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The journey to the Crossroads District began 10 years ago. At the time, Power & Light referred only to the electric utility, not an entertainment district. But downtown's revitalization was coming, and Hamilton wanted his church to be a part of it. So he met with then-Mayor Kay Barnes as he considered building the church's main campus downtown. Ultimately, headquarters ended up in Leawood, at 137th Street and Roe, despite resistance from suburbanites who didn't want a million-square-foot religious supercenter in their backyards. The desire for a smaller-scale presence downtown remained, though.
"The idea was, if downtown is going to experience renewal, it can't occur through just new grocery stores and sports arenas," says Hamilton, who serves as the head pastor at the Leawood site and oversees the other branches. "There have to be communities of faith, too."
At the time, the church had about 10,000 members. As is the case today, most of them were not regularly attending church when they made their first Church of the Resurrection visit. The accepting atmosphere enticed them, and Hamilton's knack for weaving Christianity into 21st-century issues helped. As a result, people didn't just keep coming back for more but also encouraged their friends to go. The time to expand had arrived.
The second church site, Resurrection West, opened in Olathe in 2006. The church then began scouting locations in downtown Kansas City and in Blue Springs. The expansion push coincided with the fall of another area megachurch. Last year, Overland Park's First Family shut its 118,000-square-foot campus. Amid a pile of debt several million dollars high, First Family's pastor, Jerry Johnston, was making a lavish $400,000 a year, according to The Kansas City Star. The church's payroll had been almost as kind to members of Johnston's immediate family.
With the cautionary tale of the First Family megachurch perhaps on his mind, Hamilton tends not to utter that m-word. His, he says, is not a megachurch but many small churches in one. "First Family had a unique set of issues that created the situation there," he says. "Our situation is much different. We have processes and accountability structures put in place to protect our integrity."
Hamilton won't get into specifics on Church of the Resurrection's payroll and budget. He says, "We try to live what we preach."
Hamilton's plan to plant Church of the Resurrection's seed in the urban core was simple: Convince 100 members of the Leawood church to sell their homes and move downtown. The message: The suburbs no longer need you; it's time to breathe new life into the city.
Southern Johnson Countians didn't exactly line up to abandon their lush lawns and good schools. Just one couple sold their home and moved into an urban loft.
Hamilton, who has written 13 books and travels the country as a speaker, was in Detroit when he met his downtown answer: the Rev. Scott Chrostek, who was youthful and engaging, and knew how to close a deal. Prior to entering the ministry, Chrostek had put his economics degree to work by making 300 phone calls a day managing mutual funds.
"After 9/11, I was on the phone nonstop with people who were scared they were going to lose everything in the stock market," he says. "I was telling them that the only thing that had changed was that they couldn't control their money. I told them to focus on the things that mattered in life: their families, things that money didn't affect. And then I realized that I was preaching these things that I myself didn't do. I needed to make a change and begin filling my time with what mattered in life."