By Connie Davis Bushey
Baptist and Reflector
CROSSVILLE — Hundreds of people stayed after the third Sunday morning service of Revolution Church here recently. About a hundred more joined them who had attended the Saturday night service or an earlier Sunday service. They also came despite the stormy weather which had washed out some roads.
Everyone enjoyed lunch provided by the church. Then people moved outside the building located in the outlet mall to stand around three animal drinking troughs filled with water.
Lead pastor/church planter Josh Cardwell spoke for just a few moments, inviting folks to become Christians and be baptized right then in the troughs, and people lined up to talk to a pastor or elder of the church.
Some baptized, especially the new Christians, made a spontaneous decision at the event. “In our context,” explained Cardwell, and because it was explained in earlier services, this is effective.
So those people were sent inside the church where extra clothes had been collected for them to use. T-shirts for the occasion, reading, “No turning back,” were provided by the church. “I’m on Team Jesus,” was often overheard.
About 50 new Christians were baptized.
More would have been baptized if the weather had been good, Cardwell noted.
The week before Easter weekend, Revolution Church saw 114 people make professions of faith during six services which drew about 1,200 people.
Some of the people baptized may have been “re-baptisms” but those are not counted by the church, he added.
“It’s all God,” said the pastor.
A new, different church
Since Revolution Church started almost four years ago, it has baptized about 450 new Christians and draws about 625 people each Sunday morning. This is true despite the fact that the area is not heavily populated, Cardwell added.
The county here is the largest in the state geographically but home to only about 50,000 people, he noted. “For God to be doing what He’s doing up here on this plateau, it is like a miracle.”
One characteristic of the church is its communication methods, which are exclusively social media, especially videos posted on its website and Facebook.
Another characteristic of the church is that the church’s early members were not put off by its facilities. Revolution first met in the one small movie theatre in Crossville. Now it holds four services each weekend in a renovated retail space.
Revolution Church has grown from “people being saved. It has not been a lot of transfer growth,” Cardwell reported, referring to people who are members of other churches transferring their membership to Revolution. Thankfully, many of those new members are adults though the church has many young members and thus many children. For example, most of the about 50 people baptized on April 23 were adults and some older adults. They are currently being discipled by the congregation, the pastor added.
Those new believers include retirees who have moved to a retirement community in Crossville from the North, Cardwell noted. To reach more of those residents, the church is planning its next campus in that retirement community.
Special events of the church draw people, during which he clearly presents the gospel, he said. But that is not the main factor, he explained.
“It is all Him (God) because I’m not a great preacher, I’m not a great administrator. … It makes no sense,” said Cardwell.
A youth pastor of churches until starting this church, Cardwell was mentored by Fred Davis, former Tennessee Baptist Convention (now Tennessee Baptist Mission Board) staff member. Davis told Cardwell then he could plant a church.
So Cardwell attended the TBC church planting training about six years ago. But it wasn’t the right time for him to start a church then, he recalled.
Then while he was serving a church in Crossville he was called to a church in North Carolina. He accepted the call but couldn’t sell his house in Crossville. Finally, he and his wife, Brooke, decided God was calling them back to Crossville to plant a church though if it wasn’t for the house they would have chosen another city in which to plant a church, he said. But that wasn’t God’s thinking.
Another good sign from God was that The River Community Church, Cookeville, agreed to sponsor him and the new church, observed Cardwell.
The pastor who planted that church, Steve Tiebout (teh-boo), became one of Cardwell’s mentors and the two churches work closely together, said Cardwell. Another mentor is Chris Stephens, senior pastor, Faith Promise Church, which has campuses in Knoxville and four other cities.