The "light bulb" moment for starting CrossWinds Church came as John Merritt visited Willow Creek Community Church in the summer of 1987. This was at a time when John was pastoring a traditional Baptist church in the midwest, and when there was a discontentment in his heart about the built-in barriers most churches unintentionally create, making it difficult for outsiders to get inside.
John was moved to tears at Willow Creek as he experienced a church that was obviously atttracting thousands of diverse people at different places in their spiritual journeys. There was no doubt in John's mind and heart that God was calling him to start a new church that was welcoming, authentic, not confusing, and very much "come as you are."
The question of where to start this new church was solved as John did his own demographic studies as to where the highest non-churchgoing populations existed in the United States. This narrowed his search to the San Francisco Bay Area and the Seattle area. Using his parent denomination to assist him, the decision process brought the Merritt family to Pleasanton in February of 1988.
God made it clear that he was orchestrating this entire venture early on as John was able to identify a core group of people who shared his vision for launching a new kind of church. By summer of 1988, 7,000 square feet of warehouse space was identified on Johnson Drive in Pleasanton and built-out of that space began in earnest.
In September, a crazy idea was implemented - a telemarketing campaign was utilized to get the word out about a new church coming to town. With a phone bank and cross-directories in hand, volunteers made 20,000 phone calls inviting people to the first service scheduled for November 6. This generated a mailing list of 2,000 interested, non-churchgoing people - not knowing if any of them would actually show up that first Sunday. But our small, hard-working team was richly rewarded as nearly 300 people entered the freshly painted auditorium at our first public service.
From that day on, the church literally grew by leaps and bounds. Within three years, we were running four services in order to accommodate everyone attending. A major shocker was when we lost our lease at the three year mark, forcing us to move into the Pleasanton Middle School for six months while our current warehouse space in Dublin was identified and built-out. We have been in this location since 1993.
In 1997, 25 amazing acres of property was purchased on the south side of Highway 580 just to the east of El Charro Road. Since that time, we have been working and planning to build a new church home - a painstaking journey filled with challenges and setbacks. Most recently, in partnering with the City of Livermore, plans are in place to sell our original 25 acres in order to build on a 40 acre parcel just two lots to the east of our currently owned property. The property has freeway visibility and will be a phenomenal ministry location for generations to come.
If you were to ask John Merritt what he loves most about CrossWinds, he would tell you that it is the Christ-honoring grace and compassion the church extends to all people - particularly to people who find themselves in difficult and troubling life situations. Closely related to this is that the church honors the integrity of people in different places in their spiritual journeys. This is truly the heartbeat of what makes CrossWinds Church the special community that it is.