Located between Knoxville and Johnson City, Morristown is one of the many small towns scattered through East Tennessee. As a larger, central, trade town, it is a key location for a PCA church with opportunity to reach the outlying areas. Carson-Newman University is also located near Morristown, meaning there is an opportunity to reach the students, faculty, and staff of the school. Lakeway Presbyterian Church, led by Chris Talley, is filling the gap.
A Church, A School, and RUF
Chris Talley was on staff at Redeemer Church of Knoxville when he first became familiar with Morristown. Some people from the Morristown region and from Carson-Newman drove all the way to Knoxville to attend Redeemer. The need for a church plant was clear. Chris and his wife moved to Atlanta to serve a church there, but with his sense of adventure and passion for mission work, Chris sensed a growing call to church planting. Ted Strawbridge, head of the presbytery’s church planting at the time, told him that he was the perfect fit for the Morristown area.
Simultaneously, Chris’ wife, Beth, heard that her old youth pastor, Bob Burns, was starting a Christian school in Morristown. Lakeway Christian Academy has a sliding tuition model so that students from every background can attend and the school can have a greater impact in the area. Beth now teaches at the school, and Chris was able to teach a couple of classes this last year.
Reformed University Fellowship is also at work near Morristown. RUF had a long presence at Carson Newman before Lakeway was planted, but the RUF team was feeling the strain of not having a PCA church nearby. Some people from RUF drove into Knoxville to attend Redeemer but now, Lakeway and the RUF pastor, Chandler Rowland, are delighted to be ministry partners.
Getting to Know the Community
The Talleys moved to Morristown in September 2019 and began holding Sunday evening gatherings almost every week. The goal was to fully launch in August 2020, but COVID-19 hit. After a couple months of virtual meetings, Tennessee began to open up, and the Talleys continued to gather with people in their home. By the end of summer 2020, about 20 adults who were thirsting for a church community had joined the young church plant.
Now in a relaunching period, the church has grown to 30 adults. Morristown is a Baptist and Methodist world, with some PCUSA presence, so one challenge Lakeway faces is increased visibility and the willingness of locals to try something that may be unfamiliar to them. In addition to involvement with Lakeway Christian Academy, Chris has met many people in the area by volunteering with the police department as a chaplain and leading F3, a men’s fitness group.
This fall, Lakeway launched men’s and women’s discipleship groups. In the words of Chris, “If worship is our front door, these gatherings are our side doors through which we can invite neighbors, friends, co-workers, and peers to explore the gospel and be exposed to vital, life-giving community and friendship.”
The partnership with RUF continues: Chris has opportunities to preach at the large group events and the college students get to lead worship at Lakeway. The church also plans to have a presence at a local festival in Morristown to reach out to neighbors and be a part of the life of the community.
Please pray for more believers to join Lakeway’s efforts; for people in the Morristown area to come to Jesus; and that the young church plant would find an ideal location to worship and serve their community.