It was July 2015 that I began my new position with our denomination. The position that I was initially hired for is what we call a “Church Planting Explorer.” In essence, this title is intended to communicate my major task – explore where and how the Lord is calling the ARP Church to plant a new congregation. Our denomination hires individuals in this position all over the country, and each situation looks a little bit different. My specific job had five main objectives:
- Determine the location for a church plant within the Upstate of South Carolina.
- Research and prepare a proposal to bring before presbytery for how to plant this church.
- Raise the initial funds for this work.
- Begin gathering interested people who may want to be a part of this church plant.
- Become an ordained minister in the ARP Church.
These explorer positions ideally last for 12-18 months, and the hope for me was that by the end of that time all five objectives would be completed. And if so, then the ARP Church would be ready and prepared to move forward with a brand new church plant.
The first objective on this list was there for a reason. Without first knowing where the Lord was calling us to plant, it would be hard to achieve objectives 2-4. So my first challenge as an explorer was to determine where the Lord was calling us to plant this church.
As I began to do research I realized that city development had shifted in the last 15 years. The last half of the 20th century saw populations leaving cities for life in the suburbs, and church planting had also followed this model – even in the ARP Church. Our denomination had planted churches in Greer, Simpsonville, Duncan, and Piedmont all within the last 40 years. But beginning in the 2000’s that movement began to shift. Major cities across the country saw an influx of populations back into its cities, and Greenville was no exception. Any native of Greenville can tell you that downtown today looks nothing like it did just 20 years ago. And our denomination only had one church in the Greenville city limits to reach that population.
So our first decision was to plant this church in the city of Greenville.
Next, we looked at where churches in Greenville were located, and one major thing quickly stuck out. There was a section of Greenville that had no church presence at all – Verdae Boulevard. Of course this made sense. The Verdae area wasn’t developed 15 years ago, and even now it still has much development left to complete. But while there have been businesses, residences, apartments, restaurants, corporate headquarters, and hotels all built in this area over the last 15 years, one thing is still lacking – a church.
I brought this up to three different pastors in Greenville that I had met in my first few months as an explorer. One was a Baptist church planter, one was on staff at an Anglican church plant, and one was a Presbyterian pastor whose congregation was also planting a church. I mentioned the idea of Verdae to all of them, and each one emphatically noted the need for a strong Bible-believing church in the Verdae area.
I am so thankful for these three pastors, all from different denominations, because it was ultimately their counsel that truly confirmed to me that the Lord had uniquely set us apart for this area. And remember, this is before I had learned of that prayer drive in 2012! I could sense the broader community of the church in their wisdom, and I was encouraged by their enthusiasm for what they thought the Lord would do around Verdae. And it was on December 2, 2015 that we locked in the location for our church plant – Verdae Boulevard!
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22