Circle of Influence

by Kara Gibbs—Cedarville, Ohio

Jason Malone ’98 will tell you he is simply living as Christ instructed us—which, of course, isn’t very easy. Yet to truly listen and obey is at the heart of Malone’s ministry.

    This step of faith began over three years ago, in July of 2004. As Malone was reading and journaling, he felt a prompting of the Holy Spirit to begin planting churches in the upstate of South Carolina.

    “What was interesting about that prompting,” Malone says, “was the fact that it included multiple churches and a specific geographical region. I had always thought about planting a church, but never more than one.”

    The uniqueness to his calling was also not traditional, in the sense of church planting. What Malone was about to embark upon was, again, simple yet challenging. “The simplicity of the ministry was starting a church by becoming a missionary where I was,” he says. “The challenging part was stepping outside the comfort zone of my home church and living with a purpose by intentionally serving others.”

    Being sensitive to God’s calling, Malone resigned from his position at his former church in November 2006, and began the task of reaching the upstate of South Carolina with the Gospel. Immediately, God brought five other families along that wanted to be a part of planting Summit Church. As they began to meet and pray weekly about being a church for the sake of others, they crossed paths with other families that had the same passion. By April there were too many people to continue meeting in a home. They had to lease a building in a business park. This is where they currently meet every Sunday morning to celebrate what God is doing in and through them.

    “It’s not about planting a ton of churches or having a church with thousands of people,” Malone says. “Basically, the old adage ‘quality not quantity’ reigns true. What Summit is intending to relay is this: share the Gospel in your circle of influence (the area in which you live).”

    Malone explained there are circles located all over the upstate of South Carolina and through sharing the Gospel they are creating more circles. The emphasis is that this is your mission field – the classroom, restaurant, apartment complex, church, city, state, nation, even the world. As Malone says, “I am concerned about John, Carol and Bob, my neighbors to the left and to the right of me.”

    If you view Summit’s website, you will see a repetitive phrase: “to give every man, woman, and child in the upstate of South Carolina the repeated opportunity to see and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” According to Malone, the phrase is not only their mission statement but the heartbeat and passion of Summit Church. He says, “The church is God’s vehicle in accomplishing the mission. And, in His Sovereignty, God has placed us where we are for a purpose—all the way down to the neighborhoods in which we live.”

    Summit emulates the church described in the book of Acts. They exist for the benefit of the world—not for their own gain. The Church, as they see it in the New Testament, started thinking unselfishly, about the people into whose lives God has placed them.

    Summit’s key question became: What does God want for these people? Their answer to that question became their mission. “By looking at the life of Jesus,” Malone says, “we can model our service. He lived life for the sake of other people, even down to His Return. Will we be a church for the sake of others?”

    Malone emphasized our need to listen to God but, more importantly, our need to be willing to listen to Him. “To achieve this we must spend time with Him and simply do what He says.” Summit Church accomplishes this by “passionately pursuing God, living connected to each other, using their Spirit giftedness, and by unveiling the Kingdom as they extend their grace story.” By looking outside of the congregational walls, Summit is taking the great commission to their community.