Wow, have we been on a rollercoaster of a ride as far as church goes.
I grew up going to church. Until my senior year of high school, my family attended Rocky Creek Baptist Church…the same church my grandparents and great-grandparents attended. I have memories of sitting in the balcony with Dolla (my paternal grandmother), eating peanut M&M’s and tracing our hands on the backs of offering envelopes. (My sister and I also had one of our most memorable spankings after church one Sunday night – apparently we were playing in the balcony and kicking our feet up over the top of the pew! I guess we deserved it!) We were Southern Baptists that were there every Sunday and Wednesday. I went on all of the youth trips, I knew everyone…in fact, my lifelong friends were from church. We joined Simpsonville First Baptist when I was a senior in high school, and that was tough. It wasn’t the same as going to the church I grew up in. I was forgotten when they did the senior recognition service, and it was heartbreaking for me. However, that incident led to me becoming very close to the youth pastor, Steve, so it wasn’t a total disappointment.
I went on to college and attended Newspring Church while I was at Clemson. Newspring completely changed the way I thought about the church. They were contemporary, and at the time, they were meeting at Anderson College (now Anderson University). They played secular music and their pastor was not afraid to address subjects that no other pastor I knew would talk about. For example, I still remember the Sunday he discussed his former addiction to pornography. I had NEVER heard a pastor talk about anything like that, so I was shocked. However, his candidness that day forever shaped the way I looked at addiction and sin. It was like a light had dawned on me – I realized that just because something is a struggle for one person, that doesn’t mean another is facing the same temptation. However, just because we might be inclined to lean toward one particular sin doesn’t mean that we should just give in and live that way…it means we will have to fight harder than others to overcome it, and that’s what we need to do. I am forever thankful to him for that.
While in college, I had an epiphany about my faith – I had all of this inner turmoil, and I specifically remember the moment I found Phillipians 4:6-7. The Lord spoke to my heart then, and I was never the same. I knew that Jesus was my Lord and Savior, and if I believe the Bible – which I do – I needed to be involved in a church.
Anyway, once I graduated and moved back home – now married, in my little apartment with my husband and dog – we went back to Simpsonville First Baptist. In fact, I was their youth intern that summer. It was a great learning experience for me, as I had not seen the inner workings of a church up close. I also learned that although I am not naturally inclined to seek out relationships with students, I love planning and organizing events, and trying to find solutions for weaknesses I noticed. Once summer ended, Andrew and I became involved in a married couples’ Sunday School class, and things were hunky dory….for a while. Things happened, and we decided to visit other churches. That’s when we ended up at SFBC’s West Campus. The first Sunday I cried twice – once in Sunday School, and once in service. I knew we were in the right place. We got involved and ended up leading a small group. We were there for a little over a year – maybe 2? – but once Blakely was born, we were accidentally/purposely (we still don’t know) replaced as leaders. (I think they were trying to give us more space so we didn’t get burned out – oops!) We ended up visiting Newspring again with my sister, and were immediately hooked – we weren’t planning to leave SFBC, but we couldn’t deny that the Lord was calling us to Newspring. However, as we tried to get involved…it never worked out. I volunteered in the office a few times in Anderson, but that was FAR. Andrew tried greeting but they basically said if he could make it, great. We tried NS Greenville and just didn’t feel a peace about it. However, we didn’t tell anyone about this. We loved the sermons, so we were trying to work through it….and as this happened, we ran into a few people. First, I ran into our old friends, Stephanie and Russell at Moe’s. Somehow church came up, and they mentioned they were going to Capstone, a small church in Fountain Inn (we live in Fountain Inn, by the way). I was like, “oh, that’s great” and asked a few questions, but like I said…we were happy at Newspring! I then saw Walt. Walt and I grew up together at Rocky Creek, and he is the pastor at Capstone now. He mentioned the church and I told him I was happy for him, etc., etc. Small talk, basically. I didn’t really think much of these encounters until we kept feeling the call to get more involved in church, and it just wasn’t happening at Newspring. At this point, I emailed Tracy Estes. Tracy and Chris were members at SFBC with us, and were active in the youth ministry. They also helped get a Sunday School class started for us specifically – they had us and another couple over for dinner to talk about what we were looking for in a class, and worked to get that for us. (Thank you, Tracy!) However, they were now at Capstone, and I didn’t really know why, but I emailed her to check things out there. I told her we were interested in maybe visiting, and she was very excited. I remember she invited us to a Discovery class they were doing to learn more about the church, but we had gone through that with Newspring, and I knew it was more for people looking to become members, so I declined. I did plan for us to visit one Sunday, though, so we were looking forward to it.
