Oakford Baptist Church was a small, white-washed country sanctuary when a 20-year-old Jeff Harlow first started preaching there in 1975. The worship consisted of hymn books, an organ and piano. About 50 people attended on Sunday, and around 15 kids participated in the church’s youth program.
Fast forward 37 years, and you’ll still find Harlow preaching from the pulpit. But the church — well, that looks a little different.
For starters, it changed it name to Crossroads Community Church in 2000. It’s changed locations, denominations, added a professional-sounding praise-and-worship band and expanded into a new 56,000 square foot worship center a decade ago.
Over all the time, it’s grown by more than 2,000 attendees to become the largest church in Kokomo.
“We have more kids in the bathroom now at any one given time than we used to have in the entire Sunday school,” Harlow said with a laugh.
The church has underwent a lot of transformations over the years, but one thing’s remained consistent: Jeff Harlow at the helm as senior pastor.
But even that’s changing soon.
After preaching thousands of sermons nearly every Sunday for the last 37 years, 58-year-old Harlow is stepping down and delivering his last message in March.
“Leading a church for nearly four decades is pretty much unheard of,” said Kevin Smith, administrative pastor at Crossroads Community Church and a life-long friend. “It’s huge in terms of not just pastoring the same church, but pastoring a church through such massive changes over the years. And Jeff’s been able to grow right along with it. It’s an incredible accomplishment.”
The church’s first big transformation came in 1977, just two years after Harlow agreed to start preaching at Oakford Baptist Church twice a week for $40. Because of structural problems, the congregation decided to build a 150-seat sanctuary just across the road on Ind. 26.