That’s the question I’ve been getting a lot this week. It’s a good one. Most people in New Mexico only know Clarksville from the old Monkees song, Last Train to Clarksville, just like most people in Clarksville only know Albuquerque from where Bugs Bunny took a wrong turn. In fact, out here in the 505, most cities with “-ville” on the end of it don’t sound that appealing. So, I’ll try to keep this short. Here are a few reasons we’re going to Clarksville…
There are 15 Calvarys in the whole state of Tennessee and verse-by-verse expository preaching is very hard to come by.
The statistic that floats around about Montgomery County is that 80% of the population is unchurched. I’ve never seen that stat online or on paper, but I could easily see it being true. Let’s take a much more conservative percentage and say that 50% of Montgomery County is unchurched. That leaves over 67,000 people who are not currently attending church! Yikes. And that’s only 50%.
2 1/2 years ago, we knew where Tennessee was on the map, but that was about it. We had never been there until I flew out to Nashville to speak at a winter retreat in February of 2007. We stayed with Jenn’s family in Paris, TN, and we began to see the need for a good Bible-teaching church. I also realized the limited resources that many churches out there had. I was so encouraged to see churches from 5 states assembling for a huge youth retreat! It was awesome. This is when God began directing us to TN.
Over the next 2 years, I would have many more interactions with Tennessee. We even flew out there for Christmas of 2007 and someone told us she had had a dream that we were starting a church there. We had planned on just vacationing, but that opened our eyes to other possibilities.
We recognized the need like never before that Christmas and ended up flying back in February of 2008 to scout out 2 potential towns – Jackson and Clarksville. We had heard of Clarksville, but never been there. We thought for sure Jackson was the place, but figured we’d swing by Clarksville while we were out there. We drove into Jackson and knew from the moment we go there that that was not the place for us. So we changed plans and headed into Clarksville for the night. We loved it. We knew we were on the right path.
We prayed A LOT about this. A LOT. I don’t know how planting a church can be done from selfish motives, but I imagine that it can be done. I wanted to constantly be searching my motives to know if this was just my next “big idea” of if God was behind it. He was. There’s no way I could list the many ways God confirmed to us that we were in the right spot, but here are a few…
– meeting our realtor, Verlon, while wandering through the only mall in Clarksville (he just so happened to be a retired Baptist preacher who enjoys finding houses and building for new “preachers” that want to start a church!)
– getting a job interview with Frank, a local business owner, for a graphic design job. The job ended up not working out, but God used the interview to remind me that we were headed in the right direction
– we attended church at a little Calvary in Dickson while we were out there in Feb 2008, and the pastor was so excited to hear about our potential plans that he called us up right as he started the Bible study to pray for us and announce to the congregation that we were moving to Clarksville to start a church! I wasn’t even fully convinced that we were doing that at that time!
– by the time we got home, we knew where we were supposed to go, the only question left was when
– we prayed a lot about it and on Sat, Oct 16, we finally decided that we had to just go – there would always be an excuse to stay – the next day, I happened to see the pastor of Calvary Nashville in our sanctuary at Calvary! WHAT!? He said his wife had gotten sick and they had to close down the church – one less Calvary in TN
– we booked flights and flew back to TN in February of ’09 (just 2 months ago) which was another trip filled with confirmation (including one Calvary pastor telling us that at a Men’s Rally they had back on October 16-17, they had been praying for someone to start a church in Clarksville!)
Little did they know that God answered their prayers immediately 1200 miles away in New Mexico.
Little did we know that our decision to go to TN was actually God answering prayers from 1200 miles away!
I’ve always prayed that when it was it was my time to go, I’d have a Joshua-type figure that would take my spot. I thought I might have that guy, but within a day of us being back from our trip in Feb of 2008, that guy told me he was quitting working with me to work elsewhere. Plans ended up falling through and he ended up coming on full time with me, but it answered our prayers – we knew where, but now was not the time. So, we made plans. I mapped out how I’d teach through Revelation August 2008-May 2009 and Jenn committed to 2 semesters of women’s ministry. We knew that we’d be in Albuquerque till at least the end of May, when our commitments were up. As I said, on October 16, we decided that there would always be reasons to stay – we just needed to go. The time had come.
It’s been years in planning, and the time is finally here. 70 more days from today is the day we pull out – exactly 10 weeks. 5 months from Sunday is the date of our first official church service – Sat, Sept 12. It’s very surreal and super exciting. Can’t wait to see what the next few years holds.
So I didn’t do a good job at keeping it short, but hopefully this helps to answer some wondering minds.
When Nathanael first heard about Phillip leaving everything behind to follow this Jesus of Nazareth character, his question was, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” It was obscure and out of the way, kind of like Clarksville used to seem to us. A similar question has come to my mind before – “Can anything good come from Clarksville.” I believe so. If God is behind it, success is guaranteed!