When he felt God calling him into new work 15 years ago, David Holland was on staff at The Baptist Church of Beaufort. Fulfilled in ministry and content in his church, Holland says he began to recognize spiritual disconnect in his community as he met neighbors and engaged other parents at his children’s activities.
“The topic of church would come up, and I realized how many people around me weren’t connected to church. I’d invite them but noticed that, for a variety of reasons, a traditional church wasn’t reaching them. I felt a burden to connect with them spiritually,” he says.
Holland shared his vision with The Baptist Church of Beaufort, which has a strong history of church planting, and Tidal Creek Church was eventually planted in nearby Lady’s Island in 2002. In the years since, Tidal Creek Church has effectively reached its community, which U.S. Census data reports is among the fastest-growing counties in the state. Tidal Creek Church’s healthy congregation grew to about 500 people and today is an affiliate church of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Taylor Burgess was called to Tidal Creek Church in 2013 as a worship leader. In time, he assumed speaking responsibilities for the church’s Saturday night services and began to recognize that God was stirring his heart for a new work. He approached Holland with the idea to plant a church in 2015. As they prayed about the calling and worked to define it, others from within Tidal Creek Church also felt called to be a part of planting a new church. Burgess says from the beginning, Holland approached the opportunity with open hands.
“We blessed and encouraged those in our church who felt called to be a part of this and intentionally developed some of our lay leaders to join them. We believed God would guide to where the plant would be located, which ended up being five miles from our church,” says Holland.
Starting last fall, Burgess and a team of elders and leaders began to engage unchurched people in neighborhoods and around the community. Burgess says key planning strategies he learned through the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s Immersion process have helped Cross Community Church at every stage of its birthing process. By design, the church first held meaningful small-group experiences that involved about 70 people, and that led up to the church’s first service, which was held at the local high school in January 2017.
Originally, Holland anticipated that 75 of Tidal Creek Church’s members would help plant Cross Community Church, but 175 people ended up committing to support the new church. He speaks honestly about the mixture of joy in new work and the struggle in discovering the new “normal” for the founding church.
“In some ways, we have tithed our people, as 20 to 30 percent of our previous attendance has become a part of the new plant. Yet we’re still strong, vibrant, and have great leadership at Tidal Creek. If anything, it’s created empty spaces in our services to remind us that we have plenty of work to do ourselves,” he says.
Meanwhile, Cross Community Church is focusing on building a healthy church base. There are 14 groups meeting during the week, with seven new groups set to begin this year. About 325 regularly attend worship, and a second service is slated to start this fall.
Burgess describes his church-planting experience as a roller coaster of highs and lows. From seeing folks who have never been to church give their lives to Christ, to others attending worship only to leave during the service, Burgess says it’s still the most rewarding work he’s been a part of.
“We’ve got an incredibly strong start as a church plant, and it’s not lost on us that it’s because of Tidal Creek’s support. It’s been an honor for us to be Tidal Creek’s first church plant, and we hope to model this in a healthy way to our community,” says Burgess.
In the last few weeks, Cross Community Church has seen extraordinary prayers answered, and members are actively sharing the gospel. Burgess says seekers continue to attend worship services, marriages are being restored, and addictions overcome.
“I love being on the forefront of seeing people know Jesus, and seeing believers who’ve known Jesus for a while deepen their relationships with Him. It’s amazing to see God at work in people’s lives,” Burgess says.
Holland says Cross Community Church has a lot of Tidal Creek Church’s DNA, and he’s excited to see how God will use its unique identity in powerful ways. He adds that members of Tidal Creek Church have already asked when their church will plant again.
For his part, Burgess says churches miss a great opportunity if they aren’t involved in church planting. “It’s important for every church, regardless of its age or location, and for every single person who is a follower of Jesus, to get involved in church planting. I would love to see every church in the South Carolina Baptist Convention become involved by surrounding church planters, financially supporting them, sending people, and seeing more partnerships built like the one we have with Tidal Creek,” he says.
— Julia Bell writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.