Journey takes Tecumseh graduate from athlete to pastor
Growing up in Tecumseh, Scott Winstead never dreamed he would someday found a church, let alone one that would, over time, grow by leaps and bounds. Crossroads Community Church, which has approximately 1,100 members, recently celebrated 25 years in the Lenawee area.
“Back then, if I’d have made a list of what I wanted to do when I grew up, pastoring a church wouldn’t have even made the list,” said Winstead who said he spent most of his youth biking around the city from his family’s S. Union Street home and dreaming of becoming a professional athlete. He attended the old West Branch School for his first three years, and later Tecumseh Acres and then Patterson before moving on to junior high and high school.
“I was so into sports that I ended up playing almost every sport,” he said. “I played basketball, football, baseball, and one year I ran cross country and also track and I even wrestled one year for something different to do. I was very sports minded.”
By graduation, however, reality hit. He knew college was expensive and wasn’t sure he wanted to go. His dad had been in the Air Force, so he thought that might be an option and recalls taking a test at the library.
“I probably did it because I could get out of class,” he said with a smile. “But I ended up scoring high and joined up.” After being stationed in California for two years, he met and married his wife, Debbie. At the end of his hitch in 1984, the couple moved to San Antonio, Texas, where Winstead’s brother, Steve, had relocated where he used his engineering skills helping communities upgrade telephone systems. It was a good job and paid well, but little did he know his life was about to change.
It was a chance encounter on a Texas golf course with a pastor named Dana Altimore that altered his career path. Winstead said before that conversation, his idea of a Christian was that they were “stuffy and nerdy.” But Altimore answered his questions and explained how grace is an undeserved gift, and by the end of the day, Winstead knelt on the floorboards of a truck and committed his life to Christ. His wife joined him at Altimore’s church the next Sunday, where she made the same commitment and the couple were baptized in a river across from the church.
The Winsteads felt they were being led into ministry and he became licensed and ordained as a Southern Baptist pastor. Soon, they felt a tug to move to Michigan.
“I was thinking about people I went to school with that probably had the same mindset I’d had about what a Christian was and didn’t really get it,” Winstead said, “people who had no idea it’s not about religion but about a relationship.”
The couple felt drawn to a little church in Hudson that had just three people left. It was a risk, but they saw their chance to build a church from the ground up. It grew slowly and in the meantime, Winstead read Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.”
“It was like God used that to give me permission to be who He created me to be,” he said. “I knew other pastors, but hadn’t been exposed to a lot of creativity or sense of humor in the profession.” He said people he’d known in Tecumseh knew him to be not only a sports guy, but a cut-up and a clown. “God put that in me, and is now using it in a positive way,” he said. “When people get a chance to laugh at themselves, it’s a way of releasing tension. I think we’re pretty funny people if you really look at it. Laughing at myself gives others permission to be honest with themselves.”
Years ago, Winstead began conducting personal surveys as to why people didn’t go to church, hearing things that had nothing to do with God.
“I talked to a guy on the street who said he didn’t go because he’d tried it and was told to come back when he could dress appropriately,” Winstead said. “I never thought about clothes being a barrier and that was a big breakthrough.” He told the man to join him at Easter services and they’d both wear jeans. People can come as they are at Crossroads.
Crossroads also welcomes people with a contemporary praise band of a quality Winstead said people would buy tickets for if the performance wasn’t at church.
With growth, the church became portable, requiring teams of volunteers who help set up every Sunday. Services were held at Hope Community Center in Adrian for a few years, then the Christian Family Centre, growing to more than 1,100 in attendance each week, which was accommodated through three separate services. Winstead said one of the Crossroads slogans is “Found People Find People,” and encourages people to “invite and invest,” bringing others to the church to hear what he calls “the greatest message in the world.” He said Crossroads is not in competition with other churches, but wants to reach the unchurched, the “de-churched,” and people seeking a church home.
Crossroads currently meets at the Adrian High School Performing Arts Center with services at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. as a transition to its permanent home in downtown Adrian. Winstead was shocked a couple of years ago when the First Baptist Church in Adrian donated their facility to Crossroads. An architect and builder deemed it structurally sound, and through pledges and commitments, Crossroads has raised $300,000 so far, allowing renovation to begin this fall.
“If we stay on track, we could be in there by Christmas of 2013,” said Winstead.
Dana Altimore and his wife, Vivian, traveled from Texas for a 25th anniversary celebration on Sept. 16 at the Merillat Sports Center. He retold the story of Winstead’s conversion on the golf course, and looking out over approximately 1,000 of the congregation’s faces, he said he was amazed at what God has done with the two people he saw baptized in Texas back then, adding God can do wonders with just one person.
Winstead may not be everyone’s idea of a traditional pastor, but points to the Bible for examples of how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things, even those with weaknesses.
“We’re all fellow strugglers,” he said. “I tell people if my life can be changed, anybody’s can.”