This Sunday is a day when dreams will come true. I’m not talking about the Super Bowl. I’m talking about the dream of Alice Drive becoming one church in two locations.
The church began as one church in many locations. Acts 2:46 tells us the first followers of Jesus met in homes. It would be decades before Jesus followers thought about having a physical location.
Over time, Jesus followers lost sight of this idea: that the church is a movement, not a location. Instead, we were consumed with real estate. We built grand cathedrals and brush arbors, thinking a church wasn’t a church unless it had a roof, four walls, and a deed.
The modern multi-site movement began as churches began to run out of space. Blocked by local zoning laws or the restriction of finances, they leveraged technology to bring a service to another physical location. Today in North America, over 5,000 churches exist as one church with more than one physical location.
For a long time, I observed this movement and thought it would not apply to Alice Drive. Sumter, I thought, was too small. Anyone who wanted to attend could easily reach us. Then two things happened. First, I saw a study stating if a person lived more than ten minutes away from the physical location of a church, their participation (attendance, service, and giving) dropped by half. A quick mapping of our membership showed over 200 households beyond a ten-minute drive, clustered around the Pocalla/Lakewood area.
The second thing that happened was reading about Brand New Church in Arkansas. Shannon O’Dell had a vision to serve the underserved communities in northern Arkansas by becoming a multi-site church. He went to the least of these with a satellite truck, merging with dying churches in small towns to create a healthy, thriving congregation where none existed before. Today, Brand New Church has four campuses in forgotten places, drawing over 2,000 people each weekend.
A whisper from God seized me. If this could be done in Arkansas, why couldn’t it be done in South Carolina? That day, a dream was born. The dream was to spread the health God gave Alice Drive beyond 1305 Loring Mill Road.
In the 60 months that have passed since that whisper from God, I’ve shared this vision with our staff team, with the Vision Council, and with our Deacons. All of them are committed to help as many as possible take their next step toward Jesus – and they saw the connection. I think they heard the whisper from God too.
This Sunday, Pocalla Church launches publicly. People volunteered to be pioneers, to go and serve. People gave sacrificially so we can resource this campus. Staff team members stepped up to go, help, and train. On Sunday, we take our next step and become one church in two locations. Sunday is the day the dream comes true.
This is our next step, but it’s not our last step. All my life I’ve loved Jesus’ church. It literally breaks my heart to see churches that once were thriving, dying. This week, 80 churches will close in the United States. It’s like a lighthouse that is going out of business: the money has run out for lamp oil, but the warning still needs to be given. I believe with all my heart that God is going to open doors of opportunity for us to go to the forgotten corners of South Carolina, and be Jesus to people who lost sight of what church, Jesus’ body, could be.
Thank you for stepping up to this whisper from God. I don’t know how it will all turn out; but I know God is leading us!
God has a dream and we are part of it. Sunday, one more piece comes true!