THAT THURSDAY, Steve (the youth pastor I mentioned above) called. He came by our house and said for some reason, our names were on his heart, and he basically came by to ask us for help with his youth program. I was thinking, “no way!” and I told him we were visiting Capstone that Sunday. Well, guess what? I got a horrible stomach bug and couldn’t go! The bug was in our ear about helping with the youth at that point, and so we broke down and went back to SFBC. (I wrote more about this journey here.)
Ultimately, it didn’t work out. Some things did work…Steve and I talked a LOT about ideas I had for the youth program, and he tried to implement them. I hope the ministry benefited from us being there for the short amount of time we served! However, Andrew and I had such turmoil in our hearts, we could not stay.
So, we were back to square one. I (again) emailed Tracy, and this time, I talked to Walt as well. They both welcomed a visit to Capstone, so we tried it one Sunday in June. When we walked in, it reminded us of a smaller-scale Newspring. I was pleasantly surprised to see Laura and Chris Barrineau – Chris was the youth minister at Trinity United Methodist when I was in high school, and that’s where a lot of my friends went. I played on his basketball team and I even went on a trip to Awanita with Trinity. Laura led a group of my friends in a Bible study at Carolina Fine Foods before school, and I went. (I even have a journal she gave me – she wrote the sweetest note in there, even though I was a newbie and she didn’t know me very well!) Also, when I was checking my kids in, I saw a teacher from REC that I knew, and during the service, we saw a couple that we met randomly while we were still at SFBC. We met them as we were moving a friend out of her house…Hunter and Jenny knew her former boyfriend, and came to help as well. That stuck out to me, because they really didn’t know Megan all that well – they just knew she needed help. I remember seeing the Capstone sticker on their car, and we talked about church a little bit as we were eating lunch that day. It was a seemingly small encounter that I definitely remembered as we came to Capstone.
No one pressured us that day to come back, although Walt and Tracy followed up with us later on. We kept attending, and as we learned more about what Capstone believed in, what they supported, how they ran things…we felt confirmation at every turn. Before we attended Capstone but as we were struggling in the other churches, Andrew and I consulted Scripture…and a line from Crazy Love by Francis Chan stood out to us. Paraphrasing here – he says that if someone was stranded on a desert island with the Bible, they would have a RADICALLY different view of church than we do in America today. That’s true! How much do our churches look like the churches Paul describes in Acts? Not much. We realized that, and prayed for a church that was striving to be what Jesus called for. Well, we found it.
Walt and Betsy met with us to discuss our take on Capstone over dinner, and I also met with Laura B. to talk about where we’ve been, what the Lord was doing with us, and what we could offer at Capstone. They were excited about the possibility of us ending up there, and definitely wanted to use us if this is where the Lord was calling us to be. (However – as I did get involved and then later needed to step back as my anxiety took over in the fall – they were the first ones to support and pray for me. That meant so much!) The staff and leaders are humble – they will openly admit they aren’t perfect, they are willing to listen and change the way things work if it’s not ideal…yet, they will stand up for the right thing and are unashamed of the Gospel. They constantly strive to be the church that Christ calls them to be. The building isn’t fancy, the people are casual…but I have never been to a church where people are this genuinely excited to be there. Lives are changing at Capstone, and it shows.
We finally became PARTNERS Saturday (not members – partners!), and we couldn’t be more pumped. Sunday was the 3rd birthday for Capstone, and Walt announced that we’ve given away over $100,000 in the first three years. THAT IS AMAZING. We are a young church, obviously…but people have a heart for the Gospel, and we are willing to be radical about it. It is so exciting to be a part of this…something is stirring in Fountain Inn, and it’s not about Capstone – it’s about Jesus!!!!
As I look back on our long, winding journey, I realize that EVERY SINGLE THING that happened to us, happened for a reason. Every experience at SFBC and every experience at Newspring has made us the people we are today, and I pray that Christ will use these experiences for His glory as we serve at Capstone. Thank you, Lord!
**If you are interested in learning more about Capstone, check out our website HERE….or just ask me!
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