How pastor leaving Upstate megachurch will impact Columbia church

Even though the pastor of an Upstate South Carolina megachurch is stepping down, an insider said its satellite campus in Columbia won’t be impacted by the move.

Ron Carpenter, the pastor of Redemption Church in Greenville, announced he is stepping down to lead a congregation in San Jose, Calif. He broke the news to his Greenville congregation last Sunday.

In spite of Carpenter’s move, everything is expected to remain the same at Redemption Columbia, where Tony and LaShea Colson serve as campus pastors.

“There will be no change at all,” said Joe Hayes, the director of advertising, media and marketing for Ron Carpenter Ministries. “Columbia will still be under the Redemption name and brand.”

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Tony and LaShea Colson

The same can’t be said for the Greenville church, in addition to other satellite campuses in Asheville, Florence and Charlotte.

Redemption campuses in Florence and Asheville will close in the near future and a satellite campus in Charlotte will continue, but will be separate from the Redemption group.

In Greenville, Carpenter will be replaced by John Gray, a pastor at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Texas. The Redemption name will be replaced when Gray arrives.

The Florence and Asheville campuses will be closing because of financial reasons, according to Hayes, adding the pastor in Charlotte will continue to lead that congregation under a different name outside of the Redemption group.

Hayes said one of the reasons the campuses in Florence and Asheville are closing is because they aren’t physically located in buildings owned by Redmption. That isn’t the case in Columbia, where the church is located at 5630 Platt Springs Road in Lexington, near White Knoll High School.

“We are a permanent location,” Tony Colson said. “We have 19 acres and a staff of 16 working full time.”

Hayes echoed that sentiment, saying “It’s already established and in its own building. Columbia is what we would call healthy.”

We support Pastor Ron and believe in his vision. We’re looking forward to whatever God has in store for Columbia.

Tony Colson, Redemption Columbia campus pastor

Health was determined by the church’s attendance, debt (if any) and giving among other factors, according to Hayes.

“We’ve had solid growth in Columbia,” said Hayes. “Pastor Tony says the ministry is stronger.”

Attendance at the church was around 300 parishioners when Redemption began in Columbia, in December 2015, according to Tony Colson. This past Sunday, there were 390 people attending the service.

The only real change for Redemption Columbia will be that it is no longer affiliated with the church in Greenville. But it will remain a part of Ron Carpenter Ministries.

“We support Pastor Ron and believe in his vision,” Tony Colson said. “We’re looking forward to whatever God has in store for Columbia.”

There won’t be a tangible effect caused by Carpenter’s move West, according to Hayes and Tony Colson. Redemption Columbia was already simulcasting Carpenter’s services via the internet from Greenville. That will remain the same when he takes over Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose.

“They do live praise, worship and announcements in Columbia. When it’s time to preach, the screen comes down,” said Hayes.

Tony Colson said Redemption Columbia is given a certain amount of freedom to operate. That’s welcomed in a church where Redemption’s primary leadership isn’t on site.

“I’m the feet on the ground for Pastor Ron. … I focus on serving the needs here and following the leadership from Pastor Ron,” Tony Colson said. “Our church is high energy in praise and worship. There’s a lot of physical spontaneity with our relationship with the Lord.”

Hayes said that Carpenter isn’t being chased out of South Carolina and he’s leaving the Greenville church in good shape. “The church is not broke.”

Carpenter said he expects to leave Redemption with more than $1 million from a recent expansion campaign for Gray reported.

This is the second Upstate megachurch that is undergoing a significant change of leadership that can impact the Midlands. NewSpring Church ousted its pastor, Perry Noble in 2016 because of alcohol and family issues.

Noble recently returned to the pulpit with Second Chance Church, which he broadcasts to worshipers on Facebook.

NewSpring is the state’s largest church, with more than 30,000 members in 17 cities in South Carolina, including three in the Midlands.

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