As an evangelist Clayton King wants to win people to Christ and change the church eight people at a time.
King, 35, preached his first sermon at age 14 and hasn’t stopped since. He started his umbrella organization — Crossroads Ministries — in his Gardner-Webb University dorm room while still a senior.
Today, Crossroads Ministries employs six fulltime staff, supports two missionaries and operates a Community Discipleship Home in Boiling Springs in which up to eight young adults at a time live and work, establishing community relationships and ministry.
The goal is to “train and disciple young people to lead and serve the church in the future and have a more biblical paradigm of how church is supposed to be done,” King said Sept. 19 before speaking at the Kaleo Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Learners live in the Community Discipleship Home for a year during which they are discipled in everything from administration to planning mission trips to running summer camps and more. They have a tough reading list; participate in weekly community Bible study; coordinate and lead mission trips and run camps.
A married couple lives on the property and oversees the program.
“It’s an intentional community and more than just a buzzword,” said King. “It is genuine, authentic, living, eating, working and learning together.” Each resident has a part-time job in the area.
King graduated from Gardner-Webb in 1995 with a degree in religious studies. Crossroads Ministries took off so fast that for two years after graduation he just rented a room in a house and basically lived out of his pickup while traveling to engagements.
Very quickly he started summer camps for youth and is working on his 14th season. He met his wife, Charie Harper from Atlanta, in Chapel Hill when she attended a preaching event. He spotted her in the crowd and “I knew I would marry her the first time I saw her, even before I met her,” King said.
They’ve been married nine years and have two sons.
“Marrying a great, godly woman helped center and anchor me,” he said.
The summer camps “became the vehicle by which our style of ministry began to take form and shape,” King said. “Until the camps, it had just been me traveling and preaching.”
About 3,000 youth attend camp each summer at Gardner-Webb University and other locations. Already more than 3,000 campers have professed faith in Christ, and 2,800 have committed themselves to ministry.
Through the past 11 years campers have contributed $450,000 for missions in India, “a place God has given us a heart for,” said King, who has been there seven times.
He led a 200-mile backpacking trip through the Himalayas, and on one trip took the gospel to six Tibetan villages where he believes no Christian had ever been.
While doing the work of an evangelist, King is committed to the local church. He is a teaching pastor at both New Spring in Anderson, S.C., and Elevation Church in Matthews.
“We love the church,” he said. “A lot of parachurch ministries have a reputation of being anti-church. We love the church. We exist to serve the church.”
Crossroads Ministries has never held a fundraiser as a part of his philosophy that time spent raising money saps energy for ministry. “If we focus on the kingdom of God and
His righteousness, then He will add everything to us,” King said.
A long-term goal is to have a Crossroads Ministries retreat facility.
High school path
In high school, King was national secretary for Beta Club and traveled widely, delivering motivational addresses to crowds as large as 10,000. Those credentials often provide entry to high schools today.
His fourth book, Surrounded by the Sacred, is at the printer, and a book on radical discipleship called God’s Paradox, finding life through death will be published by Harvest House.
“The need for evangelism is greater than it’s ever been,” King said. “Fewer and fewer people have been exposed to the gospel because fewer and fewer have been raised in church.”
Since July alone King said he has witnessed more than 2,100 professions of faith. “When people tell me this generation is averse to the gospel, I see evidence to the contrary,” he said. “Maybe they’re averse to a more traditional form and style of church. I’m not seeing animosity to the gospel. I see people coming by the droves.”
King’s invitations to commitment are heads up, eyes open. He said he doesn’t make it easy to step out and does not depend on music, lights and emotion. “It has nothing to do with my style or personality,” he said. “It has everything to do with what we preach and with making the gospel central. Ironically enough, people respond.”
A bedrock principle for King is that “evangelism is not something you do, it’s who you are.” Evangelism is about relationships, he said. Most Americans will not respond to a canned presentation because “they will feel like someone is trying to sell them something.”
King grew up in a Christian home, adopted by two loving parents when his 15-year-old mother chose life for the child she could not keep. He’s never met his birth mother, but would love to, he said, because “She’s a hero of mine.” He grew up hunting, fishing and driving a tractor in a predominantly Southern Baptist atmosphere, went to a Presbyterian Christian school and was loved by a Pentecostal grandfather.
“So I say I was predestined to speak in tongues at a covered dish lunch,” King said, laughing.