The gospel mission through the local church is often discussed in terms of planting new churches in under-churched areas or revitalizing churches in over-churched areas. But what about planting a new church in the over-churched south? Moreover, what about doing so in one's hometown? Such is the case with the WELL
, the church I pastor.
Hometown Church Planting
With numerous stories of men moving across the globe to large cities to plant churches, I am somewhat in the minority. After traveling to various countries and pursuing a seminary education, I boldly proclaimed to God, "I am willing to go
anywhere for you!" To which he replied, "Yes, but are you willing to stay
where I've placed you?" In an ironic and somewhat comedic twist, it was clear that I was to plant a church in my hometown of Augusta, GA
Does the South Need More Churches?
With the large number of already-existing churches in the South, I've often asked myself (as others have as well) "Does the over-churched South need another church?" Granted, several Christ-centered, gospel-preaching churches exist in our area, as well as unhealthy churches that are declining. While most people have some church experience, many are disenfranchised or disillusioned. Nominal Christianity is widespread, as is the converse rejection of it. In short--yes, there is plenty of need for Christ-centered, gospel-driven churches in the South. Planting and pastoring in the over-churched South is a unique calling.
An Undeniable Calling: People First, Location Later
Missional calling is first directed toward people. The location comes later. Rather than focus on a city or location, God clearly revealed the need for gospel ministry in the over-churched South. During seminary, and in preparation to plant the church, I was working at a local pizza restaurant in which the mission of the WELL
began to take shape and vision became clear. Personalizing the mission involved putting names and faces to the general population I was called to. For me, it involved making a list of people I knew personally who to my knowledge did not know Christ nor were being pursued with the gospel.
As the list grew to the hundreds, I was affirmed in my calling, both in identity and mission. Acts 17:26 came to mind as I understood God had determined this time and place for me to live. Memories of my sixth-grade Sunday school teacher (who was a missionary in China) came to mind. She once said, "God called me first to the Chinese people. I ministered to them locally long before I ever went to Mainland China." These wise words resonated with my desire to bloom where God had planted me and to see a grassroots church flourish in my hometown.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It is a great joy to join with other pastors and churches that are faithfully serving in gospel ministry in the south. It is my hope and prayer that God will continue to raise up grassroots churches in over-churched, under-gospeled areas as well as send church planters to un-churched regions. It is true that God determines the times and places in which men live as well as the direction and opportunity for them to pursue his gospel mission.