“Metaphorically speaking, the church is a spiritual hospital. It is where sin-sick, hurting people come to receive spiritual, emotional and physical healing. The church is a soul-saving station, a maternity ward for birthing new souls” – Bro. Tommy Crutchfield, BSN, RN, EMT-P, pastor of Life United Pentecostal Church in Hinesville, Georgia.
PRINCIPLES OF GROWTH & REVIVAL
As pastor of a church perceived to be a revival church, Bro. Crutchfield shared what he believes to be the most important keys to building a growing church. “We were called to Hinesville in 2003,” he explained. “We had the traditional Sunday night service blowouts, but Sunday mornings were really slow. We started pushing for a great church service on Sunday morning. Then the growth began. It wasn’t a sudden flood of people but rather a consistency in attendance.
We kept up with our averages by charting it. Not that everything was in numbers, but it was a gauge to see where we were. The first year we saw some services grow from the thirties to eighties. Then the next year we averaged in the nineties. Then around the third year we crossed the 100-member barrier. After five years, we hit 120. At 10 years, we went up to 150. Then, about year 12, we reached 200. Now we are averaging 260 for the year. The problem is we only have 225 seats. It’s time to build again.
“Surprisingly, one of the growth methods that has worked in our church for increasing attendance is when we went to one service on Sundays. We saw growth from this, I believe, because we began to pour so much passion into that one service of music, drama, preaching — all amped up. The services grew and the church also grew. We utilize the Sunday nights for department meetings and organization.”
FOCUS AND PRIORITIES
Bro. Crutchfield also shared his thoughts on a pastor’s priorities. “With soul winning being our top priority, we have focused on having good church and children’s ministry. The best way to grow a great youth group is through ministry to children. We started having programs just for the kids.
“The first Sunday that we had a children’s church, a new young couple came with their children. We had a powerful service. It seemingly did not move the parents at all, but as they came out to the car, one of our members overheard the kids begging the parents to come back to our children’s church; consequently, they have made our church their church home.
“We have continued with children’s church every Sunday. We have two different age groups and average about 50 children in those areas. If you reach the children, the parents will come. I believe this still works. When they asked Jesus who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, He set a child in the midst of them. If we care about the kids, He will take care of the church.
“I teach our leaders to always ‘give it your best.’ Fresh paint, clean furnishings, up-to-date décor all create an ambience that reaches out to this generation. I started out saying, ‘If you want to be a big church, you have to act like a big church.’ Someone came and said, ‘They are the biggest little church we have been to.’ When I heard that, I knew we were heading in the right direction.”
DEPARTMENTS and MINISTRIES
With a variety of ministries at Life UPC, Pastor Crutchfield shared how these ministries are affecting the community. Along with a thriving Children’s Ministry, they also have special Sundays each month designed to encourage everyone to reach out and invite the community. “We try to pour extra into these services and have modified them to fit our church and city,” he explained.
They focus on 15 special Sundays: All Nations Sunday, Easter, Pentecost Sunday, Youth Takeover, I Love My Church (everyone wears their Life UPC shirts), Graduation, Back to School, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Kids’ Service, Where Do You Fit? (the entire month is designed to engage new members and introduce them to what Life UPC has to offer), Life Family Thanksgiving Service and Dinner, and the Christmas program.
Pastor Crutchfield said, “We also have a Food Ministry for Thanksgiving meals, All Nations meals, and Veterans Day picnic. If you feed them, they will come. Each month, on Saturday, we provide groceries for well over 100 people. This ministry has grown. This year (2019) we fed over 1,800 people and gave away almost 40,000 pounds of food. This is our community ministry. We have started taking food to several neighborhoods we adopted. Since then, our bus ministry has been bringing those kids to our church.
“We are now starting a Medical Ministry on the Saturday we do the food ministry. I am an RN, and my wife and I both have a background as paramedics, so we have a burden to help people medically as well as spiritually.
“Also, our Music Ministry works very hard at staying up-to-date and relevant with music. This passion pours over into our services.”
ORGANIZATION & MANAGEMENT
Pastor Crutchfield meets with the various department and ministry leaders of Life UPC every Sunday morning at 9:15. “We have planning meetings each week on Tuesdays at noon,” he said. “We have a leaders’ retreat/planning session yearly to review our past year’s accomplishments and plan for the following year. We spend three days planning and team building. At our weekly Tuesday meeting, we currently utilize a conference call using Zoom. It gives us the ability to screen share, as well as join in by phone or app. We do this type of format because we have several volunteer leaders. They are often able to join on lunch breaks for the meetings. They help us dot the I’s and cross the T’s. We have Sunday evening monthly meetings for ministry and leadership training. Our evangelism pastor and director of ministry training coordinates this event.
