During the first three weeks of January, 21 pastors from 21 different churches took turns preaching from each other’s pulpits to spread a message of unity and hope.
BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn — Churches in Blount County are uniting for a bigger message than their usual sermons. During the first three weeks of January, 21 pastors preached in 21 different churches.
The movement is called ‘Wake up 21.’ Pastors involved say it is the first of its kind in the country.
The faith-filled effort aims to cross the boundaries between Christian denominations. Every pastor and church involved wants hope to carry every message and spark conversation in the community.
On Friday, several Blount County pastors gathered at their usual meeting place inside a Smith Funeral Home event building. Everyone sat around a round table, facing the center and reflecting on the past 21 days.
Each person came from a different background, creed and denomination.
“In a way, it just reminds us of a little taste of what heaven will be like because we’re all going to be there in the one church in Christ, and that’s pretty exciting,” said pastor Chris Pass. at Grandview Baptist Church.
Although they each preach for different churches in the county, they agree on the core values of Christianity.
“We have a common goal, a common goal,” said John Lowe, the pastor of Tuckaleechee Chapel. “We prayed together, we worshiped together, we sang together, we rejoiced together in the Lord.”
Some pastors admitted at first that they didn’t know how it would work. Over the course of 21 days, their eyes were opened.
“It’s easier to find common ground than divisions,” said Doug Hayes, pastor of Everett Hills Baptist Church. “What a wonderful thing that we can actually create networks of people worshiping God together.”
It was an idea started by the Faith and Family Coalition, located in Blount County. The organization wanted to unite Christian organizations but initially did not know how to go about it.
This council began thinking and soon came up with the model of 21 pastors preaching in 21 different churches for 21 days.
“When it was mentioned to the pastors, this group of pastors, it was like throwing a match at gasoline or something – it just blew up. They had already prayed for it, and it was just the ‘spark that sent them,’ said Les Burnette, a layman at Pleasant Grove Baptist.
They want to prove that unity is stronger than division.
“It’s not about race, it’s not about religion, it’s about God,” said Richard Turney, pastor of Resthaven Missionary Baptist.
They preach from the same book, the Bible, but they place it in different pulpits than they are used to, so they can share God’s message.
“Different pastors preach, but all stand on the Word of God on fundamental beliefs that we all have in common,” said Scott Linginfelter, pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church. “We were all able to come together to say, ‘Yes, we all believe in it, and we’re all together in this joint endeavor to stand on Jesus Christ and the word of God. “”
The message and the power go beyond Blount County.
“I mean it’s a movement, it’s not just affected our county, but it’s affected the whole world,” said Raymond Goodman, executive pastor of the RIO Network of Churches. “We could never have imagined this would have happened, and that’s why it had to be a thing of God.”
Over 8,000 people attended the services, but the reach is reflected in the screen, with thousands of hits over the course of a month on social media.
“On Facebook, we reached over 50,000 people online who viewed all services,” said Billy Arnett, media organizer. .”
They, and pastors also involved in dozens of other churches in the region, say this is just the beginning.
“We just want our community to know, not just here in Blount County, but we hope all over the world that there is hope in Jesus Christ,” said church pastor Ed Santana. Maryville Seventh-day Adventist.
January 21 is the last night for Awake 21 services. It’s at 7 p.m. at the Rio Revolution Church.
The team is also planning a free evangelistic event April 3-6 at Smoky Mountain Speedway.
“It will primarily be an event to reach lost people,” Linginfelter said. “We’ve got this in a venue that’s not a church. It’s not a denominational event. It’s across denominational lines. We have a pastor from Morristown, Dean Haun is going to be our evangelist for the week, we have different bands coming in every night, and we will try to reach lost people with this event, so hopefully what happened this week permeates our community and we can reach other people with the good news that Jesus saves.
Awake 21 hopes this model of preaching and worship will be adopted in other communities.