This is part 2 of a 3 part series “Why Plant Churches?” If you missed the first of the series, here’s Part 1.
If not for their efforts in church planting, our churches would not exist. As we think about the foundational work they did in the past, we are faced with the question, “Why did they plant the church?” If we apply this question to our contemporary context, we ask ourselves, “Why plant churches?”
2. Church planting is baptistic.
Baptists in the pre-revolutionary era planted some of the first churches in South Carolina. In the late 1600’s, Baptists fleeing religious persecution migrated from Maine to Charleston and planted what would become the first Baptist church in the South, First Baptist Church of Charleston. A group of members from the Welsh Tract Church in Delaware moved to the Pee Dee area of South Carolina and planted Welsh Neck Church in 1738 as an arm (plant) of the mother church.
The post-revolutionary era witnessed a tremendous growth in the number of Baptist churches in South Carolina. Regarding this increase Leah Townsend wrote, “Many of the older Baptist meetings were apparently reconstituted, new ones grew and flourished unrecorded, until a teeming religious life is shown covering the back country after 1790, when the Bethel Association began to keep minutes of its meetings.” Robert Torbet also mentioned this growth among Baptists in South Carolina in his pivotal work entitled A History of the Baptists. He recounted:
South Carolina Baptists, who had suffered from the ill effects of the war, also experienced an awakening about 1790. . . . Illustrative of the notable growth in the back country is the record of Bethel (originally called Jameys Creek) Church, located on the ridge between Enoree and Tyger Rivers. In 1790 it had 116 members; thirteen years later, 390, an increase of more than three hundred per cent. The Bethel Association, with which this church united when the Association was organized in 1789, epitomized this era of revival. In 1789 it had sixteen churches with perhaps fewer than one thousand members; by 1800 there were fifty-two churches with over twenty-eight hundred members; and three years later, owing to the withdrawal of nine churches to organize the Saluda Association, the number of churches was reduced to thirty-three, yet the membership had been so augmented by conversions as to exceed the figure for 1800 by 828.
Such church planting and Kingdom expansion efforts did not end in the eighteenth century, the next two centuries saw further efforts by Baptists in South Carolina to plant churches. One example of such a plant would be Little Bethel Baptist Church in Mullins, SC. Regarding the beginnings of the church, Ethel C. Metts wrote:
Early records do not indicate what planning took place before the organizational meeting, but in light of the fact that the Rev. T. P. Lide, Jr., in the first church conference was elected moderator, and was also called to pastor the new church, it seems likely he was instrumental in its inception. The young minister has been referred to as a “church planter,” and his name is linked with the beginning of other churches in the Marion-Mullins area. It seems likely, therefore, that the Rev. Lide “planted” Little Bethel.
In addition to church planters like Pastor Lide, members from Baptist churches in South Carolina also planted churches in our state. In the mid-1940’s church members from various churches in the Hartsville area gathered to plant Lakeview Baptist Church, one of the churches I pastored, because there was not a church in the Lakeview community. What began as a house church plant grew to become one of the largest churches in Hartsville.
These examples are but a few of the many pieces of historical evidence revealing the involvement of Baptists in South Carolina in church planting. They by no means exhaust the numerous stories that you might share regarding your own church or other churches in our state of which you were a member; however, they do clearly indicate that South Carolina Baptist history shows that church planting is baptistic. We worship in congregations planted by South Carolina Baptists upon whose shoulders we are standing.
Again, such a revelation should prompt us to ask some familiar questions: “If church planting is baptistic, and I am a member of a South Carolina Baptist church, is my church following the example of her founders by planting other churches? If history shows that South Carolina Baptists in particular and Baptists in general planted churches, should my Baptist church not also participate in such church planting efforts?”
This is part 2 of a 3 part series “Why Plant Churches?” Part 3 will be available Thursday, March 14th.
 Ibid., 181.
Dr. Tim McKnight is Assistant Professor of Missions and Youth Ministry at Anderson University. He has over 21 years of experience in ministry, serving churches in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina. He served in youth ministry for 12 years and in the pastorate for 9 years. In addition, Dr. McKnight served as an infantry chaplain in the U.S. Army, deploying on Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom in 2001. He holds a BS in Criminal Justice from Bluefield College, and a M.Div. and PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. His primary field of study for the Ph.D. was in evangelism, with additional studies in missions and church history. He has also co-founded Carolina Family Planning Centers and founded Twin Vision Consultants, a church consultation team that helps congregations become healthy and growing churches. He has also served as a disaster relief chaplain in multiple settings in recent years, including in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina.