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‘Church without walls’ plans visionary move


Pastor Kenny Gardner stands in front of the cleared site on Highway 182 in eastern Lowndes County where the new Columbus Christian Center will be built.

Pastor Kenny Gardner stands in front of the cleared site on Highway 182 in eastern Lowndes County where the new Columbus Christian Center will be built. Photo by: Kelly Tippett


Jan Swoope



If there is such a thing as a "good problem," outgrowing your worship facility might be one of them. The Columbus Christian Center is experiencing those growing pangs and looking forward with excitement to a new building to be erected on a 21-acre plot on Highway 182 East, past the New Hope Road turn-off.  


"All the church-growth people tell you that when you''re 85 percent full, you need to do something; well, we''re way past the 85 percent," chuckled Pastor Kenny Gardner, who returned to Columbus, where he grew up, eight years ago. 


What began in mid-2001, with about 40 souls meeting in loaned space at the former site of New Life Christian Supplies, has blossomed to a congregation pushing 200 at the current location at 146 S. McCrary Road, in the old Fairlane Shopping Center. 


"We''ve had 223 in that building; I don''t know how; we only have 175 chairs we can get inside that sanctuary," Gardner laughed.  


While the new campus will be called Columbus Christian Center, the planned sanctuary will be referred to as The Rock. 


"Down the road, we want to build a Generation Building, for children and youth," added the pastor. "We want to have a center for all walks of life." Construction is expected to begin before summer''s end.  




Open arms  


The "church without walls" strives to reach out to all facets of the community.  


"You''re accepted here. It doesn''t matter who you are or what you''ve done," said member Patsy Sudduth, who is co-organizing a June 13 live auction to benefit the building fund. 


Gardner explained, "This is a very forgiving church; no matter what side of the tracks you come from ... nice clothes or not, money or not, it''s all about love, forgiveness and acceptance. We want to reach those people who are hurting and give them hope. We feel like that is the heartbeat of Columbus Christian Center." 


Outreach is key to the growing church body. From pumping gas for customers at a local fuel station, to cooking and giving away food, the members "serve, serve and serve," said Gardner. 




Four-wheelers and mink 


On Saturday, June 13, the congregation hopes the public will generously support a live auction held at Wesley Methodist Church at 511 Airline Road, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Proceeds will go toward the approximate $1.5 million needed for the building campaign. 


Auctioneer Dody Colvin will oversee a long list of donated items including a four-wheeler, a mink coat valued near $5,000, a wood-burning stove, a set of tires and much, much more, according to Sudduth.  


Touching stories have emerged from the auction planning. A handmade quilt, for instance, was contributed by Mary Rushing when, at a local nursing home, she overheard a church member telling a friend about the effort. 


"She said the Lord had laid it on her heart to give something, and she gave us the quilt," shared Sudduth. 


"People all over town have just been super-generous," she continued. "People are still calling to give us things. And Wesley Methodist has been so kind to let us do this there, because we would never have had room at our location. It''s just all been such a blessing." 


For more information about the fundraiser, contact Columbus Christian Center at 662-328-3328, or Sudduth at 662-241-4400.  



Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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