Change a common theme at Sojourn Church

Sun News correspondentDecember 11, 2013 

MICHAEL W. PANNELL/SPECIAL TO THE SUN NEWSRyan Lyons, lead pastor of Sojourn Church, cited gospel centrality as one of the pillars of his church.

The signs for Sojourn Church at the Galleria Mall Stadium Cinemas are new. The church meets at the theater Sunday mornings at 10.

The sign on the church’s small office space on South Houston Lake Road is old -- it still says New City Church Warner Robins.

New City -- now Sojourn -- changed its name last week. Officials said it changed name to reflect its new status as an autonomous church no longer under the wing of New City Church of Macon, which began the congregation in August 2011.

“We’re still working to get everything to reflect the change,” said Ryan Lyons, lead pastor. “There’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that has to change. Within the next week or so our website should switch from newcitywr.org to sojournwr.org.”

Though a little more than two years old, the church has seen numerous changes. When New City Macon began it with 25 adults, it was led by Patrick McConnell, who served bivocationally and is still a pastor at the church. It met Sunday evenings in The River Church’s facility in Kathleen.

Then Lyons came as lead pastor in 2012 after planting a New City congregation in Milledgeville. It was then meetings moved from Kathleen to the Galleria in Centerville.

Now there’s the new name and status and the church has 150 members. But Lyon’s said some things haven’t changed, including good relations with the Macon church and Sojourn’s purpose.

“The change is more of a celebration than anything else,” Lyons said. “If you ask how we’re different in our philosophy or theology from New City, well we’re not. This is more about one of New City’s church plants growing into a healthy autonomous church that will be planting new churches itself. It’s a positive thing, and we’re all still friends.”

As far as purpose, Lyons said the same goal remains.

“Our mission is to see the gospel transform everything around us -- ourselves, our families, our church, our city and the world,” he said. “That drives everything we do.”

Lyons said four essentials describe the church.

“Gospel centrality is number one,” he said. “Then there is missional intentionality, authentic community and transformed lives. Everything we do has to help us accomplish those things. That’s what we’re after.”

Lyons said missional intentionality has to do with evangelism and living with a missionary mentality in every sphere of activity and influence a person has.

“We encourage people to build relationships with others who aren’t necessarily where they are spiritually,” he said. “Not as a ‘project,’ but because you truly care about them and want to follow Jesus’ example of loving and befriending people. It’s a lifestyle, not a special program one night a week.”

Lyons said Sojourn tries not to create an “insider culture” or express Christian jargon without providing understandable explanations. He said there’s also an emphasis on small groups that are called missional communities.

Sunday meetings are come-as-you-are and have a children and family focus throughout the spaces they use at Galleria cinemas. There is contemporary worship and expositional teaching through books of the Bible.

Lyons recently finished studies in James and will start studies in the Gospel of John after the holidays. There are occasional topical series on subjects such as parenting.

“We’ve seen good growth, and it’s been a blessing meeting at the theater,” Lyons said. “It gets tiresome setting up and taking down every week, but we have the greatest volunteers on earth helping. Working with Georgia Theatre Company has been great. Eric Smith is the manager and is there to open up early for us every Sunday and bends over backwards to help.”

Both Lyons and his wife, Lori, are from Warner Robins. He is a 2000 graduate of Warner Robins High School and she from Houston County High School. The two met in church and dated from age 16. They have three children. Lyons has a master’s degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., and will soon complete a doctorate degree from there.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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