It’s a church made up of small home groups that gather periodically for worship events and service.
“We’re not against church, obviously,” Corry Craine said as he and his wife sat in a classroom at West Acres Baptist Church, which commissioned them to plant the new church. “But there are a lot of people who will not come to a church like this. They don’t fit in, it’s too big, they want something more intimate, they’ve been hurt by the church, they don’t like the hypocrisy, or various reasons. Things like home church appeal to them.”
Craine was ordained in May 2012 at West Acres and said he has been trying to figure out where God was leading him. He served as an interim pastor at a church in Sardis, Ga., and had taught marriage classes at West Acres before his ordination.
“When it finally came to it we realized what he was really calling us to do was go back to more of the basics of the church,” he said. “He wants us to be working with families, using the strength of family to be the foundation of the church.”
The church is just getting started, with a group of about eight meeting weekly at the Craines’ home.
The meetings are casual. Members and guests show up at 5 p.m. and eat dinner. Praise and worship follows. It’s not a Bible study, like many small groups across the area. Craine teaches by asking questions and facilitating discussion, rather than preaching or lecturing. After worship, members can hang around if they wish over dessert and socialize.
Craine said more than new members, his prayer right now is to find six more couples to help him get it started.
“Six couples who have the same heart, that really want to invest in families, to be in intimate groups,” he said. “These will actually be the foundations for growth.”
Family is the church’s main focus. The Craines want families – traditional, single-parent and blended – to feel comfortable bringing their children, who can participate in the discussions as much as the adults.
The small home groups will come together monthly for a corporate worship around events such as Music, Movie and Ministry Nights, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. June 21, July 26 and Aug. 30 at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Theatre at Columbia County Library.
The events are open to everyone, not just members of The Gathered Flocks.
Each night will have a theme. Musicians from youth groups across the area will perform praise music, and everyone will settle in for a Christian movie.
All of the movies will be chosen from producers at Pure Flix or Provident Films, who have made movies including Facing the Giants and Moms’ Night Out.
“Friday nights are movie nights at (our) house,” Craine said. “We all curl up on the couch and the kids pick whatever we’re going to watch, and we all sit down and have movie night. This is just kind of taking that out into the public.”
Eventually, Craine said, he’d like to have more events such as a date night for couples, with a movie and a message that will strengthen their relationship.
Craine said ideally, the church will remain a collection of home groups and will never become a formal church with a building and programs. He would rather use the resources those would require on outreach. But realistically, as the church grows a building could become necessary.
“We know that this is a season. Eventually it probably will lead into more of a formal church,” he said. “My prayer is that the time we spend in small groups will establish the family foundation that’s key so that when we do start becoming bigger we can hold on to that element.”