The Church at LifePark is located several miles from its founding church, First Baptist Church in Mt. Pleasant. In just a few years’ time, LifePark has seen about 600 baptisms and welcomes 1,700 people a week to worship services. The young church has put down roots in a growing community, implemented a strong ministry transitioning youth beyond high school, and is actively planting new churches.
“As a church leader, you sometimes see some work of God. Many times you’re planting and watering seeds but not always seeing the fruit of ministry. In these last seven years, I’ve literally seen the supernatural work of God,” says pastor Chad Moore.
LifePark’s story begins in 1978, when First Baptist Mt. Pleasant purchased 34 acres on the north side of town. The church originally sought five acres for a future relocation, but Moore says the details of the larger land purchase reflect God’s provision even then. He describes Ron Dillon, long-time pastor of First Baptist Mt. Pleasant, as philosophically leading that congregation to be missions-minded, fostering a heart for church planting, and promoting a spirit of blessing to existing church members called to join new plants.
“Church planting is a part of the DNA of my heart, as well as of my church. God put it in the heart of First Baptist to not build a new sanctuary, but instead, build a new church in the north area of town. It shows their kingdom mindset,” says Moore, adding that his own ministry philosophy and attitude is modeled after Dillon’s.
Moore says that under Dillon’s leadership, the church held a capital campaign to begin planting LifePark. First Baptist Mt. Pleasant sold three acres on the front part of the property, which served as the seed money to build LifePark’s building. LifePark functioned as a second church campus for its first four years, with First Baptist Mt. Pleasant fully supporting the new church and its staff, until it became autonomous in 2014.
Next Generation pastor Paul Coleman says LifePark has strong small group and mentoring ministries. Members are involved in local outreach and are encouraged to serve in community missions and beyond. LifePark recently began a partnership with Baltimore churches through the North American Mission Board’s SEND initiative.
Over the past four years, LifePark has developed the “Life After High School” class, which positions students for spiritual success after graduation. It coincides with the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s collegiate evangelism weekend Converge, held during the winter of their senior year.
“Converge weekend starts the conversation about going to college, living on purpose for God, and being a part of campus ministries and churches while they’re at college,” says Coleman.
After using different books and resources over the years, Coleman has taken elements from several to create a class curriculum. Students meet monthly between March and June, then three times in July, before culminating in an August send-off brunch. They are recognized in a worship service and, with their families, at a more relaxed banquet for a time of humor and encouragement.
“We are opening dialogue with these students about not neglecting their spirituality while they’re in college. We are doing as much as we can —and, who knows, it might help that one senior to make the transition well,” Coleman says.
Following the example set for them, LifePark is also actively living out a passion for church multiplication. LifePark has offered limited financial gifts to several new church plants in the Charleston and Mt. Pleasant areas. Some planters have approached the church for assistance and mentoring, with some serving for a time on LifePark’s staff.
“We have also committed to fully support a new plant, King’s Cross, until it’s self-sufficient. So we regularly send sacrificial gifts, and 100 of our church members were sent to go with the new plant. We see God’s faithfulness there — its pastor was called through the church, and God has called people to be there. As the church is establishing, people are giving. We saw nine baptisms within the first few weeks of their church. It is very emotional,” Moore says.
LifePark members learn about new church plant ministry opportunities through listening sessions. The congregation is invited to support the new churches by going to serve in them, or through special offerings. As Moore puts it, “The level of your conviction about church planting should be consistent with your level of sacrifice for it.”
LifePark is stepping out in faith by expanding its existing building, and, in the next year or so, plans to multiply in another part of town.
“There are 90,000 people in Mt. Pleasant, and there are 25,000 attending church. We are collaborating together to reach this city for Christ. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people, and we celebrate church plants here to help reach our city for Christ,” Moore says.
“At the end of the day, we’re being faithful to what the Church has been faithful to for centuries now — we’re preaching the Word, trying to make worship excellent so people invite their friends. It’s a move of God, and we’re grateful,” Coleman says.
“I think people respond to spiritual challenge and conviction. Take God at His word, and move out in bold obedience. Then trust Him to do what only God can do,” Moore says.
— Julia Bell writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.