Aaron Shipley did not like the idea of a weekly worship service in his family's real estate agency.
"I didn't feel right about it," he said.
However, Shipley said, he couldn't find a compelling reason to deny his brother and fellow real estate agent, Dr. Travis Shipley, an opportunity to try it.
Six months after it began, the nondenominational CrossWalk Church meets weekly at Re/Max Properties North in the former Litchfield Cinemas building the business occupies in Hixson.
The church will have a commencement service, celebrating its official beginning, on Sunday, Oct. 16, at 10:30 a.m.
Dr. Shipley, a former youth pastor at Mount Carmel, South Seminole and Dallas Bay Baptist churches, said he was open to returning to the ministry when he began working at an assistant at his family's firm and eventually earned his real estate license.
Even as his success in real estate grew, he had people urging him to continue in ministry.
"People wouldn't let that go," Dr. Shipley said. "I had clients who kept pushing that."
First, he began a weekly time of prayer for interested Re/Max agents in the remaining theater of the once multiscreen complex. There, he said, those assembled would share prayers about their personal needs, their clients' needs and the business's needs.
Ultimately, Dr. Shipley thought about a weekly service, but he also had his doubts. What would his co-workers think? Would it offend anyone?
His brother, Aaron, harbored thoughts about extra traffic, the cost of electricity and the need for a traditional church and urged him to pray further about it and talk to Aaron's pastor.
Eventually, Dr. Shipley said, he won over his brother with his desire to "reach people who aren't getting reached."
Now, six months into the process, he said the 60 to 70 people who attend services each week fall into two types: people who "who have been hurt by other churches" and "don't want to get into a church where it is deacon- or board-run" and others "who have never been to church before" but find "the music sounds good" and "the preaching is [just saying] what we should do anyway."
The space, according to Dr. Shipley, offers comfortable seating, cup holders for coffee or other drinks, surround sound and the acoustics of the theater it once was.
"We've joked about selling popcorn," he said.
The worship band, called One Step Closer, includes members who came from four churches.
"These people are talented and gifted," he said. "They're so good they're working on producing an album."
Dr. Shipley said his flock includes former members of Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Church of God and Pentecostal congregations, among others. He said they are "a wide variety of different people" from various cultures who travel to the church from all over the area.
The attendees dress in everything from shorts to suits, he said, but "seem to mesh together" in "a very nonthreatening place" to hear him deliver "the word as it is in the Gospel."
"The only tool I use is the Bible," Dr. Shipley said. "I'm not preaching opinion [or] politics, so people don't have to pick sides."
Sally McNulty, 58, a trainer/liaison with Re/Max Properties North, said she comes across town to attend CrossWalk.
She prefers it to churches she previously attended, she said, "because it's small and not so organized that it's not personal. When I'm here worshiping, I feel a ... connection."
Jason Garner, 37, said he found a lot of churches "kind of cold" and rarely attended but decided to attend CrossWalk after he bought a house from Shipley.
"I like what he says," the Middle Valley resident said. "It makes a lot of sense."
As for Aaron Shipley, he became convinced his brother was doing the right thing when he heard story after story of the impact the ministry was making. And although he still attends Lupton Drive Baptist with his family, he said everything happens for a reason.
"[Travis] is a good preacher," he said. "I've seen the growth [and] positive results."
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...