In publication since 1991, Wrangler News is distributed free every other Saturday to more than 18,000 homes in the Kyrene Corridor area of South Tempe and West Chandler, and is supported by local and regional advertisers.

  Search past and present issues of the Wrangler
    Site search Web search                       
   powered by
Classifieds Contact Us Links Media Kit Make a Payment Previous Issues

Back Home Forward
Third-generation pastor is
Crossing the line
By Georgann Yara

February 18, 2006

Here, live music reverberates off the ceiling. A tune by the ‘80s super-pop group The Go-Go's gets the day started and the crowd is drawn to a man sitting on a stool.

It doesn't take long to realize The Crossing Community Church is different from most others.

And for senior pastor Mike Harper, that's quite all right.

Last October, a two-year renovation project on the 20-year-old building at 2542 W. Warner Road, Chandler, culminated with The Crossing's first public Sunday service. It also allowed Harper's longtime vision—opening a church that catered to those who tend to stay away from churches—to become a reality.

Sitting on the steps of the main stage, Harper describes his inspiration, a church in Chicago that had 25,000 members.

"It catered to the non-churchgoer. Seeing that, it grew (in my head), it really resonated with me," said Harper, whose sermons are offered from on top of a stool instead of behind an altar.

"Our focus is not on the churchgoer or someone who has gone to church since they were a child. It's on the de-churched."

A live band plays contemporary music. Services incorporate what purists may consider secular themes. For example, over the holidays Harper used clips from the movie The Polar Express and lessons inspired by Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

"We have programs that resonate with people, that are practical and relevant to their life. (They show that) church can make sense, and people get it," Harper said.

"It's a very loose and informal structure."

But Harper and his fellow leaders at The Crossing use a highly strategic approach in getting word out to their neighbors.

A definitive marketing plan boasts a snazzy web site, color ads in print publications and a direct mail campaign. Downloadable video clips are available for those who wish to have the messages on their iPods.

The building, owned by the Assemblies of God, has been around since the early 1980s. During that time Harper said there have been three or four different churches before it entered a period of dormancy in 2003.

Using countless volunteer hours and $280,000 achieved through refinancing, Harper and two friends revamped the inside and outside of what had been a lifeless shell, getting rid of the old "Pepto-Bismol pink" and bringing in new furnishings and updated earthy and deco color schemes.

Everything, from the women's restroom that resembles one in a Scottsdale resort, to the $200,000 technology system that brings to life the screens, lights and sound system, is designed to make people comfortable and give them reasons to be there.

Harper, who lives in Chandler with his family, said that the church's name symbolizes "crossing the line into faith."

However, this could also apply to his unorthodox pastoral style, which crosses traditional stereotypes.

Harper chooses to eliminate any distance between himself and his members by talking with them instead of lecturing to them, and wearing jeans and a polo shirt, an ensemble similar to what they might be wearing. He is known simply as "Mike," sans any formal titles.

A third generation pastor originally from Texas, Harper admitted it took his own father a while to grasp the concept and characteristics. When he asked Harper how visitors would know he was the pastor since he lacked the attire and title indicative of traditional churches, Harper responded by asking him how could people distinguish him from the many members who donned suits and ties.

"He said, ‘They just know.'

And I said, ‘Well, that's the same thing. People just know. They feel it."


Photo by David Stone
































web site hit counter