Recently, my niece from Los Angeles came in for a visit to see my wife and me in Anderson, S.C., a community of fewer than 70,000. While here, we took her for a drive through Anderson. After we finished, I asked her what she thought about our community. She said, “I can’t get over the number of churches here — they’re everywhere!”
If you take a ride through Anderson, you’ll discover within the first few miles that she’s right. It seems there’s a church on every corner. As a matter of fact, there are more than 250 churches in this relatively small southern town !
One of the questions that I had to deal with in 1999 when casting the vision for NewSpring Community Church was, “Does Anderson really need ANOTHER church?”
The answer was yes!
Even though there seemed to be a church on every corner, according to research, nearly 48 percent of residents in our county didn’t attend church on a regular basis.
I’ve lived in Anderson for more than 15 years and understand this community quite well. The realization I came to was that people hadn’t necessarily rejected God; they’d rejected the Church.
I decided to rally a group of about 15 people around me and cast the vision for something different — not better than what we already had in Anderson, just different. We’d still adhere to orthodox Christian doctrine; however, our methods would be different from the churches in the community that were servicing the other 52 percent.
At NewSpring Community Church we decided to focus on three main things:
Creativity —I happen to believe that the Church should be the most creative place on the planet. It has often been said that if church is boring, then don’t blame God — blame the Church.
Many churches in our society have become boring and predictable, thus causing people to lose interest and to find better things to do with their time. So, we decided to use creative elements in worship. We use a variety of worship music — we even incorporate secular music from time to time. We also use high-tech lighting, videos, drama and set designs. Our desire is for people not just to come to church, but feel engaged and to have an experience with the living God.
Relevance – One of the arguments that many people in the unchurched community use when referring to church is that the Bible is boring and not really relevant to the things we are dealing with in today’s society.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
A key element I discovered during the time when I was doing “field study” (visiting other churches) was that pastors were giving some excellent history lessons and teaching incredibly profound theological insight. People were leaving with a lot of information, but they didn’t necessarily know how to apply it to their everyday lives.
As a pastor, I can talk all day about predestination and the peccability/impeccability of Christ. Nevertheless, the person in the back row whose marriage is falling apart, or is dealing with a troubled teen, doesn’t really care. They want to know how Jesus can help them today.
So we decided to not only focus on teaching solid theology, we also decided to work extremely hard to show people why that particular theology matters.
Excellence — I remember the first church where I was on staff. There was a man who got up to sing. This man began singing, and I actually thought it was some sort of skit. It was so bad I thought my ears were going to bleed. My first thought was, “There’s no way this can seriously be happening!”
If we were honest, we’d have to admit that we’ve all witnessed the same thing. The Church is the only place on the planet where people who can’t sing are allowed to sing; people who can’t teach are allowed to teach; and people who are rude and inconsiderate are allowed to serve as greeters and ushers.
So when we began NewSpring, we made the commitment: We would only do what we could do with excellence. We’d only allow people to serve in areas in which they could excel. Needless to say, we’ve found this to be very effective.
I’m the first to admit that we’re in no way “the perfect church.” We aren’t even close. However, I sincerely believe that if a church will lift up Jesus and desire to see people passionately connected to Him, and they’re willing to not confuse their methodology with their theology, then serious advances can be made in reaching this world for Christ!
In the past six months, our average attendance at NewSpring is up over 1,200 new people — and, most importantly, more than 300 people accepted Christ as Savior in the past four weeks.
That’s why we started “another church” in an already “over-churched” community six years ago.
Pastor Perry Noble leads NewSpring Community Church in Anderson, S.C.