Forged in Faith

Knoxville offers places of worship to cater to a wide range of convictions and lifestyles. 

The American South has long been touted as the heart of our nation’s religious lifeblood. Faith permeates the fabric of nearly every facet of our lives: civically, socially, and politically. As settlers poured into East Tennessee more than 200 years ago, they came clutching their sacred texts looking to find strength and comfort in a higher power. Along with places of commerce, local government, and education, churches were on the forefront of these newly established communities. Even now, modest places of worship dating as far back as the 18th century continue to dot the landscape. Today, Knoxville remains a stalwart jewel in our country’s aptly named “Bible Belt,” and new congregations of all sorts continue to take seed and grow.

Growing up as the son of a Southern Baptist minister, I am intimately familiar with the importance that faith plays in our cultural landscape. I found myself in church every time the doors were open. I watched from the pews as my father led us all in traditional hymns, the choir in their robes and the congregation dressed in their Sunday finest; some of the songs were just as old as the now weathered wooden houses of worship previously mentioned.

As these Sunday services drew to a close, I would often join my father in front of the altar as members of the congregation passed by offering a handshake and words of appreciation. My father knew them all by name, and the loving fellowship on display was abundantly clear to me even at a young age. As I grew and evolved, so did the church around me. The old hymns remained, but newer, more modern songs of praise began to enter the musical rotation. Where there was once only the accompaniment of a piano and organ, more instruments started to appear; drums, guitars, and brass horns became relatively common. Where we once relied on swiftly thumbing through the pages of the hymnals that rested in the backs of the pews to reference the verses we couldn’t quite remember, large screens appeared offering the same convenience at the click of a button from a booth in the balcony. The elaborate outfits that my mother dressed me in as a child gave way to more casual attire. The formalities and traditions of my youth were slowly dismantled. The love and fellowship that I always felt remained as present as ever, but as the world changed so did the church.

Here at Cityview, we understand the importance of faith in our community. Through worship, we find a solidarity of spirit and a strength of fellowship. As we continue to grow, we understand the importance of connecting our readership to the organizations that best serve their spiritual needs and reflect their values and priorities. There is a home for every soul and an outlet for support and service to any who seek it.

Size and Scope

Although the early churches in this region were relatively small in size and membership, East Tennessee’s surge in population in recent years has given way to ever-growing congregations. In recent times, the emergence of megachurches (those with 2,000 or more weekly attendees) has drastically changed the way that many worship and interact with fellow members. With such large numbers, these churches are able to provide ministries and services to their members and the community at large in ways never before possible. Attendees can participate in not only worship services, but also organized sports, social events, and volunteer opportunities. While some may worry about being lost in the crowd, these congregations offer a wide variety of specialized ministries designed to focus on specific groups and interests. By doing so, they foster more intimate bonds among members that find themselves in similar circumstances.

In contrast, many have abandoned the idea of large religious organizations for smaller, more tight-knit groups. Turned off by the notion of being swept up in a wide sea of personalities, smaller groups are forming very niche gatherings apart from the normal criteria one might apply to a typical church. They often meet in unconventional places like coffee shops, public parks, or private homes. Their amorphous and transitional nature can offer a sense of relaxation and comfort to those intimidated by the idea of organized religion.

Concurrent with this trend is the fragmentation of traditional denominations. Congregations once under the general guidance of parent organizations are increasingly disassociating themselves from these larger collectives over discrepancies in doctrine and other attributes. As these churches distinguish themselves as independent enclaves, the number of nondenominational churches has increased significantly in recent years.

Churches worried about alienating potential members because of disagreements about long-standing denominational dogma have opted to tailor their mission and focus to reflect those of their particular membership. While certainly evident in case-by-case issues, these divisions vary in size and severity.

Worship Styles

Faith Promise, Knoxville, TN

Just as these gatherings vary in size, there are just as many variations in style of worship. For those who pine for the long-standing traditions of their childhood, there are plenty of churches that strictly adhere to the same conventions. For many, these sacred rites and beliefs help anchor them to their past and provide a solid foundation for the future.

For others, keeping up with current trends in technology and lifestyle has prompted a new approach to worship and services. In an increasingly digital world, faith initiatives are connecting with their members online now more than ever. For those who are homebound or traveling, many churches are providing streaming video of services that can be accessed in real time or archived for later consumption. In addition, the rise of digital tithing has made it easier than ever before for members to give with the click of a mouse or through a smartphone app.

With one-third of many communities working on any given Sunday, many organizations are offering worship services and small group studies at unconventional times. For those who feel alienated because of their career, this can be life changing. They can still maintain a healthy balance of work, family, fellowship, and spirituality.

Giving Back

For almost every organization of faith, service to the community plays a large part in their existence. For many believers, finding a church home that resonates with their personal causes and passions is of the utmost importance. Ministries can cover a vast spectrum of social issues in a variety of applications. Some organizations partner with local secular groups to battle problems of homelessness, poverty, and hunger. By exploring the mission statements of these organizations, community members can align themselves with congregations that share their sense of morality to better impact the lives of those around them.

For those with a passion for evangelism, there are numerous opportunities to become involved in mission work, both home and abroad. Whether through money or volunteering, Knoxville’s places of worship routinely send willing participants around the globe to touch the lives of those in need. As a result, our community has been integral in establishing faith-based initiatives in several countries that would have otherwise proved impossible. Organizations like One Vision International are locally based and have sent volunteer Knoxvillians to serve in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and the Middle East. As Knoxville continues to grow, we welcome those of all religions embracing our freedom to worship and applaud the organizations going above and beyond the call of duty to better the lives of our fellow man.

Finding Your Place

With so many faiths and congregations represented in our area, there is undoubtedly a place for you to find a spiritual home, a group that allows you to not only worship freely but live out your beliefs through action as well. No matter where you seek your higher power, Knoxville is proud to be a bastion of hope, a community that invests in the lives of others both physically and spiritually.

Learn about the myriad of ministries and services available to enrich the lives of you and your family. Let us remember to nurture our souls and in doing so, reach out to our neighbors both near and far, here and abroad.

Many hands make light work, and we all work better when we surround ourselves with others that share our convictions. By doing your due diligence, you can receive the blessings of a spiritual life fulfilled in a fellowship of faith and service.   

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