History of Calvary Chapel Knoxville
We arrived in Knoxville in June of 1997. Although we knew only family, for the most part, in this area, we moved forward quickly in response to God’s call. We rented in an apartment complex that agreed to allow us to use the clubhouse for our Bible study and we were off. Needless to say it was a very interesting beginning. I had no degree and no vocation that would pay nearly enough to support a wife and two children. So I went to the only other thing I knew well which was waiting tables. I had done it for years before. Our yearly salary was somewhere around $13,000 so all the rest was simple faith. As always God showed Himself faithful. We received surprise gifts and unexpected letters in the mail on a regular basis until the church was able to support me. Then as quickly as they came they left. When it came to the study we also had many disadvantages. With no real advertising and few people who had heard of a Calvary Chapel we were definitely walking by faith. But when God is doing a work physical disadvantages don’t matter. We put up flyers on our apartment billboard and set a starting date. It was on a Thursday. We decided to begin only with a midweek service and chose to avoid the traditional Wednesday so that we would not interfere with already established churches in our area.
On the first night we were shocked to find out that our landlords had double booked the clubhouse and we were the losing party. The others had paid to rent. So not giving up we went around back to have a Bible study at the swimming pool. No one came except my wife, my sister-in-law with her new baby and me. I was somewhat discouraged but after a moment someone who was swimming joined us. We ended up with four adults and one baby, but we had officially started. It didn't take long to figure out we needed a kids' ministry as well. The problem was we had no one but my wife to do it. And with two children of our own and only one room in which to meet, our apartment quickly became our kids' church and nursery. And my wife became our kids' ministry leader. But that was okay. I was wearing multiple hats as well. I was the greeter, worship leader, pastor, and counselor. We grew tremendously during this time. But the good news is, so did the study. After a year we had grown to about 20 people. We also expanded our meeting times to Sunday night where we were allowed to use a local church that had no service in the evenings. The problem was we were either going to have to recommit to another year at the apartment complex or move on. We knew that if the study kept growing we might not have enough room for another year, so we began to pray for a new place to live and to meet. While we were praying I was looking for a one-size-fits-all building. A place we could meet in, but also live in. I pictured a big room with some type of dividing wall for our living quarters. But as always, God has a bigger and better vision than I do. This is where the story really gets interesting.
It was not too long after that we got an unexpected phone call. There was someone coming to the study that knew a couple who needed a house sitter until their home sold, and they asked if we would consider the job. When I say "job" I don’t mean it was a paid position, but the responsibility of watching over the place. We heard it was nice so we went to look at the place. To our amazement and shock we found a mansion in the wealthiest part of town! It was a four story 10,000 square foot home with a pool and tennis court! What a great church! We took the offer and promptly moved in. We now had a place we could afford - it was free! And we also had plenty of room for the church to meet and grow for a while. We used the top floor for our kids' ministry, the next floor down for our living quarters, the next floor down for the adult services, and left the basement to its own. There was a room on the west wing that held 50 chairs and they soon began to fill. By now we were getting help with the ministry load as others were stepping forward and this freed my wife and I up in many areas. We ended up staying at this location for a year and a half, and by that time we had close to 90 people coming to the church. It was now time for our next move.
As I began to look around we came upon an old shopping center that had burned down and only the shell had been rebuilt. It looked like a perfect place although there would be lots of work involved. We talked the landlord into purchasing the materials if we would do the labor. It was a win-win situation for both of us. About 70-80,000 dollars later and 6 months down the road we were in the place. It was perfect for our needs. There was plenty of space for kids' church, and a large sanctuary that could easily house around 250 adults. We had grown to right around 100 by this time, and although it was a little big we had room to grow. We now had a worship team and multiple teachers for our children. We were finally becoming more established. After the first year we had doubled in size. Different ministries are popping up on a fairly regular basis as God continues to grow us. We now have a junior and senior high youth group with different leaders, which enable us to reach into the local schools.
What’s next? Only God knows. But as always, serving the Lord is a privilege and an adventure. And after seeing what He has done so far, we look forward to what God is going to do in the future.
May God richly bless you in your pursuit of the Lord, and may you know the One Who sets the captive free.