In less than a year since Curt Stapleton and his family moved to Athens, TN, Redeemer Athens reached the point of holding Sunday morning worship. On November 6, 2022, they gathered for their launch service.
In Curt’s words, “I’ve been speaking to students through Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at the local high school and Young Life College at Tennessee Wesleyan. I’ve met in the same restaurants and talked with many people within our sphere of influence.” Through these relationships and other connections, the Stapletons found people who were excited about gathering for worship.
“We’d been praying about the right time,” Curt says, “and meeting with the Mission to North America committee in the middle of October confirmed that we were ready. We had around ten families on the first Sunday.”
Before beginning Sunday worship, the church plant started with Wednesday night Bible studies and Friday evening men’s groups. Curt has seen at least one conversion through the Bible study.
“A husband was converted through his wife’s participation in the Bible study. As he heard what she was learning, he asked questions. Eventually, he wanted to go back to church. We weren’t meeting yet, so they went back to his Baptist roots. She has deep Reformed theology convictions, but up to that point, her husband was lost. She told me, ‘In the first 17 years of our marriage, he never showed interest in church.’ Curt will let them know that Redeemer now has Sunday morning worship. Even if they don’t attend his church, he is overjoyed that one more person has been saved by Jesus.
Prior to the launch service, the church hosted a supper and bonfire at the end of October. “This was really to warm up for worship the next week and gather everyone together,” said Curt. “All these great couples who were interested in the church hadn’t met each other yet, so we invited the families for a chili supper and the FCA and Young Life students for a bonfire later.”
Starting worship of course means more preparation and new work. “We found a pianist and a guitarist who stepped up to play. We have four teams now – nursery, hospitality, music, and a site team that sets up before the service. People stayed for an hour after worship to talk with each other.”
Many of these people weren’t attending a church in Athens prior to Redeemer. Curt says that about a fifth of the Redeemer group were looking for a presbyterian church and drove to the next town over to go to a PCA church.
Curt also says that half of Redeemer’s people are “de-churched.” He’s currently in relationships with numerous people who have Christian roots or have shown interest in the gospel, but they are still growing. “There are two couples who are living together, but I want them to know Jesus first before we talk about how they might live. One of the men comes to Bible study but seems shy about coming to church. Another friend hasn’t been to church in 30 years.”
Curt chose to preach about Genesis 15 and justification as his first sermon at Redeemer Athens. “I wanted to preach on God’s covenant with Abraham. I’m trying to introduce Covenant theology from scripture, laying the groundwork for baptism.” Curt added, “I want our people not just to love Redeemer Athens, but grow to love Jesus’ church.”
For the time being, Redeemer Athens meets in the Comfort Inn in Athens, TN at 10 a.m.
Curt continues to raise funds for his church. “Even though we now have offering as part of our worship, you can’t count on the income for the church yet. The Lord’s been faithful to provide for us.”