New Church Plant Is Going From Pew to Pavement

In November 2013, Grace Fellowship held its first worship service in northeast Columbia. Pastor Reginald Byrden and twelve original members met in the busy Farrow Road community with the goal of showing the community what a New Testament church should be like.

“Community ministry allows those on the outside of the church to see what the church is supposed to look like. Often we spend a lot of time ‘saving’ people who are already saved. We worship, sing, and praise, and then go back to our own corners of the world. I like to say we are called to go ‘from the pew to the pavement,’ to allow those on the outside to see what the church is really about,” Byrden said.

One way this new church plant is living out God’s calling is through intentional outreach to an apartment complex just five minutes down the road. Deer Park Apartments is no more than a few miles away and is now in the ministry sights of Grace Fellowship.

This past March, the church worked with the apartment’s manager to plan a block party. Members set up large inflatables, Bingo, and other games, and grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for the event. More than 100 residents came out to experience the fun. The purpose wasn’t just to entertain; Grace Fellowship was there to meet the residents and begin building relationships with them.

As Byrden was talking with one young family that afternoon, the mother mentioned that her daughter’s birthday was a few days away. Byrden quietly asked a church member to go and purchase a birthday cake at a local grocery, and when they returned with it, the crowd gathered and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the little girl.

“That family visited with us the very next Sunday,” said Byrden, a veteran pastor with 20 years’ experience.

Grace Fellowship is a part of the South Carolina Baptist Convention family and has received financial assistance and other types of support as a result of that relationship. Byrden said the resources made available to new church plants and the training he has been exposed to through the convention have been a blessing to him personally and also to his congregation.

For his part, Ronnie Cox, associate director of missions mobilization at the convention, said the impact would be felt across the state and around the world if there were just one hundred more like Byrden.

“Reginald and Grace Church are great examples of people who excel at ministry inside the church and in world evangelistic engagement. Reginald is a great learner and a great example for all pastors in how to use what he learns to intentionally engage the lost in multihousing communities,” Cox said.

The focus of Grace Fellowship is to reach the unchurched, and the church is committed to maximize the ministry within the growing community where it is located. Byrden reports that God is doing amazing things within and beyond the church walls. There are now 54 active members and the church is starting two small groups for men and women. One church member is leading outreach efforts, and there is a continued focus on community missions.

“Our primary focus isn’t on building the church, but growing the kingdom. We are being obedient to the voice of God and are working to empower lives for kingdom living. God will increase the church,” Byrden said.

The church held a back-to-school event in late August at a local salon owned by a member of Grace Fellowship. That church member gave free haircuts to children, and the church gave away more than 20 book bags filled with school supplies. Grace Fellowship also partnered with the Columbia Metro Baptist Association this summer for a block party at another apartment complex. Several upcoming events at Deer Park Apartments are being planned, including a trunk-or-treat in October and a small group the church hopes to start on site.

“We are all about taking the church to the community in any way that we can and are trying to make a difference where we are located. We have had people visit and join the church. We are not a big congregation, but we are doing what the Lord has called us to do. We have great expectations that God will do great things through our church and in our city,” Byrden said.

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