Fountain of Life Church in Spartanburg is primarily an African-American congregation that formed following a church split a decade ago. It had been without a pastor for about a year when the church, with 44 members, called Rickie Sarratt as its pastor. At that time, the church had 44 members and grew under Sarratt’s leadership to about 85 while continuing with forward momentum.
In 2014, with membership up to 85, Fountain of Life Church began the Intentional Church Multiplication Process (ICMP) through the South Carolina Baptist Convention, which helped the church identify its strengths, articulate a vision, and align its ministries to that vision. As a result, the church has seen God at work as it moves into a new phase of ministry.
“The core of existing church members was ready to be directed, and they embraced ICMP,” Sarratt said. “It’s been a slow process to turn things around, but we have started to see spiritual growth in our current members and we have become more concerned about the lost. As we have progressed through ICMP, leadership expressed that it’s been what we needed; and they wished we had this sooner.”
In response to the new vision – around creating a holy life – Fountain of Life Church is intentionally working to become healthier. As a result, Sarratt said the church has become stronger in its six pillars that include: fellowship, worship, ministry, prayer, evangelism, and discipleship.
Church members wrestled with moving beyond a “traditional church” mindset, and Sarratt said ICMP clarified what the church was trying to change. Members have begun to understand their identity in the community and have a renewed focus on evangelism as they are actively planning intentional outreach to a local apartment complex. Eight new life groups have also begun, which has helped build disciples and minister within the church.
“We are in the infant stages of life groups and focusing on discipleship, but I see how God is lining us up to see another level of effectiveness for the Kingdom,” Sarratt said. “We are looking at adopting a community we’re already involved in, and it will become a strong indicator of who we are as a church. I see a lot of growth in the life group leaders, who are spiritually hungrier than they have ever been. They are seeing changes in people’s lives and are starting to see who they are in Christ.”
In his role as pastor, Sarratt has become more focused on the church’s vision as well. In this ‘mode of doing the Great Commission as Jesus calls us to,’ he is not doing things just to be doing them. “I have a better understanding of the purpose of church,” he said.
As the church participated in ICMP, Sarratt began going through the state convention’s leadership track and was then tapped to become a consultant for the process to help other pastors and churches going through ICMP. The experience shed light on Sarratt’s ministry and leadership styles while strengthening his own relationship with God.
“I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” he said. “Through leadership education, I saw how some of the ways I was leading weren’t helping. Now, I have given members more opportunities to lead; and that has proved to be less stressful for me,” adding that empowering church leaders was initially difficult but that he has learned to trust God to help those leaders do their best.
To the church considering ICMP, Sarratt said it is the most vital process his church could go through and, quite possibly, the next wave of God’s church rebuilding itself.
“For young churches, who have lost their zeal or forgotten the purpose God has for them as a church, this process puts you back in line with that,” he said. “It restores life and revitalizes you. I believe every church in the convention should go through it, even if it’s just for a tune-up. With what our country is currently facing and how society views Christianity and churches in general, ICMP helps our churches to stay strong so that when people return to us, we’ll be ready. With this process, we are ready and have the tools and purpose to go after the lost and not be as concerned with what’s going on inside the walls.”