I am asked this often. I ask myself that question almost daily. More specifically, why did I decide to plant a church in Gaffney, South Carolina of all places? Gaffney is a sub-suburban town. It’s about fifty miles either way from the major metropolitan areas of Greenville, SC and Charlotte, NC. It’s a town largely resistant to change, and suspicious of anything new. But, God gave me a love for the people of Gaffney many years ago. I suppose that you need to love the people you’re trying to reach!
I “knew” God had called me to start a church not long after I became a Christian. That was sometime in the mid-1990s. That doesn’t seem like that long ago, but in 1994 the internet was hard to come by. You couldn’t just hop online and Google “church planting” and find readily available resources like you can today. There was no Acts 29 Network, and no SCBC Church Multiplication team that would guide you. Worse yet, though the Baptist association my church was a part of frequently sent teams on “mission trips,” no one seemed to be able to satisfactorily answer my questions about church planting. I simply had no clue where to start or how to do it.
So, I waited. And waited some more. And more and more. In between those times of waiting, I was able to experience life from both sides. In other words, I served on church staff and I worked so-called secular jobs. I experienced lots of ups and lots of downs. I sinned and I repented. I tried. I failed. I succeeded. I learned and I unlearned. I experienced dry and fruitful seasons. I lived life. It was during these times that, looking back, God was preparing me. No way was I ready back then (I’m not sure I’m ready now, but sometimes ya just gotta move). I put a lot of things in my back pocket and waited on God to tell me when to take them out.
In the late winter of 2010, I began to sense a new and strong desire to be a cultural missionary and plant a church. By now, I’d talked with many people, attended classes and seminars, and had plenty of time to pray and beg God to make his will clear to me. Things began to fall in place. The church I served at the time as youth pastor was missions oriented. Big time. They’d also began to move out into their community in an attempt to be a sending church, and not merely a gathering church. This inspired me. God used those people to help sharpen my focus and confirm my calling.
Around this time, a friend had come back from a stint of church planting in Colorado. Jeff eventually became a co-planter in this venture. In the summer of 2011, we began to meet and pray about what God would have us do. Without any real invitations, others sensed the same compelling and joined us. In late 2011, I resigned a successful youth ministry in which God was working, got a “real” job, and began the South Carolina Baptist (SCBC)/North American Mission Board (NAMB) assessment process for church planters. In a few months we became a recognized church plant!
At this time New City Church is still trying to find what God wants us to be. We know he wants us to bear witness to his Son Jesus. We know he wants us to love the city of Gaffney and Cherokee County. But, Christ is still being formed in us. We believe he has great things in store for this community, this city, and this county. We ask him daily to allow New City Church to be a part of it. We want to be the hands and feet and witnesses of Jesus here and beyond. God has given New City Church a strong and loving core group. I couldn’t be any more thankful for each one of them.
Rural church planting presents us with unique challenges.
Even with a church building on every corner, Gaffney is in dire need of the gospel. We know we can’t do it alone. We need the Spirit of God empowering us and leading us. We need other churches and Christians praying for us. We need Jesus ourselves!
Today we stand as a church plant in a city that isn’t – for now – very inviting. But, because Jesus loves Gaffney, we love Gaffney. Gaffney is a great town with many great qualities. It’s growing, and many “outsiders” are now calling Gaffney home. We’ll continue partnering with anyone we can to serve this city and this county. We want to invite this area to know the sweet life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a need here.
That’s why I decided to plant a church.