College church planting movement flourishes in formerly barren soil

GREENVILLE?SEEDS church is not your typical church?in fact it’s not a church in the traditional sense.

A ministry for college students led by college students, SEEDS church stands in the gap left by most congregations today. The name summarizes the purpose and vision of the ministry in the acronym: Students Equipped to Evangelize and Disciple Students.

Led by Abe & Haylee Rose, SEEDS began in 2004 as an outreach effort of Crosspoint Fellowship in Greenville and acts as a loose fellowship of discipleship groups. When first presented with the possibility of beginning a college-based ministry, Abe Rose discovered an entire demographic of unreached people.

“I found out that there were over 10,000 college-age adults in our county who did not attend church anywhere,” Rose said. “They felt that the modern church was irrelevant and had nothing to offer them.”

With his target group identified as the “skeptical, indifferent, and spiritually seeking” students in their community,Rose and his wife asked God to reveal a strategy to them for reaching students left behind by the modern church.

“Through a variety of sources, God showed us that the problem we faced was finding a way to take the gospel to these young people, instead of asking them to come into our church buildings to find truth. If the majority of them were going to hear the truth, we would have to get out of the church building and into the community to become salt and light in their dorms, apartments, and anywhere else they hung out.”

Today, SEEDS church is comprised of five discipleship groups across the Greenville/Commerce area. The groups meet weekly for dinner and a Bible study and observe certain rules. First, there is an equal number of Christians and non-Christians. Second, a leader facilitates an interactive discussion. Third, religious jargon or “churchy words” are kept to a minimum to avoid confusion. Fourth, the group should be warm and inviting. And fifth, the group duplicates itself as more people are saved and discipled.

In cutting out the “trappings of modern religion,” SEEDS operates similarly to a church planting movement in New Testament style. Discipleship and evangelism are key components to the ministry’s structure. Group leaders are identified and trained within the small groups. As the central SEEDS leader,Rose conducts the leadership application and interview process and is responsible for mentoring potential leaders.

“We are always looking for new leaders and ways to multiply. If we are not growing then we will have nothing to share with others,”Rose said.

Although day-to-day ministry takes place on weekdays, SEEDS small groups come together once a month for a corporate worship service. The group also offers Life Transformation Groups (LTG), based on the concept from Neil Cole’s book, “Cultivating a Life for God.”

“As Neil advocates in his book, these groups are made up of two or three people of the same gender who meet once a week. They do three things: confess sins to each other, read volumes of Scripture, and pray for lost people they know,”Rose said. “These groups have been the backbone of SEEDS and provide much encouragement and support for our leaders and members.”

Like most new church starts, SEEDS encounters similar obstacles to church planting movements.

“We told [potential leaders] early on that spiritual battles in their lives would intensify as they took on this new role. We have seen this happen regularly,”Rose said. “Marriages have been tested, commitments have been tried, and strongholds of sin have been revealed. God has been faithful to use all of this for our good and purify us to be more like Christ. Our leaders are not perfect, but we challenge them to stay in the Word daily, pray daily, and walk in the Spirit.”

Sticking to the rules established for the reproduction of small groups has also been challenging.

“Our groups do not all function according to the guidelines,”Rose said. “One of them became a ‘holy huddle’ with a great group of Christian girls. They were functioning more like a church Bible study instead of an outreach to lost friends. They are now in the process of making changes so that they can be more salt and light to those around them.”

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