Lifeline Church celebrates 5 years, grand opening
For Eric Jackson, pastor of Lifeline Ministries, and his wife, Vickie Jackson, church services weren’t always held in an actual church.
Five years ago, the couple conducted bible studies in the comfort—and eventually discomfort, as their budding congregation grew—of their own home.
“From there we went to the Greenville YMCA as we outgrew our house,” Eric Jackson said. “The YMCA was an awesome opportunity for us, and we’re very grateful for the Greenville YMCA under Amanda Phillips at that time.
“Then we spoke with Michael Nimmer at the Edge Theater, and they welcomed us to come over there. The Edge Theater has been bought out by Phoenix; we were still welcome to be there, but it was time for us to try to find a church building.”
Eric and Vickie Jackson are church planters through the North American Mission Board, a mission effort of the Southern Baptist Convention. Eric left a full-time ministry of 10 years in Fort Deposit to plant his own church in the Camellia City. And for the first time in five years, his congregation will hold services surrounded by four church walls in a new location on Fort Dale Road, directly across from Captain D’s. The relocation coincides with Lifeline’s fifth anniversary service, to be held on Feb. 5.
Service time starts at 10 a.m., in which the Jacksons and their congregation will reflect not only on where they’ve been, but where they’re going. Bruce Coker, former associate pastor, will deliver the message, with a dinner on the church grounds afterward.
Though the four walls surrounding Lifeline’s congregation have changed many times since its inception, the central goal hasn’t changed.
“Our mission here, or our vision statement, is that Lifeline Church exists to reach those disconnected from God, and disconnected from his church, and to see them become fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ,” Eric said.
“Today, Lifeline Church is simply that—a church. We are an interdenominational church that welcomes people of all faith, backgrounds and cultures. We have crossed the gender, racial and socioeconomic cultures, and we’ve got a variety of people who come. And we’ve baptized a lot of them. We’re a solid congregation that loves stripping away everything that man has made church into and allowed us to just have church.”
One of the biggest impediments that the Jacksons believe stand between them and non-churchgoers is the concept of a typical dress code.
“Our church’s slogan is ‘casual dress, serious faith,’” Eric said.
“We’ve come across so many people who don’t go to church because they don’t have church clothes.”
“We’ve heard that so many times,” Vickie echoed.
“I usually preach in blue jeans and a T-shirt or a golf shirt,” Eric continued. “My saying is ‘don’t outdress the preacher.”
“He’s just kidding,” Vickie chimed in. “You can if you want to.”
But the challenges of building a congregation account for only a handful of the many roadblocks and hurdles the Jacksons have faced.
“When we first started, there was this big mindset that some people had that ‘they’re an internet church,’ and we had comments from that to ‘they’re a cult,’” Eric said.
“I think there was a fear that we would come in and try to get people from all of these other churches to come to our church, and that’s not what we’re about. We’re not about swapping sheep. We’re looking for lost people. We’re looking for people who are unchurched.”
“They say that church planting is the extreme sport of ministry, and it really is. It is the most exhilarating ministry I’ve been a part of. And it’s the most exasperating I’ve ever been a part of.”
“But it’s the most rewarding,” Vickie added.
“To me, it’s like a rollercoaster ride. You have your ups and your downs, but there are not too many things in the middle.”
One of the differentiating factors for Lifeline is a reliance on technology-assisted messages and visual elements in sermons. Whether that involves the use of decorating the stage area where sermons are delivered, or injecting video clips directly into the message itself, the Jacksons rely on visual aid to get their congregation on the same page.
“Everybody walks in with their own backgrounds and their own baggage,” Eric said. “The whole idea is that as a pastor, I’m supposed to herald the word of God, and to do that I ‘ve got to get everybody on the same page together. No matter what race they are, their socioeconomic background they’ve had or how good or bad of a week they’ve had, my job is to get everybody on the same page to discover that we have the same need this morning.”