When ministers and brothers Jason and Christopher Lineberger
felt God telling them to “start something new,” they waded into a river of
resources flowing past their door.
They contacted Phil Frady, director of missions in South
Roanoke Baptist Association, which encompasses Greenville, where they felt led
to start a church. Frady directed them to Mark Gray and Frank White at the
Baptist State Convention of North Carolina who began to encourage the brothers
and offer step-by-step advice.
The Linebergers jumped into the church planter’s boot camp
in March 2009, which they found “extremely helpful.”
Gray and White have been an “invaluable resource in
planning, support and providing information” Jason Lineberger said during a
telephone interview Dec. 6.
With no people and no money, Jason, Christopher and Alex and
Beth Harding came to Greenville, found part time jobs to support their vision
and got to work.
The Baptist State Convention provided church planting funds,
which were “not a whole lot, but when you don’t have any, it makes a
difference,” Jason said.
They used the funds to advertise monthly meetings and after
six months, Ignite Church launched, in January 2010.
Eighty-five people were on board with the vision prior to
launch and over 200 showed up at the first service, held in a movie theater
that seats 250. Approaching their first anniversary next month, Ignite has seen
almost 100 professions of faith and averages 450 attending.
They’ve moved to Hendricks Theater in the East Carolina University
student center. It seats 750 and attendance some Sundays tells Lineberger he
needs to consider a second service.
Worship style is “very contemporary,” he said. Although he
calls it “nothing too radical” the church offers earplugs. The music is “really
loud, passionate and upbeat.”
The words “passion” and “excellence” rain frequently through
Lineberger’s speech. He is convinced those qualities resonate to a population
saturated with head knowledge about God but turned off to the church.
Lineberger said many people who are far from God have
actually been baptized, but they think of the church today as “boring, critical
and out of date.”
“These people are real and passionate about what they
believe,” Lineberger said. “We are in a savvy time. Whether on TV or at the
mall, they have excellence all around them.”
Consequently, “if sister Sue sings a solo and she can’t hit
a note, that sends a message. If God is the God of the universe, we should give
our very best.
“We need to be excellent. We need to be presenting Christ
and worshipping and loving and everything we do we need to do it as excellently
as we can.”
Ignite started with four fulltime staff members. Jason
Lineberger is teaching pastor and Christopher and the Hardings direct other
ministry areas. Ministries to “kids, worship and music were top notch from the
getgo,” he said.
Lineberger is 28 and 60 percent of the church is between 18
He said Ignite “has been very blessed” to strike a positive
and rapid chord. “There are a ton of people who don’t know Christ, but who are
open to religious things, they are open to things of the church,” he said.
Could such dramatic growth be possible in an established church in the same
“It can be done if a church is willing to refocus on its
original mission,” said Lineberger, who was on church staff in Everetts, about
30 miles from Greenville. “New churches have no mission in mind other than
reaching their community for Christ.
“What happens to so many is they lose sight of that mission
and we begin to major in the minors.”
He quoted Atlanta area pastor Andy Stanley who said as long
as there is money in the bank and members love each other many churches “are
not panicked about not winning people for Christ.”
Ignite’s next issue might be where to meet. He is
committed to remaining inside the city and if the church decides to buy
permanent space, he would love to renovate currently vacant retail space. As a
young pastor in a church where everything is new, Lineberger appreciates the
local and state Baptist resources. “If those connections had never been made,
it would have been a lot harder,” he said.