Franklin — A vacant building and vision for a multisite church led to Woodburn Baptist Church planting what would become Franklin Community Church seven miles down the road but across the county line.
The church, that had around 100 on its first Sunday, now, eight years later, has been completely autonomous for about four years and averages 400-450 in attendance between two services. The key to their success is being intentionally multicultural.
“It was very important for us in church planting to establish a very ethnic, very multicultural congregation. I think it’s important that churches reflect their community. A church that doesn’t reflect its community is a church in decline,” Tim Harris, pastor of planting church, Woodburn, said.
Harris recalls a time he was at a local business in Franklin. A lady approached him, asked if he was the pastor of the planting church, and said, “Is that supposed to be a white church or a black church, because I can’t tell by walking in there.”
“At first I thought, ‘she’s trying to criticize us.’ But then I thought, ‘oh my goodness, she just said the most wonderful thing she could have said,'” Harris reflected.
The key to the church’s success was to establish themselves as a multiracial church from the very beginning.
Although the church faced its share of trials that come along with planting a church in a building formerly used by another congregation, they were also blessed with a supportive core remnant from the building’s last tenants. The group of five or six joined the mission of what was then called Woodburn Baptist Church, Franklin campus. Harris noted that the handful of remaining members “humbly and beautifully joined us.”
Another important component of the church’s growth and success was the vision that Franklin Community’s pastor, Eric Walker, brought when he transitioned from a staff member at Woodburn to lead pastor at Franklin Community.
“God uniquely gifted this man to do exactly what he is doing. He was born to pastor Franklin Community Church. He’s just amazing,” Harris said.
He continued, “He’s just that guy that doesn’t relate to people in terms of race or color. He sees deeper and more clearly. He just preaches Jesus. That’s irresistible.”
Walker says the key is love.
“The church needs to go out into the neighborhoods and bring people in, regardless of their situations. But what happens when they get here? Does your pastor know how to talk to the drug addict or the girl who has been on pills all of her life? We have to relate to messed up, hurting people. We have to be real and love like crazy,” he explained.
And that’s what the church does. Each week the congregation ranges from drug addicts to businesspeople. Their Celebrate Recovery program sees over 160 souls in it on a weekly basis, and during the summer months, their congregation is lined up outside the front doors awaiting entrance.
“In church on Sunday we see police officers and the folks they locked up last week. We have people who invite their exes to the service and mothers who invite their baby-daddies that are strung out on drugs. We have recovering addicts and parents who are now coming because their kids have gotten saved at Franklin Community Church.”
Walker continued, “I want to meet people right where they’re at and be a pastor to the city of Franklin if I can. I’m at the schools, the city commission, the hospital, the projects, the jail.”
He added, “It’s not about building a church–it’s about building up people.” (WR)