Every once in a while, Senior Pastor Tim Seay would pause during his sermon and laugh along with the audience over a joke he had just made.
“Anybody ever partied?” the 53-year-old pastor asked the hundreds of attendees who filled the auditorium in Northwestern High School on Sept. 23. Yes, the crowd answered after some hesitation.
“Let’s see how old you guys are,” he said, teasing the audience. “Cabarets?”
For the members of Crossover Church, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary this October, it’s not only the words of God or the commitment to the Christian faith that keeps them coming back every Sunday for morning service. In part, many return to listen to Seay’s wisdom, which is often mixed with just the right amount of comedy and charisma to keep them excited and enthusiastic.
“It is humorous, it is truthful, it is frank and uncompromising,” said Chantel McGill, who has been a member of the church for nine years. “It’s full of love.”
But Seay, who was recognized by the Hyattsville City Council on Sept. 17, said that his witty additions were not without a purpose.
Since founding Crossover Church with his wife, Robyn Seay, 25 years ago, he wanted to replace the traditional structure of a church with a more contemporary model that would better reach out to and engage his members. So he swapped the clerical collars and the robes with a modern suit and tie. Instead of a pulpit, he delivered his sermons while balancing his Bible and reading glasses on a stool. And rather of staying backstage during rehearsals, Seay picks up his bass and plays with the band.
Seay also believed that the use of a more “conversational” style of preaching, which includes both humor and his own life experiences, would help him make a better connection. “Probably one of the missing elements in some churches is that laughter is such a connecting point,” he said. “It’s also therapeutic; there’s a relief that comes with laughter and there’s an ability to solidify a particular point.”
He added that letting his personality shine through was just as important. “I don’t think you can really connect with the people if you’re not ready to let them touch you, and so that means that who I am becomes part of the presentation.”
Though the jokes and the anecdotes give his sermons character, Seay emphasized that he still keeps in mind that the purpose is to help “advance people spiritually,” saying that his goal, as well as the church’s, is to help people see change in their lives.
Member Curtis Harris, who has been attending Seay’s service for over five years, praised his teachings for being direct and honest. “It’s simple and to the point,” he said. “And it tells you not what you want to do but what you need to do.”
McGill also agreed, adding that she can always count on Seay to get “a true word from God” that is not watered down.