A Vision for Church Planting in the Grand Strand

Ronny Byrd has seen tremendous growth and change in the Myrtle Beach area since moving there in 1985. Known as a “champion for church planting,” Byrd is the pastor of Palmetto Shores Church and has been active in multiplying churches for the last 27 years. He is passionate about church planting being the way to reach people who are new to the Grand Strand area of South Carolina with the hope of the gospel.

“I see that the need for churches in the Grand Strand is unlimited. The challenge is having a supply of healthy leaders and pastors that can start those churches, so the need exceeds supply right now. The idea of swapping church members or gathering a group to start new churches won’t work. Personal evangelism must be a top priority in this,” says Byrd.

The South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) works alongside churches that have a true Great Commission culture to Advance the Kingdom by making disciples who start new work.

According to Cliff Marshall, team leader for church planting with the convention, South Carolina Baptist churches must rise to the challenge of planting these churches if there is to be a movement of multiplying churches strong enough to meet the demands of the sheer numbers of people moving to the state.

“We know that currently three out of every four South Carolina residents aren’t vitally connected to an evangelical church. Thirteen counties in our state are projected to be among the fastest growing counties in the United States in the next five years and Horry County is the second fastest growing county in the state. We also know that when people move here they aren’t looking for a church, that’s not in their background. So, we need to plant new works to reach people in new ways,” Marshall says.

Byrd agrees, adding that he is pursuing partnerships with healthy churches because “a healthy church is like any other living organism, in that healthy organisms reproduce. Any church that’s healthy should have an investment in planting churches locally and around the world.”

A two-day Grand Strand church planting vision tour was held in early February to give partnering churches and prospective planters guided access to the area. Pastors and leaders from the Waccamaw Association shared statistics, led tours and prayer walks with participants. SCBC Church Planting Strategist Josh Bradley coordinated the vision tour and has worked for the last two years with local ministry leaders to identify International Drive and Little River as specific areas in need of new churches.

“We began to work with Waccamaw Director of Missions Tommy Richardson to think through how to train church planters and invest in relationships. Then we connected with Ronny and key church planter John Shaffer, of Discover Church in Surfside. We spent six months doing Send Network Church Planter Training together at the Waccamaw Association, which Ronnie is now trained to continue leading,” says Bradley.

One of the most rapidly growing areas in the Grand Strand surrounds International Drive, a connector between Highways 90 and 31 that opened in July 2018. It has brought opportunities for new housing, restaurants and shopping developments. Bradley says the key element to successful church plants here will be partnerships with existing churches.

“We’re praying that we’re able to help build a network of multiplying churches to where we can invest together in the gospel. These partnerships are the fuel behind this movement. We believe that churches plant churches, state conventions don’t plant churches,” he says, adding that they are also seeing church planting pastors emerging to lead the new work.

“The three pastors that are currently involved in the training are doing an awesome job of creating a picture of how they feel God is calling them. But we need so many more who are willing to pour their lives into reaching lost people and sharing the gospel. This is not something man can do, it’s something God has to do,” says Byrd.

“If anyone is praying about coming to this area, I would say that it’s a perfect place to plant a church. We are building a support system here and have a strategy to help church planters. I can’t wait to see what God will do,” DOM Richardson adds.

To existing church partners and potential planters sensing a call to join the new work in this area, Bradley poses two important questions: how is God calling you to specifically move the message of the gospel forward in the Grand Strand; and, is God calling you to specifically come and either plant a church or be a part of a church plant there.

Those interested in learning more about church planting opportunities in the area can be a part of a second Grand Strand vision tour slated for fall 2019. For more online information visit www.scbcadvance.org, or contact Bradley directly at joshbradley@scbaptist.org.