In the Beginning
Seacoast Church began in an apartment clubhouse with 65 people in February of 1988. Their vision was to reach the unchurched people of the Charleston area by building a church that spoke the language of the modern culture. Seacoast would be a place where non-believers were encouraged to investigate Christianity at their own pace, free from many of the traditional trappings of religion that tend to turn people away. Seacoast Church would approach the historical Christian faith in a contemporary, unconventional way.
Over the next year and a half the growing congregation endured the devastation of hurricane Hugo and other challenges by becoming a kind of traveling band. After using four different buildings for services, Seacoast finally settled under one roof in an elementary school. Then, in 1989, the church rallied to buy 14 acres of property in Mount Pleasant, a suburb of Charleston. Seacoast’s first permanent auditorium opened in November of 1991. A second service was soon added, followed by a third, and a Saturday evening service was added in September of 1992. In 1999 Seacoast expanded its auditorium to accommodate 1350 guests.
Expanding the Vision
In 2000, Pastor Greg Surratt announced that he believed God was calling Seacoast to be a part of planting 2000 churches. This vision led Greg and five friends to found the Association of Related Churches (ARC). ARC’s growth in the early years averaged a few churches a year but by 2009, ARC was averaging around 50 new church plants a year and is now training and coaching hundreds of church planters each year. Today, over 400 churches strong, ARC has become a worldwide movement and remains committed to seeing the initial vision of 2,000 churches planted.
Seacoast Church continued to grow and by 2002 was experiencing serious capacity issues. Local officials denied Seacoast’s request to expand their facilities, forcing the leadership of Seacoast to innovate. They decided to begin offering services at a nearby offsite location using a video feed to show the sermons. The success of this initial “satellite campus,” called the Annex, led Seacoast to launch other satellite locations throughout the Charleston area. Today, Seacoast has 13 locations including campuses in South Carolina, North Carolina, and on the internet.
In 2006, the Mount Pleasant campus of Seacoast Church launched the Possibilities Center, which offered additional children and youth facilities and two new venues, called the Chapel and Warehouse. In the summer of 2006, Pastor Greg introduced Response Time, making it a part of all services. One of the most distinctive features of Seacoast worship, Response Time is an opportunity during the concluding part of every service for worshippers to reflect on two questions: What is God saying to me? What am I going to do about it?
In 2007, Seacoast planted the Dream Center in North Charleston, which, at that time, was one of the most dangerous cities in the country. The purpose of the Dream Center is to offer resources and opportunities to families who are in desperate need of hope. The Dream Center Clinic currently serves over 6,000 patients each year, saving over $10 million in healthcare costs. Additionally, the Dream Pantry and Dream Closet serve over 19,000 people each year while the Dream Center’s Adopt-a-Block program serves around 3,200 people each month. In the areas where Adopt-a-Block is active, crime has fallen more than 75%.
In 2013, Seacoast celebrated 25 years of worshipping God and serving people. In the Fall, Pastor Greg Surratt announced the ambitious NEXT campaign. NEXT is a two-year generosity initiative that will fund all of Seacoast’s current operations, as well as enable the church to begin exciting new projects.As part of NEXT, Seacoast Church will add 1,500 seats by expanding five existing campuses and planting two new campuses. Seacoast will also plant a new Dream Center in the Ardmore community of West Ashley, and will expand the existing North Charleston Dream Center. Seacoast will also continue its outreach efforts by supporting church plants in Colorado (Ernest Smith) and Zurich, Switzerland (Tim Lindsay), as well as assisting the ARC in planting churches throughout America, Europe, and Asia.The first 25 years have been amazing but we believe the best is yet to come. We are excited to see what God has in store for Seacoast Church and believe that it will be immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.