Why Gaffney, why now?
I’ve asked myself those two questions on numerous occasions, especially recently. Why plant a new church in a city that theoretically has one church for every 200 people, and is slightly above the state average for religious congregations? Why do it here and now when the North American Mission Board would most likely be more eager to send me to Colorado, Washington, or Utah, where the person to church ratio is normally one church for multiple thousands of people? Planting a new church in Gaffney will no doubt be a daunting task. However, we’re convinced this is where we need to take the gospel, and here’s why.
The idea of planting the gospel in a religion-saturated environment is exciting. Most people look at this city, with its church on every corner, and thinks, “The last thing this town DOESN’T need is another church!” I was guilty of thinking that way until I started closely reading the New Testament, particularly the book of Acts and the Pauline letters, and saw the parallels between Corinth, Colossae, and so on. Many of these cities, though much larger than Gaffney, were saturated with different religions and philosophies. When Paul was walking through Athens, he noticed a shrine on literally every street (Acts 17:16, 22-23). The presence of much religion does not equal the presence of Christ.
Gaffney is like many small towns in the Bible Belt. It’s religion is culturally embedded, and convincing someone that being “born Christian” is not the same as being a “born again” (John 3:3) is a challenge. However, like Paul, we’re going into this with the attitude that everyone everywhere needs to know the goodness and grace of God though Jesus Christ personally.
Gaffney is a strategic city. Gaffney is located on the I-85 corridor, centered 50 miles either way between Greenville, SC and Charlotte, NC. Gaffney is also the seat of the upstate Micropolitan Statistical Area, which has a population of 53,000 according to 2000 data. Cherokee County, where Gaffney is located, is a central part of the upstate Greater Statistical Area, which has an estimated population of almost 1.2 million people (as of 2005). In addition, Gaffney – and the Cherokee County area – is an inviting area in which to locate and relocate due to its close proximity to larger urban centers and generally lower cost of living.
Anyone who’s been through Gaffney knows its strategic location on I-85. Along these couple of exits is a large and bustling outlet mall, restaurants, hotels, and other attractions. We believe Gaffney is also seeing some growth and revitalization in its historic Downtown district. We aim to support city renewal in any way possible. And finally, Gaffney is home to two colleges: historic Limestone College, and the newer Spartanburg Community College. We have plans and are in prayer about how to best reach out to these two institutions.
Gaffney needs the gospel. This goes without saying. Everyone everywhere needs to know that God was, in Christ, reconciling all men unto himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). We believe Gaffney is a city in need of hope and redemption. The statistics are alarming: The crime index gives Gaffney a ranking of 14 out of 100, with 100 being the safest. Per population, Gaffney is nearly double the national average for violent crime. These statistics tells us that Gaffney is a hurting, desperate city. We desire to give them the hope that is only found in Jesus Christ.
Because New City Church is not the same. We don’t consider ourselves “different.” We merely consider ourselves not the same. Our structure will be simple, mobile, and agile. We never plan on owning a building or property, therefore our offerings can better be used to assist and serve the community, and those who are in need. We are currently structured as Community On Mission groups (C.O.M.), and as we continue to grow, we plan on reproducing other C.OM. groups which meet in different areas around the city and county. Our C.O.M. groups are our front line for fellowship, outreach, and teaching. Most churches are event/attraction ally-centered with small groups tacked on. We will be community groups which eventually meet as one large group one day a week, just like the early house churches met outside the temple.
On Sundays, after we launch as an “official“ church (hopefully in the Spring of 2013), we plan on public worship gatherings in a rented facility. This will allow us to be free from the burden of electrical bills, heating/air, and general maintenance. The landscape doesn’t need yet another structure, particularly of the religious variety. We’d rather take advantage of what’s already there. We believe this will also help us pump money into the local economy. Everyone wins.
We will be elder-led, yet congressionally accountable. We will not “call” outside ministers, but instead plan on raising them up, and educating them from within, as per the New Testament pattern.
For a full statement of what we are and are not, go HERE.
New City Church is already making a difference. Even as we are in the Core Group phase, we have assisted Limestone College’s Social Work Dept. in distributing Thanksgiving meals around our community. Our group provided a fair majority of food, money, and manpower to make sure needy residents received a nice Thanksgiving. We have also worked to meet the needs of individuals. We’ve established a Monday night men’s Bible study at our local Starbucks, which is, for all intents and purposes, the cultural hub of our city. We’ve worked on developing partnerships with local organizations in an effort to take the gospel through a different avenue than the traditional “church program” model. We are praying earnestly about outreach to our two local college campuses.
How can you help New City Church? Prayer. Prayer. Prayer. More prayer. We need it, our city needs it. If God so moves you to donate or give to help support us financially or with supplies for reaching the beautiful people of Gaffney, that is also welcome! But mostly pray!