An old cigar warehouse that has stood sentry over Greenville’s Main Street for 150 years is now part of the emerging millennial mecca in this town of 70,000.
The warehouse’s rustic and historic atmosphere, paired with the newly polished wood floors and recessed lighting, make it the perfect place for the newest church plant in “the 29601” — Greenville’s downtown — relaying the old, old story of the Gospel in a language understood by modern young professionals flocking to this South Carolina city.
Abi and Matthew Elrod moved to Greenville eight years ago to do apartment ministry through the North American Mission Board and became involved in a church plant, Origins, in the city center. Matt became the discipleship pastor and, two years ago, was asked to become the lead pastor.
“Our purpose is to live out the Gospel for those who work, play and live downtown [the 29601],” Abi said. Through community groups and involvement in the life of the city, Origins encourages people to come as they are and discover a God who accepts and loves them without hesitation. Origins’ 100 members are mostly millennials. Many were raised in the church, walked away from faith during college, but are now seeking community and fellowship.
“Our members are inviting their co-workers and they’re coming!” Abi said with amazement.
“We’re not a production church. We’re relational and community-focused. We know that we’re all messed up,” she said, reflecting on Matt’s own experience with depression, which he has shared openly.
The transparency of this brokenness seems to be reflect an authenticity that draws millennials’ attention.
Sarah, by way of Thailand
Sarah was raised a practicing Catholic, but when she went off to college, she left that life behind, thus beginning her agnostic years.
“I didn’t really take anything away from [those years in the Catholic church],” Sarah said. “To me, it was like fictional stories.”
Her grad school study led her into meaningful discussions with students that revolved around race, gender and religion, leading her to explore her own faith. Burned out from grad school, looking for answers, and ready for a change, Sarah found a job in Bangkok, Thailand.
“I wanted to experience a different way of life,” she said. “I wanted to dabble [in religion] and see what felt right.”
Her connection in Thailand ended up being a strong evangelical Christian who invited her to church. It was there that Sarah’s understanding of God changed.
“I was finally able to take in who Jesus is, what He did for us, what it means to be a Christian. All these concepts I had grown up with, but didn’t really understand,” she said. “I was still exploring other faiths, but nothing I discovered really clicked. But at this church [in Bangkok], everything made sense — I felt a sense of peace I had never felt before.”
The pastor preached a sermon that had a direct correlation with some personal family issues Sarah was dealing with at the time. Through the pastor’s words, she realized that God had not left her alone.
“I was in a place of sadness, uncertainty and loneliness, and God met me there. I didn’t have anyone who really understood what I was going through, but I felt like … someone was hearing me … when I heard that sermon at church.”
Her journey continued as she transferred to Ireland and then came home to South Carolina, where she was baptized. She settled in an apartment in Greenville where Stephen and Kaylen were serving with Apartment Life, living life-on-life with those in the complex by hosting dinners and social events, sharing Christ, and becoming friends. When they started Origins church, Sarah became a part and found her home.
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Source: Baptist Press