Go East, Young Man
A call to reach creatives leads an L.A. pastor to Nashville.Nathan L. Kollar is a pastor, but he also is an artist and a musician. It’s not surprising that this son of a professional rocker-turned-preacher (Assemblies of God pastor Charles A. Kollar) is burdened to reach creative people with the gospel.
That calling led Nathan, 36, and his wife, Jessica, to move nine years ago from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, where they planted Dwell Church, which drew people working in the multifaceted entertainment industry. Kollar’s ministry flourished; Dwell Church launched other congregations. He became a SoCal Network executive presbyter.
Then the Lord gave a surprising directive: Move to Nashville.
As a creative hub, Tennessee’s largest city, like Los Angeles, is among urban centers that tell stories heard far and wide. Such hubs shape the world’s imagination and drive culture. They are places where music, film, and other forms of art are made. The Nashville region is exploding with new growth. It’s not the first time an AG musician-turned-pastor has felt called to Tennessee’s capital.
“It’s important that we don't just complain about where culture is headed, but that we go in as missionaries to where that culture is actually created, and plant churches there,” Kollar says.
While Nashville is a thriving artistic mecca, some questioned Kollar’s sanity for leaving a blessed life in California and starting over in Tennessee where the family — by then with three children and a fourth on the way — knew no one. How would they recruit a church-planting team? How could they derive their income?
Kollar took comfort in the assurance that the Lord had called them, citing a paraphrase of Acts 15:28: “It seems right to us and the Holy Spirit.”
The Kollars’ initial call to Music City began with laying the foundation for Risen Church as a parent-affiliated church (PAC) campus of First Assembly of North Little Rock through the Church Multiplication Network. The cities are five hours apart across state lines, hence involving AG Arkansas and Tennessee geographical districts. Soon after the Kollars arrived in December 2017, Risen Church grew to 45 young people who met in the Kollars’ Nashville home on Sunday nights.
Then Tennessee Ministry Network Superintendent Terry Bailey approached Kollar with an idea from traveling evangelist Ralph Duncan, a 71-year-old former member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. About 20 years ago, Duncan planted GraceLand Church in the rapidly growing Nashville south suburb of Franklin. GraceLand had a building and a mostly elderly congregation about the same size as Risen. Miraculously, that building sat on 135 wooded acres. Duncan, his wife, Diane, and the leadership of GraceLand Church had been praying for five years for God’s direction.
What if the congregations merged?
“My wife and I had prayed for years to have a church that's truly multigenerational, with wonderful spiritual grandmas and grandpas,” Kollar says.
Bailey linked Duncan with Kollar. The proposal seemed like a match made in heaven. However, Risen Church had a parent-affiliated relationship with First Assembly of North Little Rock. That meant, as the arrangement stood, it couldn't join an existing body.
Rod Loy, the lead North Little Rock pastor, agreed that the Lord had presented an opportunity.
“This is a place in Nashville where the Lord can plant a great church,” says Loy, whose church isn’t a stranger to long-distance assistance. “Let’s see if we can be part of it. We all sensed from the beginning that this is what the Lord is saying.”
Six ministers discussed the possibilities: Kollar, Duncan, Loy, Bailey, Arkansas Superintendent Larry Moore, and Maury Davis, retired pastor of Cornerstone, an AG megachurch in north Nashville. Davis, a longtime friend of Loy and Duncan, served as a coach and consultant in the blending of the congregations.
“We were all a part of the process by God’s divine direction,” Kollar says. “The assignment to lead this merged congregation into its next chapter and steward this property fell to us.”
GraceLand Church merged with Risen Church. The resulting congregation, still called GraceLand Church, is a PAC of First Assembly North Little Rock. Within five years, GraceLand will be a General Council local church again.
“The church is now very diverse generationally and stylistically,” Kollar says. “We have retired seniors and young hipsters worshipping next to each other every week,” some in suits and ties, while others don jeans and T-shirts. “We have some that work on farms and others that work in downtown Nashville.”
Loy foresees a great future for the united congregation: “GraceLand is going to be a landmark church in Nashville,” he says.
GraceLand Church Franklin will officially launch into its next chapter Jan. 13.