Ask anyone in North America, anyone thinking of connecting with a church, this question: when does church meet? Even for the person who has never walked into church, culturally, the answer is Sunday morning.
It’s the question North Ridge Church has wrestled with for some time, and after many months of Sunday night services, church has a new time: Sundays at 9:30am.
Ministering to many young families, especially those with children, North Ridge pastor Eric Smith says the shift just made sense. “You know how Sunday night becomes, “Oh gosh, Monday’s coming,” he laughed. “So then Sunday mornings are more engaging for families and more effective for us.”
Launched in 2010 at an elementary school in Madison, North Ridge Church planted a second campus, in Fondren, at 3232 North State Street last February. The location, a lease of Woodland Hills Baptist Church’s former family life center, has given North Ridge a base to serve the young congregants who were driving north every Sunday. “I thought it was so bizarre they would drive from Belhaven and Fondren to Madison, but I guess they connected with our heart and our mission,” Smith explained.
That mission is to create holistic believers. “(Jesus) didn’t just develop the head and heart, but the hands,” Smith reasoned. Supporting a number of sister churches and missions around the country and the globe, North Ridge utilizes worship gatherings, community groups and other relational ministry.
Their ‘faith in action’ focused Sundays are a large part of who they are. On a consistent rhythm, Take It To The Streets (9am every second Sunday of every other month beginning in February) is open to anyone, churchgoer or not, who wishes to serve the community. Smith says the goal is to meet a need and share the gospel. “It’s all about developing our people and sharing Christ’s love,” he explained. Whether talking with the homeless at Poindexter Park, working on projects at the Wingard Home or ministering to children at the Methodist Children’s Home, the heart of North Ridge is to be the church, not simply have church. The focus is so important, that on these particular Sundays, North Ridge cancels their services and instead, goes out. “We’re saying it with that strong of a voice: we’re willing to shut this down and serve.”
The North Ridge motto, ‘Live Sent,’ lead the church to host the Live Sent Food Project this past November. Partnering with US 96.3, church members staked out five Kroger stores over five days and raised over 70,000 pounds of food for the Mississippi Food Network.
With recent news of Woodland Hills Baptist Church and Fondren Church partnering together, Smith said there’s room for everyone. “It’s a pretty unique thing because each one of us have different expressions and ways in which we live out the gospel and minister to city,” he explained. “We’ll all, hopefully, spur each other on to good works and love.”
And so North Ridge begins the new year with a new service time but also a renewed vision: to reach people with the gospel, equip people for the work of the gospel and to send people out. “The challenge we face in the south is not telling people who Jesus is but helping them rediscover Him. I want to remove barriers. My heart in this city is to see a revival.”
Beginning January 22 at noon, North Ridge will open their building for prayer every Wednesday. Smith is hopeful that the community will feel welcome to stop in for a moment on their lunch break and take time for quiet reflection and meditation.