Posts Tagged ‘ Trinity Bible Church ’

Trinity Bible Church, Part II – Visited on 1/23/12

On the weekend of January 15, Churchspotting visited Trinity Bible Church in Rock Hill, SC (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-62).  Though that journey did allow us to view Trinity Bible Church in action, and exposed Churchspotting readers to a representative of the Digging Deep ministry, it did not include an interview with that church’s pastor.  In this article, Churchspotting offers an in-depth interview with Matthew James, senior pastor at Trinity Bible Church.

 

James is relatively young for a senior pastor, somewhere in the opening years of middle age.  He is a lean, groomed man, with the look of an earnest local politician.  Pastor James and his ministry were first encountered by Churchspottingat a showing of the film “One Nation Under God,” at Filbert Presbyterian, documented here (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-5Y) on January 7.  James is a member of the prayer group that put on the event, and spoke to the audience during the film’s intermission.

 

James is a longtime resident of South Carolina.  He attended Bob Jones University in Columbia, SC, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Bible and a Master’s in Pastoral Studies.  His affiliation with Trinity Bible Church dates to 1996, when he started his long career as an Associate Pastor there.  In 2001 he succeeded to the rank of senior pastor, and serves in that capacity today.

 

On the subject of his church, James said Trinity Bible Church belongs to no particular denomination.  Founded in 1945, Trinity is what he termed an ‘interdenominational’ congregation.  According to Pastor James, Trinity belongs to no wider affiliations or conferences and holds members of many Christian traditions within its congregation.

 

The church explicitly supports two area non-profit organizations, Palmetto Pregnancy Center and Renew Our Community.  Palmetto Pregnancy Center’s founder and current executive director is a member of Trinity Bible Church.  The group is geared towards offering counseling to young pregnant women in the Rock Hill area, specifically as an alternative to abortion.

 

Renew Our Community, otherwise known as “the ROC,” is a Christian nonprofit based in Rock Hill.  The group’s stated goal is to alleviate poverty and homelessness in the region by helping guide the unemployed to steady jobs.  Trinity once operated the Trinity Christian School, but that facility was closed in 2008 due to low enrollment.  It is now the site of York Preparatory Academy.

 

When it comes to neighboring Christian groups, Matthew James has sweeping goals.  In his own words, he and his ministry are “aggressively pursuing a discovery for what we can do to join with the Lord’s people in our community to be a blessing”  He believes that it will take “all of God’s people working together,” to shape the Rock Hill community.  Essentially, Pastor James hopes to forge unity between the disparate Christian communities of Rock Hill.  He wants to turn such a union into a political and social force, which would be used to reform Rock Hill towards the principles of his faith.

 

James believes pastors should play a leading role in political and social life.  As was mentioned above, he is a member of a multidenominational, politically active prayer group that meets every Monday morning at the Pork n More in York, SC.  He is a participant in the SC Renewal Project, one branch of a multi-state nonprofit group that offers ‘policy briefings’ to pastors.

 

The Renewal Project provides free weekend stays at local hotels to pastors in the states it operates, where it holds seminars on advice and support for pastors to back ‘godly’ politicians’ election campaigns.  The Renewal Project operated at least as early as the 2008 presidential election, and is currently rallying politically active pastors for the 2012 election cycle.

 

It should come as no surprise that Matthew James has strong convictions on the proper relationship between Church and State.  An open proponent of what he terms “a conservative theology,” he believes that the current separation between Church and State goes against “the Founders’ intent.”  He does not believe either force should be in charge of the other.

 

Pastor James believes that the inalienable rights listed in the US Constitution ultimately come from a divine source, not any particular mortal government.  He holds that the goal of the Constitution’s framers was to prevent any one denomination from persecuting others, not to separate religious and political practice.  He is a definite proponent of the view that the Constitution provides ‘freedom of religion,’ not ‘freedom from religion.’

Trinity Bible Church, Pt. 1 – Visited on 1/15/11

Trinity Bible Church sits at the corner of Cherry and Myrtle in downtown Rock Hill, a two-story hulk of red brick crowned by a slim white steeple.  Cherry is an arterial route the strip malls, drive-thru banks and fast food joints of Rock Hill.  There is a certain honesty in its crass commerciality, from the Earth Fare green grocery store catering to students at nearby Winthrop University to the workers by the roadside advertising car sales and payday loans with garish costumes and cardboard signs.  Myrtle is different.

