Pictured Above: Pictured left to right: CrossLife East Worship Arts Associate Patrick Henderson, Pastor Doug Osborn, Students and Community Outreach Minister Elijah Barnes holding a banner outlining the future CrossLife East property.
ORLANDO— CrossLife East church saw significant growth in attendance, commitment and giving during the COVID-19 pandemic–one of the toughest seasons in ministry across the globe. While transitioning to hosting church online was a challenge, the young Orlando church didn’t sway in their cohesiveness or dedication as a church family.
“We found a home at CrossLife East campus,” said church member Kathy Guzman. “For the past two years, my family has had a community to learn, grow and serve with. Through the pandemic, we shifted to using Zoom for small groups, prayer and children’s ministry and saw even more growth and unity.”
“We’re ready for the next level of having our own building we can call home.”
CrossLife Church in Oviedo, formerly known as First Baptist Church in Oviedo, planted CrossLife East in 2013. This September, the east campus will celebrate its eighth anniversary.
CrossLife Church’s senior pastor, Dr. Dwayne E. Mercer, saw the need for the gospel in East Orlando, a community with a burgeoning population and numerous up-and-coming neighborhoods. “The dream I had for the east campus when we started over seven years ago was to purchase property, build a building and continue to grow into a thriving, gospel-centered, evangelistic church. I see that dream being fulfilled.”
Currently, CrossLife East is meeting at Columbia Elementary School.
During the pandemic, the congregation “realized renting space was now a liability. The school was the first to shut down and last to reopen. We began to pray, in the middle of a pandemic, what God might have for us,” said campus pastor Doug Osborn.
Now, CrossLife East is moving to establish a permanent home, taking their church to the “Next Level,” the name of the home building campaign. Osborn cast a vision before the people to obey irrationally, give extravagantly, and pray big prayers as the foundation to “Next Level.”
“We were seeing great growth and impact, then COVID hit,” said the Missouri native. “In many situations, this would have closed the doors of smaller, growing churches. But not ours. During this time, we saw the faithfulness of our people grow.”
During this time, giving increased 30 percent compared to the previous year, exceeding their down-payment goal for the new land, and stabilizing church finances beyond what they were before the pandemic. This reality allowed Osborn to explore opportunities to widen their reach.
A team of leaders was established to take on the “Next Level” project in East Orlando. One of these leaders, Cristi Nemeth, was ready for the work and challenges of being a part of this team. “God has made His presence known and directed our footsteps towards the land we are in process of purchasing,” she said.
One day a church member learned the 40 acres of land right across the road from CrossLife East’s current meeting location was for sale by the Catholic Diocese of Orlando, even though there was no for-sale sign. The Diocese agreed to work with CrossLife and a contract was signed at an unexpected price. Surrounded by almost 3,000 homes and located on a main road where over 20,000 cars pass every day, the potential of the location to reach new believers made it was clear God was in control.
“God has been putting people in our path to help us and He has knocked down all opposition to our pursuit of this land,” Nemeth said as she shared this testimony of God’s provision.
“I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Catholic Diocese of Orlando is working with a Southern Baptist Church to address a need for God’s presence in East Orlando,” she said. “They have been very supportive and understand we have a common goal of bringing the light of Jesus to our community.”
Pastor Osborn promised the church two things when he began leading the church. “I promised that I would teach the word of God unapologetically and that we would be a church where serving is part of our DNA. Over the last three years, that is very much who we have been. A church that loves to serve our surrounding community.”
Even during the pandemic, the CrossLife East church body continued to pray for the spread of the gospel in their area and kept pursuing ministry opportunities despite health and safety obstacles.
“We had a swell of excitement about the possibility of buying some property,” Osborn reported. “A place where we can do ministry without restrictions. Through much prayer, God has provided a perfect spot for us. When it would have been so easy to not dream, the Lord put a dream in our hearts. “