To begin to think seriously about church planting is to begin to reframe the opportunities that lie before us. Imagine the vitality that would be released if two of our congregations in the four deaneries which have the greatest unchurched demographics (Beaufort, West Charleston, Charleston and Georgetown) planted two new congregations or satellites in the next five years. What new life would emerge within our communities and within the Diocese of South Carolina from eight new congregations or even twice that number? I believe this can be done even during a season of economic downturn. We often get fixated upon buildings and property. But for many in our present culture it is not the aesthetics of the building which attracts; it is the dynamism of the preaching, worship and fellowship which wins the heart of the unchurched person. Certainly we cannot leave entirely behind the need for property and buildings; a drab setting blesses no one’s heart. But if we can focus upon reaching the lost I believe the issues of property and building will emerge in many cases as quite secondary to the winning of the seeker and the transformation of his or her life in Christ. This change from building church plants to growing missional communities is a concept we need to embrace more fully. This will have the dynamism of a movement rather than the often stagnating effect of tending an institution.
The Diocese has in recent years held to the model of established parishes being planters of new churches or congregations. This has worked well in such places as The Cross, Bluffton where a satellite congregation was established at the Buckwalter Campus. So also with Holy Cross, Sullivan’s Island in the planting of a satellite at Daniel Island and their future plan of a third satellite congregation at ”˜Ion in the Mount Pleasant. Such vision is inspiring. Others like St. Paul’s Summerville, St. James’, James Island, St. John’s, Johns Island, and Christ Church, Mount Pleasant because of adjacent land were able to build ministry centers, essentially planting “congregations” on campus. There has been no lack of vision and creativity among us. Today, two of our congregations in the Georgetown deanery have begun initiatives as well. Trinity, Myrtle Beach, under the leadership of Rob Sturdy and Iain Boyd, has initiated a church plant in the Carolina Forest community. This is making good progress. The Rev. Wilmot Merchant and the people of St. Stephen’s, North Myrtle Beach with the help of the Congregational Development Committee purchased property in the Loris area for a potential church plant in the future. They are presently making a strong witness for Christ by their volunteer work in Loris Elementary School therein making a difference in children’s lives. It will also work as a relational base from which to plant a congregation in the future. Nevertheless, elsewhere we have lagged behind, and others have seized the day””God will have his witnesses ”“ with or without us.
The future of two other initiatives is more complicated and raises the question of Diocesan leadership in planting or acknowledging more complex cases. The Well By the Sea at Market Commons, in the area between Surfside and Myrtle Beach, is a “congregation” that has already outgrown its rented facilities and is at a crossroads….
Take the time to read it all.