Drive past Charlotte’s jagged skyline.
Head north up I-85 a ways, past the big speedway and the shopping mall.
You’ve come to Concord.
BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Wilson Moore, a church planter in Concord, believes in visiting people and offering them hope in Jesus.
Wander towards downtown. At some unmarked point not on a map, you pass into an area some locals call “The Bottoms.”
It once was a thriving mill village, but the mill closed. Jobs evaporated. Better stores closed or moved away. What’s worse: At least eight churches closed or moved away.
Three were Southern Baptist.
Poverty, crime, drugs, prostitution and gangs – violent gangs like highly publicized MS-13 – moved in.
Concord is a great city with many nice neighborhoods, one former policeman wrote in a published report. Just avoid The Bottoms, he cautioned people moving to town.
But Wilson and Tessa Moore did move in, two years ago. They knew the area, but came anyway. This is also a pocket of lostness – an area in which many people have no relationship with Christ.
They are planting a new church, partnering with Crosspointe Baptist Church, whose building sits a few miles away just off I-85, and with the Baptist State Convention’s Church Planting Team.
The Moores gathered a core group and started meeting in their small, third-floor, walk-up apartment – a hard fit for 20+ people in the early days. They moved on to a rented church building and then more recently have been considering moving to an empty school building.
They call it Crosspointe West Church.
Moore is a graduate of Fruitland Baptist Bible College, located in what Moore respectfully calls God’s Country, but most people call Hendersonville. He says when he steps behind the pulpit every Sunday, Bible in hand, there’s a reflection of his Fruitland training.
He worked in a grocery store and ministered bi-vocationally for 23 years. He believes the Bible teaches to serve where you are, so he led Bible studies beside the produce stand.
Moore is quick to say problems are not everywhere in Concord, and not even in The Bottoms. “Ninety percent of the people here are just average folks,” he said, “but there’s a criminal element.”
He said that small element essentially casts a long, dark shadow beyond itself.
Moore’s Crosspointe West Church is still small, but he’s proud of his sturdy members who are willing to work hard and hang tough as they follow their faith.
Trust hereabouts is as scarce as hundred dollar bills. Sharing the gospel here requires having people trust you, and that takes time, Moore said.
“The good part is that people here are open to the gospel. Door-to- door visits still work here. People want hope,” he explained.
Reaching people here requires an investment of shoe leather. “We visited 1,700 homes last year,” Moore said. “We share a basic message: Jesus loves you. Jesus cares about you. We care about you.”
He is quick to say a single visit is not enough: “We continue to go back to visit people.” At first he was not allowed inside the front door of homes, so he did a lot of front porch visitation.
Moore will talk for hours sometimes. “We’ll sit on the front porch and talk about life. I always tell them about Jesus. I’ll say, ‘You remember that conversation I had with you about Jesus? Well, none of that has ever changed. If you want to talk about it, you know where I am.’”
At first people just asked him for money. They told Moore he would leave them soon; he wouldn’t stay.
“Now they say, ‘My daughter is in the hospital. Will you go see her?’ It has taken a while to gain the confidence of the people,” Moore said.
“It’s a hard place to be able to minister – I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not a place where people go to plant churches,” he said.
But sit with Moore a while and he bubbles over with life stories.
He’ll tell you about the soul-sick veteran. “He looked at me two weeks ago and said, ‘Do you understand what I’ve done, Preacher? I’ve had to kill people. Can your God forgive me for that?’ I was like, ‘Yes He can! I shared the gospel with him.’”
Moore can tell you about rescuing a child left in a hot car by a mother gone to score drugs. He can tell you about risking the ire of pimps when they go out evenings and witness to prostitutes.
Now, more people greet him as pastor. “I guess you’d call me the community pastor, because I’m the only one they know,” Moore said.
Some new members have come from drugs, others from cults and being followers of Satan.
There are so many interesting life change stories they plan to start posting video testimonies online.
Moore was excited to find his old friend, Bob Merrill, who he knew as a fellow Fruitland student. Bob was one of the first people to visit the new church. At first Moore thought he had just come to wish him well. Turned out Bob lives nearby. Now he’s Moore’s right-hand associate and helps with media and other matters.
“It’s amazing to see what God is doing. This is nothing Wilson Moore has done. This is what God has done, Brother, and it’s just amazing to be a part of it. I love every minute of it,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Creswell is the Cooperative Program consultant for N.C. Baptists.)