Dean Faulkner acknowledges that there are a lot of churches in Ballantyne. Big churches.
There’s St. Matthews Catholic Church, the largest Catholic parish in the United States, on Ballantyne Commons Parkway, and Transformation Church in Indian Land, which has been recognized by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in the country.
Faulkner, a Presbyterian pastor, is undeterred, however, and he will officially launch a new church called South Charlotte Presbyterian Church. The church is a daughter church of Uptown Church, a Presbyterian Church in America congregation that has met in uptown Charlotte since 1994.
The new congregation will meet Sundays at Ballantyne Elementary School, which is across the street from a campus of the mega-church Elevation.
“We are on the same team,” Faulker said, noting the surrounding big churches will be good neighbors. “I think we will offer something different than them. Churches don’t do all of the same things well.”
Elevation, he said, will “wow” churchgoers with their Sunday morning experience. South Charlotte Presbyterian Church will focus on deepening friendships and relationships and helping people find a slower, more balanced pace of life.
“My understanding of the kingdom of God is different churches have different emphases that reach different people,” Faulkner said. “There’s room to plant new churches.”
South Charlotte Presbyterian Church will address what Faulkner sees as a pressing issue among South Charlotte residents: the tendency toward overscheduling and busyness.
Faulkner, who is 50, knows the consequences of overwork. He grew up in Charlotte and graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in electrical engineering. He worked in the Research Triangle Park for a few years before he felt called to be a pastor.
After finishing seminary, he got his first job at a church in Belmont. He worked there for three years before moving to Union County, where he opened Church of the Redeemer in Monroe. He led the church there for 15 years, and his life became busy with a son who played club soccer, the church’s building program and his two children’s high school activities.
“It’s a great church, but in the end, due to a series of circumstances, I just burned out,” he said. He took an eight-month break “just to breathe.”
He then accepted a job at Uptown Church as the assistant pastor of church planting, and this summer he moved to Ballantyne to start South Charlotte Presbyterian Church. A core group of about 60 people, including many from Uptown Church, and ministry leader Josh Creason with him to get the church started.
South Charlotte Presbyterian Church began meeting this summer, and it officially will open Oct. 15. One of Faulkner’s first sermons at the church’s summer services was about spiritual health.
“We want to promote rest, community and relationships,” he said. “Who in South Charlotte has time for relationships? I think sometimes the way we do church just feeds the beast of business, and I think we need to do something different.”
Jamie Wimberly, who lives in Ballantyne, has become part of the church’s core group, said she was drawn to it because of the “genuineness of the people.
“We have a very simple message of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to this community and Charlotte as a whole,” she said. “We want to show this community that there is hope in a world that seems filled with chaos, that it really is as simple as being in real relationship and community with others and growing in our walk with the Lord.”
The church will meet Sundays at 10 a.m. at Ballantyne Elementary, where it also will host Sunday children’s ministries. The church has organized meetings of small groups of people during the week.
The Presbyterian Church in American has a strong intellectual tradition, and Faulkner hopes to leverage that in Ballanytne.
“We think there are a lot of skeptics here who have come from all over the nation and the world,” he said. “We want our church to be a place where skeptics can come and work out their questions about who Jesus is and what he’s about.”
The church already has started doing that by meeting with people in Ballantyne to figure out the “ethos” of the area and learn more about their spiritual background and views. The core group of members hosts get togethers for people in South Charlotte to socialize and connect.
The gatherings have no agenda, Faulkner said. They are a way for people to get to know each other and slowly build friendships.
“I’m shocked at how people are so enjoying getting together,” Faulkner said. “I think it’s because people are so busy in their lives that connecting with a few people for an hour or two in a party setting is something people just love.”
Lucas Chamberlayne said that he was interested in South Charlotte Presbyterian Church because it was a way to connect to a new community in a deeper and more fulling way. He now plays percussion on the music team and helps with behind-the-scenes work.
“After being out of church for a few years, I thought it was perfect timing for my family to develop deeper relationships with the body of Christ,” he said. “We were also drawn to the opportunity to grow in and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our community with word and service.”
Faulkner said he will continue to engage people in the community by focusing on spiritual health, asking people to consider whether they should regulate work hours, put their cell phones away sometimes and slow down their pace of life.
“We want to gather people in a way that we can grow and deepen them,” he said.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to go?
South Charlotte Presbyterian Church meets 10 a.m. Sundays at Ballantyne Elementary School, 15425 Scholastic Drive, Charlotte, NC 28277.