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Jeff Schletewitz, from left, Greg Crocker, Lacey Phillips and Thomas Benzer talked about their church and its recent growth on McCall Avenue just south of Jensen Avenue.

Last week in Crosspointe Church’s Fellowship Hall, a group sat at tables arranged in a circle.

The 50 or so people attended the Sanger Community Task Force meeting Jan. 15 and discussed events, activities and leadership as they normally do every couple weeks in different locations throughout the area. Nobody who attended looked younger than their early 20s. Most were older.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But at Crosspointe, in the same building every Wednesday starting at 6 p.m., the demographics couldn’t be more different. The place usually fills with 45 to 50 kids, aged pre-kindergarten to sixth grade.

“It’s alive over there,” said senior pastor Greg Crocker.

And their conversations hardly resemble that of the task force. Likely there was no talk of bringing food to those less fortunate on the holidays, nothing about the efforts undertaken to help kids or bolster school safety and not a word about focus groups working to build a healthier community.

Yet, those of the younger set do discuss Scripture. The words of the Bible are no stranger to the children who participate in the AWANA, or Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, program, which is meant to help them learn the teachings of Jesus Christ and various holy verses through games, crafts and puppets. Diagrams taped to the carpet reflect the games used, just like those on a playground for foursquare.

Crosspointe is a busy place. And AWANA, just one of multiple programs, comes from 2 Timothy 2:15, which says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Crocker agreed to talk about his church after the task force meeting. He and board members Lacey Phillips, Jeff Schletewitz and Thomas Benzer explained how Crosspointe has grown and how the church has even formed a group to discuss possibly acquiring more land to accommodate it.

“In the last year to 18 months, we’ve seen about a doubling (in the size of the congregation),” Phillips said.

Several very noticeable changes on the church campus reflect that. Crocker said the church raised about $50,000 to put in a very sophisticated playground with equipment that rivals any in neighboring Clovis city parks. And the entire front of the church, which faces McCall Avenue just a little south of Jensen Avenue, is getting a facelift.

Concrete has been poured and forms laid out show that more is required around the front grand entry. A brand new sign that will light up as darkness falls complements the significant construction work.

Crocker said electricians were to get the sign completed in the next few days.

Schletewitz said they felt the upgrades were necessary. “It was built 100 years ago,” he said of the main building. “We’re keeping it relevant today. In Sunday school we’re using iPads.

“We’re alive with the Holy Spirit. We’re enthusiastically serving Christ.”

Sanger has quite a few churches, and many of the pastors and representatives belong to the task force, which strives to pool resources, share ideas and make decisions that improve Sanger’s quality of life. Pastor Sam Estes, who heads up the task force and seeks to expand the concept across the country with his nonprofit Communities Inc., said the group has been such a success, he’s gotten recruited by towns and cities thousands of miles away to replicate it.

And many of those churches in Sanger are vibrant and successful. Crosspointe, which is on the western edge of Sanger, is surrounded by grape fields and orchards. At night, few lights illuminate McCall.

However, that’s changing. The Sanger Unified School District just broke ground on its latest campus at the corner of Armstrong and Jensen avenues just down the street. The first part of the education complex is expected to open soon, and developers say that growth follows schools. The region is already the district’s fastest growing, and more new housing construction would only accelerate that trend. 

Another church opened in the area to take advantage of that expansion about a year and a half ago. Pastor Tito Villegas and his wife, Deanna, had their first service for RISE Church at Sequoia Elementary School, just to the west at Jensen and Armstrong. They intend to purchase land and build as soon as possible.

Crocker said he’s not so focused on bringing people into his congregation as he is bringing them to Jesus Christ. And in that regard, last year Benzer said his senior pastor brought more than 30 into the fold.

“I call this the biggest little church in Sanger,” he said.

Phillips led the small group into the nave of the church. She said the carpet is new, replacing a red precursor straight out of the 1970s, and the original pews have all been recovered. And changes went beyond the nave to the sanctuary and altar. “It was very, very red,” Phillips said of the old carpet.

In addition to all the construction and upgrades was a media system that can compete with any modern church. Crocker said he’s the one who built the church website at crosspointechurch.net, and it’s got the look and features of a page builder who’s a digital native. Phillips said he’s a natural and likes to unravel the mysteries of new electronic gadgetry.

“It’s a work in progress,” Phillips said, referring to the updates. “We call it the Church Modernization Act. We just kind of made that up, started with little projects.”

For instance, the pews were recovered in 2017, she said.

Also new to the church is the Celebrate Recovery program that began this month. Benzer said it’s 12-step and similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. “It’s based on the Beatitudes in the Bible,” he said. “We add biblical comparisons.”

The Beatitudes are blessings that Jesus talked about in his Sermon on the Mount and recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament in the Bible. One of the most commonly referenced is “Blessed are the meek for their will inherit the earth.”

Benzer said the program would start with about a dozen men.

Other programs include a youth group with about 30 kids from middle school to high school and a group of career-minded college kids, some of whom lend a hand at Sanger High.

“There’s so much going on,” Crocker said.

Crocker has been at the church about 15 years, a tenure broken into two parts. The first began in 1986 and the second about a decade ago.

“Our whole ministry is based on prayer,” he said. “We’re a diverse group.” And in his introduction on the website, he said, “Our mission is to connect people to Jesus and each other.”

As the interview for this story neared its end, Chaz Turmon, Crosspointe youth minister, arrived. Turns out, Crocker said, that Turmon also rides a bike, “and he’s fast.” 

Crocker and myself also ride, and generally we call ourselves cyclists but not fast.

Turmon and I actually went on a recent ride together, one organized by a mutual friend that was supposedly going to be about 64 miles. Turmon helped set the pace. I brought up the tail end and went out of my way about 10 miles after taking a wrong turn. Just a personal connection.

And that’s kind of the thing about Sanger. Everybody’s connected in one way or another. And Crocker said that’s a good thing. 

“It’s good we have a lot of churches in Sanger all working hard and doing the best they can,” he told the task force. “It’s a big job working with people, their families.”

And all of that makes Sanger a better place.

The reporter can be contacted by email at nemethfeatures@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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