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Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community

By Isaac Olivarez (6/20/04)

Crossover Church’s sole purpose is to give streetwise teens and 20-somethings a soul purpose. It’s been this way since Tommy Kyllonen came to Tampa, Fla., in 1996 and started the “hip-hop” youth ministry at the church with four teens.

The group grew to nearly 200 during the next six years. When Kyllonen became senior pastor two years ago, the church as a whole transitioned its focus to reaching out to those in Tampa’s hip-hop culture.

Sunday morning services at Crossover are like no other. A disc jockey runs turntables, with hip-hop as well as rhythm and blues tunes mingled with praise and worship songs booming from overhead speakers. Remarkable testimonies from former drug dealers and strippers help define the services.

“God made it clear that we were supposed to reach out to what the majority of the neighborhood was, and that’s hip-hop,” says Kyllonen, 30. But that doesn’t mean the gospel is watered down for the congregation, which is 50 percent Hispanic, 25 percent black and 25 percent white.

“We tell it like it is, but we always do it in love,” says Kyllonen, noting the church has nearly 20 first-time visitors each week.

Visitors receive a free CD that includes music from various hip-hop and R&B artists who attend the church, as well as an introduction from Kyllonen, who has also recorded five hip-hop albums under the name Urban D.

For the community, Crossover holds quarterly Christian hip-hop and R&B concerts, which include a graffiti expo on a portable wall the church built. The church recently completed construction on a basketball court and, thanks to a $13,000 grant, a 10,000- square-foot skate park complete with half-pipes, ramps and rails.

“Our church doesn’t look like your typical church,” says Kyllonen, noting that the church is covered with murals. “The crowd we’re reaching doesn’t want to come into a place where there’s pews and stained-glass windows.”

Edward Bayonet, who is known as Spec, says Crossover’s hip-hop environment led him to accept Christ as Savior at a youth service in 1998.

“I saw [people] here that looked like dudes from around my block,” says the 25-year-old Spec, who as a teen regularly sprayed graffiti on the streets of Long Island, N.Y. “I felt comfortable because I could be myself.”

Now Spec puts his love for Christ into his love for art. He is Crossover’s media director, designing promotional graphics, fliers and the church’s Web site.

“Hip-hop was all I knew,” Spec says. “Hip-hop isn’t our god, but we use what we know as a tool for Christ.”

Today nearly 300 people from ages 18-50 attend Sunday morning services at Crossover, and the church recently added a second service. On Thursday nights more than 60 teens attend a junior high-only hip-hop youth service that started last year with 15, while 220 senior high and young adults meet in the main auditorium.

Newcomers are plugged into small group Bible studies. The church has drama teams, a choir, and open microphone and poetry nights.

Youth can purchase Christian hip-hop music from Crossover’s CD store. The church also has a hip-hop shop and a skate shop, and produces a magazine.

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