Family of Families
From its earliest days, Chattanooga Church has sought to serve as a haven of heavenly blessing amidst the hustle and bustle of a modern metropolitan area. Many of its members and ministers have been relatively itinerant, coming to the city because of work or family ties. But then they find in Chattanooga Church a “family of families,” with young and old serving together and worshiping side-by-side in participatory, family-integrated worship services.
Although the congregation has relocated to three different meeting places, we realize that the Bible term meaning “church” (ekklhsia, ekklesia) really does not refer to a building at all, but to the called-out congregation that assembles to worship Christ in spirit and in truth. The “church,” therefore, has continued fundamentally the same even though locations and circumstances have changed over the years.
As “Baptists” we still affirm believers’ baptism (immersion of believers old enough to express their own faith), congregational church government, the priesthood of the believer, and liberty of conscience.
As “Primitives” we still follow the old-fashioned practices of a capella congregational singing and occasional footwashing, and we still hold to the Bible teaching of a sovereign God who saves his children by sovereign grace alone (sometimes called “Calvinistic” doctrine), including unconditional election and predestination, personal redemption, irresistible grace by direct operation of the Holy Spirit, and final perseverance of the saints unto eternal glory.
As Christians we still affirm a triune godhead, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the inerrant authority of the Old and New Testament scriptures, and the final resurrection and judgment of all mankind. We also take literally the Genesis account of creation, the virgin birth, and the supernatural miracles recorded in Scripture.
We are independent of any denominational superstructure, believing that each congregation is individually and directly accountable to Christ. More general information about Primitive Baptists can be found at www.pb.org.
Then to Now
Chattanooga Church began with just seven members in 1910. Now, hundreds of members and a century later, we have a membership of about forty, and many different opportunities for continued outreach, locally and beyond. We visit and sing for the elderly who are confined in nursing homes; collect food, clothing, household items, and other support for those in need; support overseas evangelistic works in India, Philippines, and other locations; host a shape-note singing school every other summer; and prayerfully seek additional opportunities to reach others who may be spiritually hungry and thirsty.
The church has been blessed with consistent pastoral care from nineteen preachers with overlapping tenures of service. The average stay of a minister has been 13-14 years. The church has never been without a pastor; in fact, five particular ministers’ tenures overlap to span the whole century. Moreover, the church has usually had more than two ministers serving it in any given year.
Our longest-serving minister is still with us today: Elder Joe Hildreth served as pastor from 1972 to 2002, and continues as an elder in the congregation to this day, at 78 years of age, marking his 38th year of ministerial service here and the 55th year of his overall ordained ministry.
“I will remember the works of the Lord:
surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.
Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary:
who is so great a God as our God?
Thou art the God that doest wonders:
thou hast declared thy strength among the people.”
— Psalm 77:11-14
Special thanks to the historical research committee: Brother John Stone and Elder Joe and Sister Virginia Hildreth.