Recently I was interviewed along with Bob McAndrew, pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church, for an article in The Oconee Enterprise about our two churches meeting in the same space. That doesn't happen often and apparently was deemed newsworthy. The article is out in this week's paper and I thought it painted a fairly accurate picture of the situation: there has been no tension between the two churches, we're extremely grateful to Faith for their hospitality, and we are looking for our own facility.
One sentence, however, jumped out at me as inaccurate and potentially confusing so here is my attempt to clarify. The article states that I said that we are targeting downtown Athens. For a number of reasons that is misleading.
What I said is that it has become obvious to the leadership of the church that by God's providence, we simply can no longer consider ourselves a church for Oconee county. As the article states, more than half of our church are students at UGA and Gainesville. And we believe we have a moral compulsion to help bring the blessings of God's kingdom to the downtown area - particularly in light of the fact that Athens-Clarke County is one of the most impoverished counties in the nation for a population of its size.
In essence, what we're saying is that we believe God has called us to have a distinct footprint in Oconee County (and other suburban areas of the Athens region), the UGA campus, and the downtown Athens corridor. That does not mean we are leaving one part of the region for another; it means that we want to remain open to the needs and opportunities in all three predominant cultures in our region.
To pull back the curtain even further, this means that we are looking for facilities in the Oconee and West Athens area, discussing how we can serves a catalyst for missional engagement on the UGA campus and praying and waiting about how we can help individuals, ministries and churches become part of the fabric of the downtown Athens corridor for the sake of Jesus and the good of the city.
Hope that helps if you were surprised or confused by that statement in the article.