CEO Interview – Pete Wilson

Cross Point Church
Interview with Pete Wilson, Pastor of Cross Point Church

Crosspoint Church is a “high performance organization”. There is an energy that makes people want to understand what is going on here and it is growing so fast with an incredible outreach program. I am interested in learning how you lead to accomplish that result. Please start by telling us how you became a pastor?
In college, I was a corporate communications major. My plan was to go into politics. By senior year, I started questioning what I really wanted to do. I knew I wanted to make a difference. The more I learned about politics, the more I wondered. Maybe there was a different way that I could have an impact on culture and on the world. At the time, I was volunteering at a local church, and I started thinking that I was made to do this. It was not like I ever heard God’s voice or I had some kind of angelic moment; it was more like I felt that I was gifted and wired to do this. This was what I wanted to do with my life.

People revere their pastors. Is there a profile or DNA for being a successful pastor? Or do you think you just as “normal” as the rest of us?
I am more normal that most people could ever imagine, or would want to imagine. For me, I knew I had leadership gifts and a passion to help people. I think most pastors are normal everyday average people who for whatever reason feel that this is their path, their calling in life. That is one of the beauties of church pastors, they come in all different forms, shapes, sizes, ages and different gift mix. It is very similar to corporate world where you have very different styles with CEO’s, I think the church world is the same.

So what led you to start Crosspoint Church, the church you are the pastor with today?
I was a senior in college when I started my first church in a community close to where I was attending school and was the pastor there for five years. I knew in my heart that my style of ministry didn’t fit what I would call the normal church. It was never even a temptation for me to go to an established church. I have a very entrepreneurial type spirit. Nashville was my home base, where my family was and I wanted to move back. I had such a great experience starting that first church, that when I moved back to Nashville I knew I wanted to start a new church from scratch. It was ridiculous to say that because Nashville already had a ton of churches. I didn’t want to start another church; I wanted to start a different kind of church. I felt like we had a very unique vision for what we wanted to do here. I was excited to be able to come back home and plant it here.

Tell us a little bit about the church’s growth since you started it.
We are almost 9 years old now. The growth has been amazing, especially over the last several years. This will be the second year in a row that we will be in the top 100 fastest growing churches in America. There is tons of growth happening. We have 5 campuses in the Nashville area which has helped us grow and reach people that we would not normally be able to reach. I feel like I am on a wild ride and just trying to keep up with it. Just like in any organization, when you have that kind of fast growth, we haven’t always had the infrastructure in place to facilitate that kind of growth. I feel like the past three or four years we are always playing catch up trying to restructure the way that we do ministry to facilitate the growth that we have experienced.

What do you think accounts for the wow growth that you guys are having?
I think it is a variety of things. Obviously in the church world there is a certain aspect of this that is kind of out of our hands, but there are also some very predictable things that you can manage. We have a multi-site strategy where we plant these smaller churches around the Nashville area and we have campus pastors at those locations. Those campus pastors don’t teach. They receive a video, which is a live feed from here, to those different campuses. One of the challenges in the church world is it is really hard to find people who speak really well and also lead really well. You can find people who can speak really well but they weren’t great leaders and you could find people who could lead very well but they didn’t necessarily have the charisma to be able to speak. In the multi-site model we have local pastors who are great leaders to run their church but they don’t have to speak every week. We opened a whole new way to do ministry that didn’t exist before. That is one tangible thing that I think has really helped with growth. The other thing is our community service. We really work hard to get out in our community and serve our community. I think one of the old mindsets of the church was, we are here and the community needs to come to us. We believe our job is to go to the community. We work really hard to reach out to our community and serve them. I just read that last year alone there were 3,000 people in our church that went out in the community and served through a service project at our church. We have a lot of manpower to get out there and serve in real tangible ways. We have the freedom to do things that others can’t. We have a local school that we serve a lot. They had a maintenance request to repaint the high school football team locker room for three years. There was such a backlog for maintenance in the city that it still hadn’t been done. We heard about that and we just went in and knocked it out for them in a day. We have this flexibility and lack of red tape that allows us to respond to things in a very quick way that maybe even government can’t always do. I think all of those things combined have helped us reach the city.

Tell us more about that unique vision you had for a starting a different type of church.
We wanted to create an environment where it was ok to not be ok. That kind of sums it up. We wanted to create an environment where people didn’t feel like they had to have everything together before they came to church. We really believe that life is messy. It is messy for Christians, it’s messy for non-Christians. Whether it is a relational aspect of life that is falling apart, whether our kids that have gone haywire, whether it is a health issue, a financial issue, career issue, life is just messy. We wanted to create environments where people could bring that mess with them and they didn’t have to pretend to be somebody that they weren’t. That was really the bottom line vision of this church. One of our taglines that we say a lot is that everybody is welcome because nobody is perfect, but anything is possible. It is possible for there to be transformation in their life. We choose to believe the best and that God can work in their life.

