Since 2020, God has put it on Dan Smith’s heart to plant a church that reaches and serves the Black community in Concord, N.C. Read and watch the church’s story below, and hear some key lessons they have learned along the way.

Located just a half-hour north of Charlotte, Concord is a diverse and rapidly expanding community — a small town that’s not so small anymore. 

Like many towns in the Charlotte metropolitan area, Concord has experienced a major boom over the past decade, reaching a population of over 100,000 according to the most recent U.S. census. According to recent demographic reports, it’s one of the fastest growing cities in America over the last five years. For many, Concord has become a prime place to settle and establish roots. 

In Pastor Daniel Smith’s eyes, it’s also a prime place to plant a church. 

“A lot of people are coming here from different places in the country,” said Smith, pastor of Grace City Church. “(It’s) a great place to grow with as the population continues to grow.”

With a heart to reach the Black community in Concord, Smith set out with his family in 2020 to plant a church in the heart of the growing city. Through the help of SendNC, the church is now establishing itself in the community, reaching out to local neighborhoods through generosity and other acts of service. 

Church planting has not been without its challenges. But, as Smith said, “just being on the front row … has been a joy.”

For Smith and the rest of his team, the process of planting a church has been a learning journey, filled with joys and trials. Here are some key lessons they’ve learned along the way as they strive to reach and serve their community on mission together. 

1. Obedience is key. 

To any leader considering a calling in church planting, Smith has some simple advice: Obedience is key. 

“If God is putting it on your heart, your voice is needed,” Smith said. “We need people who can go into the community, who can speak the language, who can build bridges … if God has placed it on your heart, I encourage you to go forward.”

Smith understands that planting a church requires an act of faith. After starting the process of planting Grace City Church in 2020, the team quickly recognized how daunting the task could be. 

As they began to act in obedience, however, God gave them partnerships that supported them in their journey.

“There are resources, people that will come alongside you, walk with you and help you to live out that journey,” Smith said. 

For Smith, that partnership came through his relationship with his sending church, SOJO Church in Concord, led by Pastor Corey Alley.

SOJO was a new church that launched in February 2020 but was committed to being a church-planting church. Alley invited Dan to do a church planting residency with them, agreeing that they would send them and their team out from SOJO when they were finished. Grace City is the second church that the SOJO sent from their congregation, with the first being Multiply Community Church led by Quintell Hill, current president for N.C. Baptists. 

Smith also found invaluable support through the N.C. Baptist church planting initiative, SendNC

As Smith obeyed God’s calling, he found that the Lord provided in response. 

“(It’s) tremendous — just to have voices and people who will walk alongside you to help you,” Smith said. 

2. Start with what you have. 

As is the case with many church plants, when Grace City Church started in 2020, they began with limited resources. 

“We started with YouTube videos and (me) singing.” said Kijifa Smith, Dan Smith’s wife and First Lady of Grace City Church. “Start with what you have … As you serve the community pre-launch, God will open doors for you.”

Still, the church found a way to make the most of their resources and began to serve the community — starting by giving out boxes of food at the local high school in Concord. This ministry grew to the point that Grace City Church needed to borrow a truck from the local Cabarrus Baptist Association to help with distribution.

Soon, their work with the local association developed into a closer partnership, as Grace City Church was able to start meeting at the association’s building. 

“Start with what you have and the rest will come along as you go,” Smith said. “Don’t wait for you to have everything in place because that might not ever happen. But if you start with the little that God has given you, I promise you that He’ll multiply it and give you much more.”

Grace City Church continues to minister to the local community through service projects, and they have their eyes set toward the end of this summer as they look to complete a service project through ServeNC. As they begin to plan how they will reach out and minister to the Concord community through ServeNC, they are taking this perspective with them: Whatever resources God has given them, they want to use for His glory and for the service of others. 

3. We’re on mission together.

Reflecting on the past four years of planting Grace City Church, Smith knows one thing is for certain: He and his church could not have done this alone.

“I just think about the people who came alongside me to make this happen,” Smith said. “It was not in and of myself, by myself. There’s a lot of people who are involved in helping us to get to where we are today.”

Included in this list is the team at SendNC, who provided resources and training materials to help Grace City Church get off the ground.

“SendNC is a tremendous resource for training for church planters,”  Smith said. “They have the ability to train, to equip, bring resources alongside that will help you along the journey.”

To Smith and everyone at Grace City Church, church planting is not a solitary act. From their partnership with SendNC, to the Cabarrus Baptist Association, to their partnership with the broader convention through offerings such as the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering — Grace City Church recognizes that they are participants in a far-reaching movement for the sake of the mission.

It’s a mission that extends to the Black community, the Concord community, Cabarrus county and beyond. 

“We’re on mission together,” Smith said.

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