Breaking Up Hard Soil
New England states symbolize hard soil for spreading the gospel. Leading cities such as Hartford, capital of Connecticut, hover in the bottom-10 of Bible-minded cities nationwide, according to Barna Group.
Yet Crossroads Community Cathedral (CCC) in East Hartford flourishes as the largest Assemblies of God church in the Southern New England Ministry Network. Shattering the region’s irreligious image, combined attendance at CCC’s four weekend services approaches 2,500 congregants.
“We have done the sacrificial work to build bridges to reach the lost,” says Terry Wiles, senior pastor.
Beginning as a storefront mission in 1951, CCC moved into a new building just before Wiles joined as pastor in 1981. Although he found the church spiritually solid, he realized there needed to be greater ethnic diversity to reflect the larger Latino community of the area. Today the church reflects a broader multicultural attendance, drawing people from many nations.
“We are classical Pentecostal and emphasize the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” Wiles says.
Wiles and his multiethnic staff of 20, including his son Sean who serves as executive pastor, work alongside 150 deacons and elders.
“We nurture servant leaders and train them,” he says. “One of their primary roles is praying for people at the altar.”
Invitations for salvation end every service. On average, around three dozen people give their lives to Christ every weekend.
Unchurched people from the community are invited to special events and plays. The annual Easter play The Passion of the King features a cast of hundreds and earns rave reviews as a Broadway-style production. It is produced in partnership with Brent Grosvenor, CCC’s director of theater arts, who founded the professional theater company Lights Up Productions. An estimated 45,000 people have attended performances since 2007.
Sean Wiles reports that 40 percent of the 4,000 people who watched the five performances of this year’s Easter play had not attended before, and 422 responded to a salvation invitation.
Planting churches overseas is another CCC priority, along with supporting more than 40 missionaries. CCC has launched or built 250 churches in Central America and 20 churches in Ethiopia, and is undertaking a new project to plant 100 congregations in Peru.
CCC’s next goal is starting five multisite campuses within a 20-mile radius of greater Hartford, home to 1.5 million residents. Eliezer Perez, former CCC youth pastor and now director of development, is steering the launch of the first multisite campus. Strategically positioned on the site of a 30,000 square-foot former dinner theater in East Windsor, Connecticut, it is 16 miles from the main church campus and 19 miles from Springfield, Massachusetts.
So far $1 million has been raised for the $4.5 million initial budget.
“I have seen God’s miraculous hand in every step of the project,” Perez says.
Crossroads will continue breaking up New England’s hard soil.
“God is challenging us in the same way as Gideon,” says Sean Wiles. “He has set before us an opportunity to reach this region for Christ.”