In a GetReligion post last year, I wrote:
"Church-planting" is, of course, a buzzword in Christian circles these days.
Not too many journalists, though, could turn that esoteric subject into the lead story in the Sunday edition of a major metropolitan daily.
In that case, I was talking about award-winning Godbeat veteran Peter Smith of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But add another religion writer to that elite list: budding star Holly Meyer of The Tennessean.
Meyer's deep dive on a United Methodist church plant in the Nashville area dominated the top two-thirds of her newspaper's front page on Easter Sunday.
Her timely angle:
Providence United Methodist Church has a new beginning this Easter season.
The church began eight years ago with an Easter Sunday service in Mundy Memorial Park in Mt. Juliet. And after holding 389 services in parks, school gyms and the like, Providence will celebrate its first Easter in a new building of its own on South Rutland Road.
It's a key milestone in the history of the congregation, which began as a church plant and has emerged as a leader in the Methodist denomination's nationwide efforts to grow.
“I’m pumped about our building because of what we get to imagine together,” Pastor Jacob Armstrong told the congregation during the final service at West Wilson Middle School.
Members of the church sat on bleachers and folding chairs as the gym's basketball hoops hovered overhead. They listened intently as Armstrong, 35, recounted how Providence's dream to reach those who feel disconnected from God and church manifests itself in overseas charity work, special-needs ministry and more.
“It’s been a great run in the school, guys, hasn’t it? It’s been a great run," Armstrong said. "Celebrate it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But here’s what I don’t want to do — stop dreaming.”
Providence began in 2008 just as the United Methodist Church as a denomination was preparing to launch a program focused on the intentional creation of new churches across the country. But it's not just the Methodists; new Protestant churches nationally are starting faster than old ones are disappearing, Nashville-based LifeWay Research shows.
Denominations are making it a priority, with more than 4,000 new churches launching in 2014 across the nation, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research and an expert on planting churches.
Count Stetzer among those impressed with Meyer's story. He tweeted to his 186,000 followers: