The Rev. Ed Short recalled the time he met a pastor who bragged that his church offered 97 programs to its congregation.
To Short, that was roughly 97 too many.
"When you've got 97 programs, you've got to invest time, energy and money into every single one of those programs," he said. "When you go simple, you can invest time, energy and money into people."
This time around, Short is going simple.
With 28 years in the pulpit, Short has ministered congregations from Michigan to New York City. He spent a year on the sidelines after a three-year stint as senior pastor of Grace Fellowship in Seven Valleys ended abruptly.
Short, who does church consulting for the Indiana-based CE National, started Crosspointe Community Church in early October with 23 people.
The church meets at 10 a.m. Sundays inside the Spring Grove Community Center and has quickly grown to about 65 members, said Short, of Jackson Township.
An independent church, Crosspointe gives new members a glossy card explaining what it is -- and isn't. It is "the simple church," the card reads. It isn't a "fancy schmancy building," "showy programs," "perfect people," or "pretension."
"We're trying to go low on programs and high on relationships," Short said. "We want people walking away every single week with one simple truth about what God is."
As for Crosspointe beliefs, Short said, "if the Bible says it, I would
'Hated every minute'
Crosspointe works for Mario Meola, 66, of Dover Township. A semi-retired pilot, Meola grew up in a Catholic church, which he left at age 19.
"I hated every minute of it," said Meola, adding that he was not "bashing" the Catholic Church. The demands of the Catholic Church did not sit well with the teenager.
"Maybe two or three years ago, my wife and I decided we really needed to find a church," Meola said. "We tried a few things
That was at Grace Fellowship. After going off on an extended trip in late 2011, the Meolas returned to learn Short had left the church.
When Short resurfaced last year teaching a Bible study class in northern Maryland, the couple began attending. When he formed Crosspointe, the Meolas were among the first to attend.
"He makes the Bible something we can all use in our everyday lives," Meola said. "The people are just wonderful and everything is just simple and everything is casual. Most of us just wear jeans most of the time."
Short is correct that Crosspointe is "not a typical church" in 2013. Most churches are offering everything from child care to marriage mentoring to grief counseling to health and fitness classes.
"Churches tend to overprogram and keep people really, really busy," Short said. "One of the frustrations an average pastor has is finding enough volunteers to run all those programs."
Crosspointe is offering just one program so far: a life skills class that reinforces the Sunday worship message in small groups that meet in homes of congregants.
Short said the goal is to equip every Crosspointe member to do ministry 24/7 as the opportunities arise. That might mean offering a prayer during a chance meeting with someone in a grocery store parking lot, for example, or something more involved.
"I guarantee you what you hear on Sunday, you will be able to use on Monday," Short
On May 11, 2008, Short was installed as pastor of Grace Fellowship. He took over a church that had been led by the Rev. Larry Katz for the previous 18 years.
During that time, Grace grew to weekly attendance of about 1,200 people and offered a packed schedule of programming. During Short's three years leading the church, officials have said popular staples such as the Christmas and Easter theatrical shows were scratched from the calendar.
The disenchantment between the church council and Short came to a head in the fall of 2011, when the pastor left the church. After a one-year search, the Rev. Michael Anthony was installed as Grace Fellowship's senior pastor on Nov. 25, 2012.
Anthony said the church is full of talented folks and he plans to bring all the shows back.
"We think the people here are great," he said in November. "We've fallen in love with them."
For his part, Short said all kinds of churches are needed to serve all different kinds of people.
"I have nothing but positive things to say about (Grace)," he added. "I think God allowed that situation to come about so we could start Crosspointe. I pray God does great things for them."
Crosspointe plans an "official" launch March 31. Short said there are no plans to seek an official church building. Not when they can pay $140 a week to rent space.
"You're investing a lot of money in buildings," he said. "I'd rather invest it in people."
If you go
What: Crosspointe Community Church
When: 10 a.m. Sundays
Where: Spring Grove Community Center, 50 N. East St., Spring Grove