First UM church plant in Columbus District in 50 years hosts launch service


 The Ridge, the first United Methodist church planted in the Columbus District in the past 50 years, held its launch service on Sunday, February 21.

More than 300 people, including 60 children, joined together to worship, fellowship and celebrate the birth of the new church.  Four people accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, and one infant was baptized.

Meeting in the United Cheerleading facility on Knology Way in Columbus, The Ridge had four monthly preview services, held the fourth Sunday of each month starting on October 25, prior to their February 21 launch.  The church has seen attendance more than double since their initial preview service; they started with 140 attendees on October 25 and had 300 attend the launch.

“We’re trying to focus on evangelism and trying to reach out to unchurched people,” said Rev. Jimmy McIlrath, pastor of The Ridge, who previously served for four years as minister of evangelism at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Columbus.  

The new church and launch service were advertised and promoted through radio spots, newspaper advertisements and direct mail pieces, but many launch service attendees said that it was through a personal relationship with Rev. McIlrath that they first learned of The Ridge and attended a service.  His excitement and passion for the ministry are infectious, they said.

The service, which featured a full band and a casual, contemporary atmosphere, kicked off a new teaching series titled, “Who Cares?”   Rev. McIlrath said that through the series, he will try to answer the questions many people have – “Who cares?  Who cares if I go to church? Who cares if I believe in Jesus?  Who cares if I read the Bible?”

Immediately following the launch service, after being dismissed with the U2 song, “Beautiful Day,” attendees were treated to an outdoor celebration event, with food, fun, fellowship and inflatable play areas for children. 

“Jimmy is extremely talented and spiritually grounded, much more so than most his age,” said Columbus District Superintendent Rev. Shane Green, who attended the launch service.  “To have Jimmy in the Columbus District is a distinct asset and a blessing to me.  He is talented, humble and well balanced, a combination you don’t often find.  The South Georgia Conference, and especially the Columbus District, are excited and proud to have Jimmy McIlrath and his team in the Columbus District.  All of the churches in the district are supportive of this new church with prayers, financial support and servant leaders.  In the end it is about doing Kingdom work, and The Ridge is an integral part of that work in the Columbus District.”

Support from district churches has been critical, said Rev. McIlrath.  Local pastors have given him the opportunity to preach and speak at their churches, and have encouraged their congregants to help support The Ridge.

“I have gotten great support from the connectional system,” he said.  “I’ve been able to go to other United Methodist churches and tell them what we're doing and let them know that this is a Columbus District effort.  Shane Green has been very good at getting that perspective out there – that this isn’t a Jimmy thing, it’s a Columbus District effort, and if this thing grows, it’ll be a tremendous blessing for the whole Columbus District and area.

“God has shown me that, in my past, I’ve always been used to create new ministries,” said Rev. McIlrath, who started a monthly contemporary praise and worship service while in Cordele and began a new college campus ministry while at St. Luke. “The whole aspect of birthing something new has always excited me.”

--By Kara Witherow, South Georgia Advocate editor

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