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Running on the Growth Track

Biblical emphasis spurs attendance gain at Tennessee church near Army base.

Mark Benton II, a health care administrator with the U.S. Army's Medical Service Corps, is part of the wave of newcomers the past two years at LifePoint Church.

This growth has nearly doubled the size of the Assemblies of God congregation in Clarksville, Tennessee. In addition to record attendance of just over 2,000 the Sunday before Thanksgiving, another 400 watched services online.

The increase in congregants has been so dramatic that the north central Tennessee church has been meeting in a middle school since last spring. Workers are close to completing renovations that will double the building’s size to 52,000 square feet.

However, Benton says it isn’t numerical growth that has drastically affected his spiritual life, including altering plans for a 20-year Army career to include becoming a military chaplain.

“Being part of LifePoint has challenged me to look through the lens of God’s eyes instead of mine,” Benton says.

While Lead Pastor Mike R. Burnette credits God for the explosive growth, he says practical reasons include expository preaching and refusing to bend biblical truth for seeker-sensitive purposes. The approach is working: LifePoint recorded 200 conversions in 2016.

While stressing scriptural beliefs, LifePoint appeals to unchurched and de-churched visitors by stationing greeters everywhere, from the parking lot to the auditorium. Guests are encouraged to visit small groups, which meet in homes throughout the week.

Located close to Fort Campbell, which covers parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, around 60 percent of the congregation comes from a military background. LifePoint hasn’t grown by catering to church members, though. Burnette says leaders want to empower Christians to reach the spiritually lost and give attendees an environment where they feel safe bringing unchurched friends.

“I wanted to pastor a church where I would want to go if I wasn’t working there and wasn’t saved,” says Burnette, who came to Clarksville 6½ years ago when the church had only 85 regular attendees. “Everything is about moving people closer to Christ.”

To help do that, the church offers a four-week growth track, which starts with an explanation of the spiritual journey of knowing God and an invitation to follow Christ. Other steps review building authentic relationships, discovering one’s God-given purpose, and connecting people with opportunities to serve.

“People are growing in areas where God is speaking to them, whether it’s trusting God in tithing, their language, or praying for others,” the pastor says.

The transformations include Benton, who never thought of becoming an Army chaplain until several co-workers and Burnette suggested it. Benton is set to start classes for a master of divinity degree at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

“We’ve seen results in our life from being part of LifePoint,” says Benton, who plans to return to active duty after earning his master’s degree. “We see the results of standing with the Word of God.”


Kenneth C. Walker

Kenneth C. Walker is a freelance writer, co-author, and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia. He has more than 4,500 article bylines and has written, edited, or contributed to more than 90 books.