It’s Sunday morning in Lumberton, too early for movies to show at the cinema complex on Roberts Avenue.
Scores, hundreds of people are driving into the parking lot. Ushers direct the cars. Tents stand before the theater, and people are greeted warmly.
Under towering marquees blaring this week’s movies, one hears Christian music – loud, contemporary, rock-edged Christian music. The dress code leans to jeans and T-shirts. For a few hours on Sundays, this is Vertical Church.
BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Vertical Church in Lumberton launched in February with the help of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. They meet at a movie theater in town and in homes around the area to explore the Bible. Visit photo gallery and video.
Lead Pastor Mike Pittman and the Vertical team bring in a trailer of equipment and set up their portable church.
Pittman’s preaching is strong and very much Bible-based. It is the church presenting Jesus to people who do not like church, Pittman says.
Vertical’s website (govertical.org
) clearly lists their partnership with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), the Southern Baptist Convention and Robeson Baptist Association. But aside from the meeting place, there are other innovations. For example, after the service there’s a “Next” manned lobby table if someone wants prayer or to ask questions about the sermon.
While some may question such non-traditional methods, there’s no denying the gospel-centered excitement in the air and on the faces of Vertical’s members.
A few weeks after launching on Feb. 6 of this year, the church had baptized 80 new believers and was off and running. But this is only the most visible Sunday face of Vertical. The church began organizing six months earlier with home Bible studies and numerous outreach visits. Eight of these groups are going in surrounding communities and may one day become churches. Pittman and the Vertical team aim to start many churches, not just one. Starting lots of new churches, which will start more new churches: This may be Baptists’ best hope of reaching North Carolina’s estimated 5.6 million lost people.
In 2010 the Convention helped start 125 new churches across the state. If earlier trends hold, more than 80 percent of these will still be going after four years, a success rate far above the national average for church plants. For example, funded churches reported more than 2,800 professions of faith during 2010 as they pursued growth much more rapidly than most long-established churches do. But those same churches will continue to minister and reach out next year and the next and so on.
Church planters point out that starting churches is a long-life ministry. A crusade will last a short time. But a new church can last for hundreds of years.
Financial support for the Convention’s church planting ministry comes from the BSC’s two main funding sources: about two-thirds from the Cooperative Program and the rest from the North Carolina Missions Offering.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — This item is part of a package of stories highlighting planting multiplication church ministries across the state. The Biblical Recorder is focusing on the Seven Pillars for Christian Ministry adopted by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. For more stories on church planting or to find out about the entire package, please visit here.)