You all have developed a church philosophy that you share with prospective new members. How did that come about?
If you look at church culture, we call it church shopping. People will hop from church to church to church. Most people, right or wrong, approach a church from the standpoint of how will this church serve my needs? Most people will stay out of church for about 2 years. They spend those two years trying to figure out is this the right church for me; is this church that is going to serve my needs? What we have done with the new member class is that we have tried to save them a whole lot of time and let them know up front here is what we are about and as a church this is what you can expect out of us. If you want to call this church home, this is what we expect out of you. It is putting it all on the table. We tell people right up front, this church isn’t for everybody. Why not just communicate that up front and let them know what we are about? What we find is that long term, if people choose to stay, they are happy because they know what we are about; they know the vision of this church. It is a great way to assimilate people into our church.

What is your leadership style and how did you develop it?
Pete: I think I have a very relational style of leadership. It has been difficult and challenging for me as the church has grown because that style has had to shift some. Early on, when there were 50 people, you can relate to them much differently than when there are thousands of people. I have to find ways that I can communicate relationally to multitudes of people. It is also one of the beauties of today’s technology, that through blogs and twitter, you can allow people a window into your soul that they would not have had before. It has been good timing for me, the match of technology and my leadership style to find ways to be able to still communicate personally but to communicate in a mass kind of way. I, like a lot of other leaders, struggle with control issues. Given our growth, I have had to learn to stretch myself, to delegate things, to trust other people and let things go. If I am honest, that has been a real challenge for me. I still sometimes want to put my hand in things that I shouldn’t. I am learning the hard way.

What do you see as the differences between being a pastor or leader of a church community versus being in the heart of a corporate setting?
I think there are probably more similarities than differences. I have a lot of friends that work in leadership in the corporate world and as we compare notes on leadership from time to time. One of the things that seems like a bigger challenge in the church is some of that relational aspect. In the church world, like with our staff, while the bottom line is a concern, it is not our main concern. For example, at the end of the day our people have to perform. They have to perform really well but there is also this spiritual aspect to where we not only care about what they are doing, we care about who they are becoming. There is this whole other aspect that we have to juggle and monitor with them as well. I understand in the corporate world there are companies who obviously care about that and they tend to stand out as companies who really care and value the person. People who lead those companies have a whole extra challenge that maybe some corporations don’t necessarily have. In the church world, the church is the entire world for my staff. If I have to fire somebody, they can’t just pack their office up in a box and leave. This is their world. Their wife or husband is involved here at the church, all their kids’ friends are here at the church. It is not just their job, it is their life. After I fire them, they can show up at church the next Sunday and can still be involved because this is there life, this is their world. We have to handle it a little bit differently.

So what advice do you have for other leaders, regardless of whether they are secular or not, to help them achieve their vision?
I think for me I would say, and this sounds so simple, but lead. If you are a leader, you have to lead. For the past 8 or 9 years here at Crosspoint whether I like it or not, I am the leader. There are times, I will be honest with you, I don’t want to be. I don’t want to bear that responsibility but the team is looking to me. Somebody has to lead, somebody has to make the hard decisions, and somebody has to step up in the midst of a crisis. It is not always convenient. There are hard decisions to be made but if you are the leader you have got to lead. That has been a tough lesson for me. I am naturally a people pleaser; I want to make people happy. That is not always the best combination in leadership. Eventually you figure out that if you are waiting on everybody to approve everything you say and do, you will never say and do anything. You will be frozen. Every leader has a hiding place, a place where they want to run to and escape when there is a tough decision to be made. Some of us hide behind fear, some hide behind procrastination so we will put that decision off and someday we will do this and someday our company will go in this direction. I think that at some point you have to step up into that moment and lead.

What do you have planned for Crosspoint for the next decade?
I think it is an exciting time to be in the corporate world and in ministry. As everyone knows, it is a difficult season, a challenging season. Like everybody else, over the past couple years we have had fewer resources to work with than ever before so while our church has grown numerically, we still have fewer resources, which means fewer staff, fewer things to work with to accomplish some of our goals. What we have found is this scarcity produces creativity. I love this about this season because the companies and the churches that survive are the ones that are being most creative. They are not saying we can’t do that because we don’t have the resources, they are saying we have to find a different way to do this because we don’t have the resources. It has forced us to be more creative than we ever have, to find new ways of accomplishing things with less than we have ever had. Some people look at that and they think, the writing is on the wall and we are going to go under. I really see that as an exciting challenge because it is going to create new ways to do business and ministry. I don’t know that we would have ever found and discovered these new and exciting and challenging ways if we would have always had all these resources at our disposal and kept it business as usual. I don’t know what is around the corner but I do know that business as usual doesn’t work and we have to get creative and find new ways of tackling traditional challenges.

Thank you Pete, it has been a pleasure to visit with you today.


Pete Wilson is the founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. This is the second church he has planted in the last seven years. His first church, Morgantown Community Church, was planted just weeks after graduating from college.

Pete graduated from Western Kentucky University with a degree in communications and then attended seminary at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. Pete’s desire is to see churches become radically devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to one another, and relentlessly dedicated to reaching those outside of God’s family.

He is married to Brandi Wilson and they have three boys. When not spending time with church or family he enjoys playing golf and playing golf and playing golf.

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