by Jim Boyle
After 18 months of relative obscurity running out Westwood Elementary School, The Crossing Church’s Zimmerman campus has moved into its newest permanent facility in the former Lane’s grocery store.
The church will host its first Sunday church service May 22. Most of the 150 parishioners who found The Crossing tucked away in the school setting will file into a modern setting offered up primarily for “people who don’t do church.”
It will be hard for Zimmerman residents to tell they once roamed up and down grocery aisles there. Some time has passed since the longtime grocer moved to a bigger and better location along the highway, and the building was gutted and remodeled after they left to make way for other businesses. Very little had to be done to convert the facility to a church.
“It will be our nicest location,” said the Rev. Eric Dykstra, the lead pastor of this growing and thriving church based in Elk River. It has campuses now in Zimmerman (there’s even a fountain), Big Lake (at a bar) and Princeton.
Believers sense the divine hand of God as “The Crossing” moved in and toward its goal of 200 church campuses in 20 years.
The Crossing, however, will be reaching out more to doubters than believers. It’s not after people who have a church and a connection with their Lord and savior. It’s after those who haven’t been to church for years — or ever.
Dykstra estimates for every 10 guests it attracts, only one will be become a member. But those that do seem to develop a fire in their belly to be disciples. Volunteering is part of the deal at The Crossing.
“We don’t want people just to attend church,” he said. “We don’t want anybody taking up a seat for somebody who is broken and far from God.”
Those in the community of Zimmerman who don’t presently attend church are invited to come and consider Christ.
“We’re for everyday beer-drinking, McDonald’s-eating American men and their families,” Dykstra said.
The Zimmerman campus of The Crossing Church will have three kids classrooms and a nursery, offices, a lobby, mini-bookstore and room for 200 chairs. To start with, chuch services will be at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Eventually, a Wednesday evening service will start to help those who drive up north to cabins on the weekend, and ultimately there will be classes during the week, too.
Those who choose to become members are asked to accept Jesus Christ as their forgiver and leader. Nearly 1,000 people did that on Easter on the four campuses of The Crossing. Another 214 were baptized. More than 6,000 attended services. Granted, only about 2,700 attend each Sunday on average, but that’s up 1,000 from a year ago.
“We want the communities we’re in to be the hardest places to go to Hell from,” Dykstra said.
The Crossing Church is organized into volunteer teams so people are pastored and they care for others in their team. They are assisted by 28 staff, about half of which are pastors between the four campuses. Congregants from Zimmerman will be encouraged to worship in Zimmerman.
“We don’t want to be a drain on the town,” Dykstra said. “We want people to volunteer in their own town. That’s where their friends are. These towns matter to God.”
Milaca, St. Cloud, Buffalo, Anoka and Ramsey are next on the congregation’s radar. Dykstra, predicts the church will take the community of Zimmerman by storm.
At least that’s the plan, and Dykstra has no doubt it can happen. It’s his calling.
A framed print of Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds him daily of how much can be done when there’s a vision, a calling and follow through.
The print states: “Genuine leaders have the ability to articulate, initiate, and follow through on their vision.”
Dykstra knows the quote describes King. He prays it describes him in the years to come.
“I wish more pastors were like King,” he said, “where they felt a calling, and pursued a vision like King pursued his.”