3 Reasons for Planting a New Church in Florence, SC
When I began to plant a church in Florence, a common question was, “Why do we need another church?”
The question was normally accompanied by a skeptical tone and a disapproving look, but nonetheless, I think it is a valid question.
During my adult years living in Florence, I observed many things that played into my desire to plant a church here. And certainly none was more pivotal than the realization that for so many people in this area of South Carolina, church plays no role in their lives even though there are many church buildings around them.
But just as importantly, I noticed three troubling things in various churches I attended - things that convinced me that Florence still had a great need.
1. Empty Preaching
When you have a weekly platform in which people sit quietly and listen to you, there are many things you could cover.
But for a preacher, there is only one thing you must always cover.
Charles Spurgeon put it well when he said, “The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”
The finished work of Jesus Christ (His perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection) is the central event of the Old and New Testaments. Everything in Scripture either points forward to it or looks back upon it.
Yet I observed many preachers saying very little, if anything at all, about how this central event connects to the daily life of every Christian and how it is the only hope for every non-Christian.
There were sermons to boost self-esteem, relieve guilt, urge humanitarianism, and ignite enthusiasm and service. But it was as if God’s great work of salvation in the person of Jesus Christ was peripheral to all of this.
Do we need another church? Well, yes, if the preacher will preach Christ passionately and continually.
Because understand this: folks must hear that they are sinners and that Christ crucified is their only hope. And they must hear it weekly.
2. Man-Centered Worship
During my years before planting the church, I saw churches succumbing to the pressure to begin with what (they thought) people wanted when planning and conducting worship services.
“People want a rocking band.”
“People want colored lights and a concert setting.”
“People want funny stories and a lot of laughs.”
“People want shock and awe.”
Understandably, churches want folks to like the worship service and come back again.
But in worship, we must take our cues from God, which He gives us in His Word and by His Spirit. God has made clear both the attitude and content of worship that pleases Him, and it is apparent that worship should be “God-centric,” with the primary goal being to satisfy God, please Him, and ensure that He is not cheated or disappointed.
When God redeemed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, He did it so that they could know and worship Him, and He instructed them in how to do it. It was never centered on satisfying their appetites (although it did offer the deepest satisfaction possible).
I see nowhere in Scripture where God seems to be motivated by what people want. Instead, He led them in God-centered worship that exposed their self-centered appetites in order to draw them away from self-centeredness so they could know Him deeply, loving and serving Him for His glory and their joy.
Worship is not a grand show; it is not a comedy hour or a rock concert. Rather, it is a group of people assembled by Jesus to enjoy a deep relationship with the triune God, worshipping God by doing the things He prescribes in Scripture.
Again, do we need another church? Yes, if that church will be committed to God-centered worship.
3. Ineffective Shepherds
Many years ago, one influential pastor suggested we stop referring to pastors as “shepherds” because people today can’t relate to the imagery.
It was unfortunate, because this seems very appropriate for the present day: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1–4)
Yet what I saw at times in the years before I planted Good Shepherd were situations where church members fell into sin and the leaders of the church did not get involved.
Sure, people can stiff-arm a pastor or elder who tries to intervene, speak God’s Word, defend an offended party, and urge a person to repent. But these are things that pastors and elders are called by God to do.
The Scriptures command the leadership of the church to practice what we call “church discipline” with the goal of lovingly restoring those who go astray.
Through sound preaching and teaching, checking on people, counseling them, and praying with and for them, elders do what the Scriptures call “shepherding.” I can’t think of anything people need more of in 2019 than that.
Do we need another church? Yes, but only if the leaders of the church will shepherd effectively.
As long as we continue to see these deficiencies, we will need more churches. We need churches with preaching faithful to all of Scripture, worship services designed to draw all attention to God, and church leaders who willingly shepherd God’s people, led by His Word and His Spirit.
Stacey Severance is the church planting pastor of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Florence, SC. He graduated from Francis Marion University and completed his Masters of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte. He and his wife, Lia, have four daughters. Stacey enjoys woodworking and watching college football.