Myrtle winds back from its juncture with Cherry Road two blocks behind the storefronts and parking lots.  Trees and cheap housing screen Myrtle’s buildings from the scrum of commerce a hundred yards away.  Its houses are brick and whitewash, their porches framed by imitations of Grecian columns, fenced with walls if iron posts and red bricks.  Many vehicles slumber in their shaded driveways, and vines creep along their shadowed walls.

Trinity Bible Church stands at the collision of Rock Hill’s genteel, provincial past and its burgeoning commercial future.  Its windows are a rippling, bubbled glass, distorted to opacity.  From the outside they are blank, dull sheets; viewed from within, on a bright winter morning, they admit a hazy glow of blue and yellow light.

The sanctuary of Trinity Bible Church has the feel of some ancient Viking hall.  Double columns of pews march beneath a vaulted ceiling of dark wooden beams.  The airy space beneath its peaked roof is lit by electric lamps that dangle from on high, gleaming cylinders of metal and glass.  A solid wooden pulpit stands before the pews on a raised stage; a tiered choir loft rises behind it, while a grand piano sprawls in languor at stage right.

The morning service on January 15th at Trinity started at 11 AM, and its congregation was a punctual lot.  The vast majority arrived within five minutes of the call to worship.  They were an older group, gray heads in cardigans and suits, speckled here and there with younger couples and teenagers.  The young children spent the morning’s worship in Sunday Schools behind the sanctuary.

Once the congregation settled into Trinity’s broad wooden pews, the church choir started in with a medley of hymns.  The grand piano offered accompaniment, and a projector screen above the choir provided lyrics for the congregation to sing along.  After one song the congregation broke into a scrimmage of handshakes and ‘good mornings’ at the associate pastor’s command.  The pews that fill the sanctuary floor constricted the crowd’s movements; most worshippers shuffled a few yards in either direction, exchanging hugs and greetings with their neighbors.  Then the choir resumed, and their music called the crowd back to their seats.

After the last hymn Rev. Matthew James took the stage.  The senior pastor of Trinity, James announced that though the 15th was ‘Sanctity of Life Sunday,’ he would not lead that day’s sermon.  Instead, Trinity Bible Church hosted a guest when Churchspotting visited: a Dr. Steve Smith took James’ place behind the pulpit to speak to the congregation about his group, Digging Deep.

Smith described himself as a former Baptist pastor, formerly of Bob Jones University.  He showed a documentary on his group’s work and spoke to the congregation for the rest of the service, yet it remains difficult to say exactly what it is Digging Deep does.  News reports and documentation of the organization are scant.  Smith described it as a Christian organization created to provide American Christians access to historical sites in Israel related to scenes from the Bible.

As best Churchspotting can determine, Digging Deep organizes tours of sites they attribute to particular stories in Christian and Jewish scripture.  The group also plays some role in archaeological excavation of these sites.  They claim to have pinpointed the place where the Last Supper took place, down to where Jesus sat at the head of the table.  Dr. Smith also claimed his group had found the field from which the shepherds of the Christmas story saw the star over Bethlehem.

One of Digging Deep’s programs is Tefahk al Tefahk.  The group claims that the shepherds’ field is now threatened with development, and accepts donations to buy the land and turn it into a Biblical park.  Donators can contribute $77 towards the group to have a stone inscribed with their name set in the field, to represent their contribution to preserving the site.

Dr. Smith made repeated references to Biblical prophecy during his presentation to Trinity Bible Church.  He claimed that all the ritual machinery of worship at the Temple in Jerusalem must be restored before Biblical prophecies of the End Times can come to fruition.  He claimed that goal, realizing prophecy, as the motivation behind Digging Deep’s excavation and renovation of what the group claims are the Pools of Siloam, the ancient bath where classical Israelites washed before worshipping in the temple.

At the end of the service a special offering was taken up from the congregation to support Digging Deep.  As of this writing, the archaeological basis by which Digging Deep authenticates its claims remains unknown.  The provenance of the archaeologists presumably doing the authenticating also remains unknown.