The Crossroads church formed a special group of singers called “The Crossroads Singers” who entertain at the worship services and conduct special concerts at Gainesville and around the country.(14) They have produced several albums for sale through their ministry, including a Christmas album entitled “Holiday Souvenirs.” In their advertising brochure, the Crossroads church explains the function of this group,
The Crossroads Singers are an integral part of the total work of the congregation. Their local concerts serve as an effective way to share with the community the message of committed Christian living. The Singers are used in conjunction with evangelistic crusades, vacation Bible schools, and special services.
10. A day care center.(15)
The Crossroads church is a big, liberal church. In this respect, the Crossroads church is identified with the liberal churches across this country which have redefined the work of the church to include fields of work not authorized by God. Every passage of Scripture which has been used to condemn other liberal churches for being involved in the social gospel applies with equal force to the Crossroads church and its satellites.
Crossroads’ Unique Features
Despite the objections which most of us would have to the Crossroads movement, these are not the objections of their sister liberal churches. Across the country, objections began to be made to the Crossroads church and her satellites. Here are some of the common objections to the Crossroads movement:
1. The Prayer Partner. Following the principles enunciated in Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism, the Crossroads brethren developed a plan in which “every member must have a master – someone must be designated for every member to serve as his master . . . called ‘prayer partners’. . . . The prayer partner functions much in the same way a Catholic priest functions.”(16) The prayer partner system is used to exert pressure on the member to control his conduct.
2. A restructured organization in which the preacher and a group of “soul talk leaders” make up the leadership of the congregation.(17) Chuck Lucas at Crossroads was the leader of the Crossroads movement, even though there were elders in the local church. A new theology of organization began to evolve in the Crossroads churches in which a commitment to the preacher predominated.
3. Total Commitment. No Bible believer is opposed to total commitment to Jesus; however, many are opposed to the Crossroads philosophy of total commitment. “Total commitment at Crossroads, according to all that I can find out, involves slavish loyalty to the Crossroads program and its leaders, the giving of large sums of money to the cause, even if one has to borrow it . . . and giving up their jobs to devote more time to the Crossroads cause.”(18) Slavish commitment to a human leader and man-made rules brought objections from many different parts of the country where Crossroads satellites existed.
Nevertheless, this was just the crossroads. The Crossroads church was not content to stay at the crossroads; they were determined to move beyond the crossroads. We will relate this development in the next issue.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 7, pp. 194, 214-215
April 7, 1988