When Carolina Church in Carolina, Mississippi, was planted a few years ago, the young congregation knew it needed to connect to the community, which is made up of many people who’ve lived there their whole lives.
“It’s always been a close community,” says Brother Justin Dykes, Carolina Church’s lead pastor. “It’s like a modern-day Mayberry. Everybody’s family here.”
The church’s first home was a rented space inside the town’s former schoolhouse. When that became a community center, the church set its sights on the former general store. The building had been abandoned and was in bad shape, but the congregation worked together to renovate it. Now the sign outside refers to Carolina Church as “The Store Church.”
“This building means a whole lot to the community,” Dykes says. “I actually have childhood memories of shopping in the store. I tell people the building is a lot like the gospel of Jesus Christ: No matter where you’ve been, no matter how fallen apart you are, God can restore you.”
The church’s ministries include a clothes closet, a blessing box stocked daily with nonperishables, a bus ministry, and women’s, seniors and youth ministries. They’ve reached out to a nearby mobile home community where many lower-income families live, bringing those kids to church for Wednesday youth group and Sunday services, and feeding them while they’re there. Some parents have even begun attending Sundays after their kids got plugged in.
“A lot of these kids don’t have a lot, but we’ve learned it doesn’t take a whole lot,” Dykes says. “If you show love and compassion, that’s really all you have to do to be different. That’s our goal, to be the hands and feet of Jesus and show love to people.”
Today, people who joined sometime after it was planted make up about half the church.
“We’re seeing the fruits of being servants,” Dykes says. “And I think that’s what speaks so much for us. This church is an outside-the-box church, and I think that’s exactly what Jesus Christ’s ministry was: outside the box.”