theCross Mount Dora History
Many residents of Lake County, FL were driving a long distance to attend church at Holy Cross in Lake Mary, FL. One of those residents, Debra Paradis felt called to open up Lake Cares Food Pantry in Mount Dora, FL. Paul Hoyer, who was Senior Pastor of Holy Cross, served as President of Lake Cares for several years and also began a Bible study with several families in Lake County, FL and began dreaming of what a church would look like in Lake County, FL.
Holy Cross in Lake Mary, FL embarked on a Vision 2020 plan with its main goal to plant 7 new worshiping communities around Central Florida. Lake County, FL was identified as a possible location. At that same time, Zach Zehnder was called and installed as the 4th pastor on the staff at Holy Cross. Pastor Zach immediately began working with about 20 people from Lake County and met in homes for Bible Studies and to organize community events. Their first event, a Trunk 'R Treat, brought over 800 people from the community.
Much of this year was spent growing the core group. It had now grown from a few families to around 50 people. Pastor Zach and his team (which consisted of himself and Worship Leader Tom Kern) started theCross Mount Dora with a rented space in Mount Dora. The first worship gathering took place on August 14th with 128 in attendance.
Through the generosity of a certain family billboard campaigns were launched in the summer and would soon become a staple in the city of Mount Dora. theCross participated in a 40-day challenge to put the words of God into practice and saw amazing results individually and corporately. The highlight of the year was witnessing 10 baptisms on our first worship gathering anniversary!
theCross Mount Dora went to two worship services and by the end of the year were worshiping with over 200 per Sunday. Allison Zehnder was hired part-time to lead theCross Kids program at the church. Hand in Hand, which exists to mentor/coach those in need began to officially meet. Soon it would become its own non-profit.
In April, theCross signed a lease for 7,000 more square feet of space. Construction took place during the remainder of the year. The church received international headlines and accolades twice during the year for its creative way of doing ministry. In March, Pastor Zach offered to pay for people to get the logo of the church tattooed on their body and 21 people took him on his "sarcastic" offer.
On November 7-9, with the help of several hundred people, Pastor Zach broke the Guinness World Record for the Longest Speech Marathon at 53 hours and 18 minutes as he preached through the entire Bible in one setting. The record was broken in May 2015, but the results of the record will stand forever: More than $100,000 was raised for Hand-in-Hand and that money was used to purchase the first recovery house for males in Lake County, FL who are struggling with addiction of some kind.
theCross moved into its new worship facility on February 22 with almost 500 people in attendance for the Grand Opening. In June, with more than $100,000 raised in donations and pledges to Hand in Hand, a lease was signed on a second recovery house for men in Lake County. The house was opened in November and was dedicated to the Thrasher family for their generosity. 2015 was marked by church and staff growth. As the church grew to around 500 people and added to the staff were the following: Mark Crossman full-time to lead Student Ministries (April), Chris Burns full-time to lead Communications (August) and worship (December), Silas Barr part-time to oversee Social Media (August), Sara Santti part-time to lead Nursery/Pre-K (August), and Jacob Baumann full-time to lead L-Team Ministries and Spiritual Growth (December).
The church and staff continued to grow in 2016. A second kids church service was added and renovation began on our kids ministry. The space was transformed and renamed to “Camp Cross.” A confirmation program was added to our “Grow” Student Ministry and both the kids ministry and student ministry are seeing great growth! A highlight of the year was on August 14th, our 5-year anniversary, we witnessed more than 40 baptisms that weekend alone! We launched eggs from a helicopter for Easter weekend and in November, we gathered over 1000 people at Renninger’s and hosted the “Largest Potluck Ever,” which raised more than $34,000 for Lake Cares Food Pantry! In 2016, we also made the mutual decision to become independent of our planting church and on January 29th, 2017 we officially LAUNCHED!
2017 brought more growth as we stepped out as an independent church. We developed our new mission statement: WE ARE A FAMILY OF FAITH-FILLED, BIG-THINKING FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST. In April we started a Sunday evening service called 5FORTY7, designed specifically for folks that are unable to make it to church on Sunday mornings. By the end of 2017 we had over 150 people worshiping on Sunday nights, most of which are single parents, sports families, and college students. Pastor Zach published his 1st book, Red Letter Challenge in which he challenges readers to put the words of Jesus into practice and learn the rhythm of being a disciple. As the church grew we added a few more people into important positions - meet the entire team HERE! To help people affected by Hurricane Irma, we created a website, donated money, and physically served. We met the needs of over 40+ people in the community (shutters up/down, tree removal, etc...) before and after the storm. This led us to start a HELP PAGE, which is used on weekly basis by the community. At the end of 2017 we officially launched our DREAM TEAM and finally, we answered God's calling to continue building His Church as we made plans to launch a 2nd campus in September of 2018 with Mark Crossman as the Campus Pastor.