“We try to get everyone involved in the church immediately. If people ‘buy in’ by investing their time, they are more likely to become involved in the church. Our church has a 3-tier training class we call “Firm Foundation.” Everyone that wants to get involved must begin with these classes. The first tier covers basic doctrine such as Oneness, Acts 2:38 salvation, faithfulness, and tithing. The second tier covers character, fruit of the spirit and family dynamics. The third tier goes into spiritual gifts, holiness and spiritual warfare.
“There are certain areas at Life UPC you can get involved in by just starting the class. Other ministries you must be past level one or two. To be involved in ministry or a Sunday school teacher, you must graduate from Firm Foundation, which is 18 weeks long. This is required for someone brand new to the gospel or new to our church.”
“We came to Hinesville in March of 2003, averaging 8-12 people in attendance at the midweek service and about 25 on Sundays,” said Pastor Crutchfield. “The first building was built by our founder Billy J. Wilson and the second slab was poured with funds from SFC. The third building was built in 2009. The Lord told me to build it, and He promised to pay for it from outside sources. At the time, we only had children and members on fixed incomes.
“The outreach methods we used in those early years were prayer, maps and door knocking.”
CURRENT FACILITY & FUTURE EXPANSION
In describing the current facility, Pastor Crutchfield said, “Our existing building is 8,500 square feet. It seats 225. As you can see, our average of 259 is higher than our current seating capacity. We utilize overflow spaces and other ministries that run parallel with our main service such as nursery and children’s church. We are in a capital campaign to build a new sanctuary that will be 12,500 square feet. Our new building will seat 700-1000.
“It was through a unique circumstance that allowed us to acquire this current facility. Though there are more details to the story, basically we received a prophecy that the Lord wanted to pay our new sanctuary off in one year. One year later, we received a check from a foreign country for $185,000. God did just what He said He would do!
“Future growth plans, as far as facilities are concerned, are that we are in year three of a capital campaign. We are close to breaking ground. Our rate of growth is a little over 10 percent average growth each year for the past 15 years.”
MINISTRY & PERSONAL HISTORY
Pastor Crutchfield grew up in Rome, Ga. He was not raised in church. “My wife, Shanna, and I were paramedics with the local EMS service when we received the Holy Ghost,” he explained. “I was 25 years old. After having the Holy Ghost for about two years, God began calling. Being an introvert, I never imagined God would use me in pulpit ministry. Up to that point, I had worked behind the scenes in sound, outreach and playing drums. Through education, I received a BSN, RN, EMT-P. I did attend Texas Bible College when it was in Houston, Texas.
“Some of the men that have influenced my ministry were my pastor, Rodney Bankens, who taught me so much about preaching, studying, faithfulness and true Christian living. Bro. Tim Gray helped me in the area of spiritual warfare, leadership and learning to lead a group of people. Pastor Billy Wilson taught me dependability, church building and soul winning. I was 26 when I preached my first sermon at my home church in Rome, Georgia.
“I have been involved in almost every area of church work and ministry. Initially, I was behind- the-scenes sound, drums, cleaning and maintenance, bridging into Sunday school teaching, Bible studies, singing, youth chaperoning and outreach. Soon after, I went to Texas Bible School for theology. I moved back to Georgia and became assistant to the pastor. I became youth pastor and the sectional youth leader. In 2003, we tried out for Life UPC of Hinesville and the door opened.
Here, God has opened many other doors and I’ve been privileged to work as the Georgia District North American Missions secretary 2013-present, as Georgia District UPCI Sunday School director 2004-2012, Southeast Regional Sunday School director 2008-2010, NAM secretary, Missions to Uganda, GA Emergency Disaster point of contact and on CSI Emergency Medical Response teams.
“The Lord also opened a door for us to plant a daughter work, which is now a North American Missions autonomous church.”
FAVORITE SUBJECTS AND LEISURE TIME
The subjects that Pastor Crutchfield enjoys preaching the most about are hope, faith and healing from brokenness. He is serious about leisure time. “I love cruises and traveling,” he said. “That is how I relax. It is important for a minister to get out from under the load from time to time. We are the worst at not resting. Even though keeping the Sabbath was a commandment, we aren’t good as a whole at following this. It wears us down physically, spiritually and emotionally. I try to get away and unwind, then God fills me up and I am ready to go again. This helps me keep the passion and stay driven.”