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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)
FORKS OF ELKHORN, Ky. - Todd Lester, pastor of Forks of Elkhorn Baptist Church near Midway, knows people don't always come to church through the front door.
In fact, he understands the sentiment so well his congregation is investing millions of dollars in a recreational facility to rival many commercial gyms, hoping that people who come to play will stay to pray in his rural Kentucky church.
The church is building a 61,300 square foot addition that will include an elevated walking track, two basketball courts, a workout room, weight rooms and all manner of classes and athletic leagues.
Lester said the new CROSS center (which stands for Christian Recreation Outreach Strengthening Souls) is an amped up version of a tool he's used for years in his ministry - the church basketball or softball league.
Lester hopes it will both be a service to, and an invitation for, the community.
"They might come in through the back door or side door," he said, "hopefully we will get them into the sanctuary."
The planning for the recreation center began about four years ago, Lester said. At the time, in the midst of the recession, the economy didn't seem ripe for a large building campaign. But, he and the congregation were rapidly outgrowing its current space and needed a larger area for children's ministry. The church also hired a recreation director, Lee Rainwater.
"The body is the temple of God," said Lester. "When we give our lives to Christ, we have to try to take care of the temple."