By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CLARKSVILLE — Cal Hampton has come full circle.
He moved with his family to Clarksville at the age of 5 and was reared there. He stayed in the military town and attended Austin Peay State University. While at Austin Peay, he worked in a restaurant not far from the Austin Peay campus.
After being called into the ministry, Hampton left Clarksville and a successful hotel business when he was 37 years old to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. After graduation, he was called as pastor of Green River Baptist Church in Waynesboro, where he served for nearly 20 years.
But in a move that could only be orchestrated by God, Hampton returned to his hometown last year.
Nearly 40 years later he is working in that same building where he was once serving people in a restaurant — only this time he is serving God as pastor of Second Mile Church, a new church plant that began in March.
Hampton is convinced that there is only one reason he left a “great church situation” in Waynesboro to return to Clarksville — God burdened his heart for his hometown.
Hampton said God began laying Scripture on his heart about how the people of Israel had lost their fear of God and had turned completely from Him.
“I felt God was calling me back home to teach people to fear God (in a positive sense).” During the same time his wife Diana was reading verses that reminded them both that God “will provide” for their needs.
He resigned at Green River and he and his wife and 12-year old son moved to Clarksville, leaving behind his two grown children and three grandchildren. Hampton accepted a staff position at First Baptist Church, Clarksville, where he had been ordained and licensed into the ministry at the age of 35.
“We could have stayed at Green River until Jesus comes, but we knew this is what God wanted us to do.”
He thought that move was where God wanted him to be, but God kept working in his heart, Hampton recalled. It soon became apparent to him God was leading him to start a new church in the city. Leaving on good terms with First Baptist, Hampton ventured off to begin a new church at the age of 60, not the typical age of a church planter.
Hampton jokes that he has “broken all the rules” of church planting, but God has blessed his efforts.
Hampton felt like the perfect location was off Exit 4 off Interstate 24, near the heart of the city. Yet property was expensive and no doors opened for a new church plant.
Instead, God led Hampton to his former workplace located on South Riverside Drive. “This is the only place that opened up,” he recalled.
As it turned out, it has proven to be an excellent location. Hampton noted that 38,000 cars drive by the church every day.
Hampton started Second Mile Church with several families who voluntarily came with him from First Baptist, including his sister and brother-in-law (Susan and Shan Smith). After moving to Clarksville, Hampton learned that his sister had been praying for 10 years for him to return home.
Shan Smith said it soon became apparent that the church is about people, not a building. “People come here who would not enter a traditional church building,” he observed.
“We are reaching people who ultimately need to be led to Christ,” Smith added.
Hampton agreed. “We are reaching the unchurched.”
Mike Rainey is a former FBC member and longtime friend of Hampton who transitioned to Second Mile Church to help the new congregation.
“My wife Donna and I have known Cal all of our lives. He has a vision for reaching the lost and a passion that can’t help but spread to others,” he observed.
“You sense the presence of the Lord here through the unity of the believers and the common goal we share with the pastor for reaching the lost,” Rainey added.
Hampton, who is chair of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, went through church planter training provided by Lewis McMullen of the TBMB and he is grateful for the help and encouragement provided by the Board and its staff, including Randy C. Davis, president and executive director.
When the church opened on March 25, Hampton said “we didn’t know if we’d have 20 or 100 people.”
Actually, 137 people showed up for that first service. The church had its highest attendance on Easter Sunday with 300 people. In late July church attendance was approaching 200 each week. The church has baptized 24 people since that first service.
In a few short months, the church has become self-supporting and is contributing funds through the Cooperative Program. In addition, Hampton stressed, the church members are focused on getting outside the four walls of its building and doing ministry in the community.
“The Lord has been good to me,” Hampton noted. “He has put the right people in place with gifts and abilities. Our mission is to reach people for Christ and teach them to become followers of Christ.”