FLORENCE, S.C. – A Wilson graduate is taking over leadership of the Impact Church of the Nazarene.
The Rev. Brandon Eagleton will replace Michael McCants as head of the church on West Palmetto Street.
McCants is taking over as pastor at East Point Church of the Nazarene in Atlanta.
Impact was born of a 2018 merger between A New Start International, a church McCants founded and the only black Nazerene church in the Southeast Nazerene District, and Family Life Church of the Nazerene, the established church in Florence.
McCants also established a plant church in Columbia that serves 200 people and a 300 Youth Saved Initiative that led 300 youth to Christ.
“Part of me initially did not want to accept it, because of the founder [McCants],” Eagleton said before a recent Bible study at the church. “We’ve been friends for how long?”
McCants, also attending the Bible study, said the two had been friends since high school. McCants, like most of the congregation, attended South Florence. Eagleton, however, did not.
“Unfortunately, he went to Wilson,” McCants said of Eagleton while laughing. "I’m still a Bruin, though.”
Eagleton said he had a tug-of-war experience between staying in his current role as a member of the teaching team and filling in when McCants wasn’t available and moving to the pastor role. He said he was pulled by compassion and urgency to accept the job.
“The ministry here is unique,” he said. “I have been a traditionalist most of my life, and if you know Pastor McCants, he is anti-traditionalist.”
McCants began laughing.
Eagleton said he looked at the heart and compassion that McCants has for people. He said McCants has a rare sense of compassion, and he really believes that McCants has a heart from God for people. Eagleton added that being asked was a humbling experience.
“It was something that I couldn’t just say no to once I knew that he [McCants] was serious [about taking the Atlanta job],” Eagleton said.
Eagleton said he was hoping and praying that McCants was joking when he told him about the Atlanta offer.
"He told me, ‘Ah, you’re not going anywhere. You’re just talking. You’re not going nowhere,’” McCants said.
Eagleton said he thought McCants was speaking out of frustration. The stress of the position isn’t just felt by them, it’s also felt by their wives and families, Eagleton said.
McCants, Eagleton added, soon told him that the Lord was telling him to move and asked what the Lord was telling Eagleton.
“I said the Lord ain’t speaking about anything, but I know you need to stand still,” Eagleton said.
McCants later added that he spent most of his time with the church planting and building. It was important to him to find the next pastor who could take the church forward.
“Now, we have foundation. Let’s start reaching out,” McCants continued. “Let’s start growing and expanding. He had the heart, the compassion, the know-how and the education to do that.”
Eagleton said even though the two are “polars” in their approaches, he thinks the church will be a good fit even though he is sad to see McCants go.
Eagleton said he had learned tenacity from McCants.
“That’s one thing that I’ve gleaned from him over the years,” Eagleton said. “Normally, I’ve been [a pastor at] Church of God in Christ and Missionary Baptist the majority of my life. When I see that there’s an uphill battle. I have the push within, but I’m like, ‘Let me take an alternate route.’ One thing that I learned with McCants is, ‘Oh, we're just going to keep pushing. We’re just going to pray harder.’”
Eagleton said he felt called more to the church than the denomination. He said he was more sold to the vision of the house than the denomination.
Eagleton said his immediate plans include a vision of a hub of meeting people where they are and ministering to them. That vision, he said, includes a Bible institute, a kindergarten and possibly transitional housing.
Eagleton said he felt the calling of God in 10th grade, his first year at Wilson.
He said he previously attended Maranatha Christian School.
“I had a series of dreams and one vision that the Lord called, and I ran until my sophomore year of college,” Eagleton said. “That’s when I surrendered to the Lord and started going into ministry.”
He attended South Carolina State University, where he majored in biology and chemistry.
Eagleton’s intention was to become a pediatric anesthesiologist, like the father of a friend. He said he was in a health-job-shadowing program at McLeod during his senior year at Wilson.
In 2006, Eagleton was commissioned in the Army.
“Instead of going to med school, I got deployed,” he said. “The call of God came up, and I ended up going to the seminary versus med school.”
He was deployed to Fallujah as a signal officer. His second deployment was in Kuwait.
Eagleton said he loved Kuwait. He said the small country was nothing but a resort.
“Outside of military stuff, the only thing I did was eat, exercise and shop most of the time,” he said.
He attended Columbia International University, where he obtained a master’s in divinity. He also received a master’s degree from Liberty University.
Eagleton recently received a doctorate in theology from Duke University.
“He’s decorated now,” McCants said.