By Stacey Billger
What started as a core group of 15 people in March soon grew to more than 250 attendees at the official launch service for North Ridge Church in August. North Ridge Church Jackson, a church plant currently meeting at Rosa Scott High School has continued to experience growth and momentum in their ministry.
Since the August launch, 15 people have accepted Christ and six have been baptized. Average attendance nears 150 and the church has three small groups meeting with a desire to grow.
One college student recently baptized is a football player at Belhaven.
“To see a 300 pound lineman baptized was awesome,” said Joe Thrasher, who along with his wife serves at the church helping to coordinate small groups.
“Our church is really passionate about making disciples. We feel passionate about helping people grow in their faith and advance the Kingdom,” Pastor Eric Smith said.
Smith was on staff at Highland Colony Baptist Church when he felt the call to plant a church in Jackson. Church leadership was supportive of his calling and agreed to be the sending church for the new church plant. Support from Highland Colony and gifts to the Margaret Lackey State Mission Offering are what make it possible for church planters like Smith to answer God’s call to start a church.
“If it were not for the funding from the Margaret Lackey State Missions Offering, we would not exist; it’s so helpful,” Smith said. “If you have a passion to reach people, you can do that through giving to the Margaret Lackey Offering and partner with church plants,” Smith said.
The gifts from the Margaret Lackey Offering helped fund block parties and door hangers; both used as outreach opportunities to meet people in the community and get the word out about the church. Facebook and word of mouth have also been successful ways for new people in the area to hear about the church.
“Just about everyone who comes is because somebody invited them and invested in them,” Smith said. “We are constantly seeing new people every week.”
It’s the focus on discipleship that is creating the ministry and passion to see friends come to know Christ and invite friends to visit the church.
Thrasher, who coordinates small groups, said that the church hopes to continue to grow the number of small groups. “My wife and I we believe in what God is doing here in the church. We saw the vision and felt God’s calling and we jumped on board to help,” Thrasher said.
While the church wants to minister to any age, most who attend are under the age of 40. Some involved in the church are those who have been away from church for a period of time, others have never set foot in a church before. Regardless of their background, Smith and church members offer prayer and support to everyone and encourage involvement in small groups.
“Eric Smith is such an example of a young leader with a clear and compelling vision that he readily communicates to others,” Ed Deuschle, former director of the Church Planting Department for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. “I am thankful for the caliber of young, visionary church planters that God is calling out to develop new church plants in Mississippi.
For more information about new church starts in Mississippi, visit www.mbcb.org or call Johnny Ervin at 601-292-3224.