In September of 1979, Joyce and Avery Manis opened their home for the first official meeting of Christ Fellowship Church. After that initial meeting, the group met at the Lincoln State Bank in Mount Carmel for several months. They then began meeting at Grace Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, which they eventually bought, remodeled and used for several years. In 1999, Christ Fellowship moved to its current location in the Rock Springs area of Kingsport.
How did the church grow from 65 people to 2,000 in 40 years?
“We believe that we’re experiencing the benefit of those who have come before us,” said Pastor Derek Harden. “There have been incredible leaders and volunteers that have made tons of sacrifices that nobody will ever know about. We are now, in 2019, experiencing the benefits of those unseen acts.”
Pastor Derek, his wife, Kate, and their three children moved to Kingsport from Houston over two years ago. “We are so honored to be a part of a city and region that has so many incredible churches. We are one of many, and by no means do we have it all figured out. But we are really grateful for the many churches that are here doing great things,” he said.
Glenn and Gladys Haynes of Kingsport are the oldest surviving founding members of Christ Fellowship. Glenn, once a member of a southern gospel quartet, was the song leader and choir director for many years. “When he led music, he’d feel the spirit of God move and would walk down the aisle and raise his hands. He really enjoyed it,” Gladys said.
When they first started, the church had very little. “We had no piano, no songbooks, not anything that a church usually has,” she said. The church has come a long way in 40 years, to a 33,000 square foot building with 1,300 members and an average of 2,000 attending each weekend.
“It’s hard to imagine, when I look back and see what God has done and what Christ Fellowship is today. It’s amazing,” Gladys said.
Joyce Manis was the church secretary for 18 years and has seen many changes since she hosted the first meeting in her home all those years ago. “When we first started, we didn’t have anything at all. We had each other and we had God and we had a place to meet,” she said. Eventually, the church added songbooks, a piano, and even remodeled the first church. “We had a lot of fundraisers back then, which we don’t have to do anymore,” she said. “I never dreamed it would evolve to what it is now. I feel really blessed to have been a part of it.”
Looking ahead, Pastor Derek said the hope of the church is to equip and empower people locally, regionally and globally to be all that God designed them to be.
“That’s really our heart. We don’t necessarily know what that’s going to look like, but that’s what we’re believing for,” he said.
Pastor Derek said he would want his church to be known as people that prioritize the presence of God above everything else. “It has to begin with encountering Jesus in a very real way; not just knowing about him, but actually encountering his love, grace and mercy,” he said.
At the 40th anniversary celebration service in September, people were asked to write down one thing they were thankful for in the church.
“What we got more than anything else is how we love people really well,” said Pastor Derek.
“Jesus said that they will know you are my followers by the way you love one another; not by the size of your church or the size of your budget,” he added. Joyce agreed, saying, “I love the people. There’s a lot of unity and a lot of love between the people.”
Christ Fellowship has indeed come a long way in 40 years. But the members are quick to give the credit and the glory to God. “I know God was with us the whole time, leading us and guiding us and telling us we could do it. And we did it!” said Joyce.
Christ Fellowship Church is located at 260 Victory Lane in Kingsport. Sunday morning services are held at 8:30, 10 and 11:30. To learn more about the church, call (423) 349-0600.