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Now grads of weekend seminary studies, they turn attention to church start

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Chris Brewer always knew he would start a church.

But for Tim Miles, who began preaching at age 18, founding a church was not as much on his mind as preaching the gospel.

In analyzing their personal events and circumstances in recent years, both affirm that divine providence has worked to harmonize their lives for planting a new Southern Baptist church near Nashville, Tenn. Longtime friends and recent Southern Baptist Theological Seminary grads, Brewer and Miles are serving as co-pastors of a soon-to-launch church in Rutherford County, Tenn.–Rock Creek Church.

“I always said I would start a church someday,” Brewer said. “And Tim said he always wanted to be a pastor. But the friendship we’ve developed over the years has been very special and we’ve known God was at work in our lives.”

The seeds for Rock Creek Church were sown in the mid-1990s at Nashville’s Belmont University. Brewer and Miles met there as undergraduates and forged a deep friendship. Upon graduation, both knew God was calling them to further their ministerial education. Pretty soon, it became evident that Southern Seminary was the place God would have both matriculate, Brewer said.

Both labored in full-time ministry while studying at SBTS. Brewer remained in Smyrna, Tenn., first serving as an associate pastor, and later as a pastor. Miles was pastor of a church in Bowling Green, Ky. Each Thursday afternoon Brewer would drive to Bowling Green where the two would make the two-hour trek to Louisville for SBTS and Fuller Hall, where they bunked for weekend classes.

“The drive could get a little old at times, but it definitely made us learn time management,” Brewer said. “The drive gave us plenty of time to share and fellowship, and we’ve seen the fruit of that since.”

The empirical fruit of their friendship is the new church, which will serve both Smyrna and LaVergne. First Baptist Church of Smyrna is sponsoring the outreach.

“One Thursday, on our way to Louisville, we were talking about what we would do if we ever pastored together,” Miles recounted. “When we pulled in front of Fuller Hall, a man got out of his car, walked over to us and asked if we had ever thought about starting a church together. We spent some time with him — he was a director of missions in Michigan. We didn’t feel peace about going to Michigan, but God laid Rutherford County, Tenn., on our hearts.”

Meanwhile, Miles said Rutherford’s director of missions — Jim Powers — was praying that God would send a team to plant a church in the area.

“When he later told us that, it confirmed it for us,” Miles said.

Brewer and Miles were the first students to graduate from SBTS’ weekend master of divinity program. They began the program in the fall of 1996. By completing several January-terms, they were able to shoehorn a four-year course of study into three and a half years and graduate in December from the seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.

Ed Stetzer, professor of church planting at Southern Seminary, was instrumental in helping the church secure funding and a missionary appointment from the North American Mission Board, Miles said. Two professors have contributed financially to Rock Springs and four others — including SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. — have pledged prayer support and encouragement, he said.

The church has yet to hold its first service. More than 30 people are meeting in several homes for pre-launch Bible study and discipleship, Brewer said. The two began pre-launch work in June and now work 60-70 hours per week preparing for startup.

The inaugural service is set for April 16 — Palm Sunday. The church office is located in Smyrna. Rock Creek has no physical church building yet, but Brewer said they are negotiating to get an old elementary school near the interstate in LaVergne.

Smyrna is home for Brewer. He was born in Johnson City, Tenn., but moved with his family to Smyrna at age 15, where he has remained since. Brewer and wife, Judy, have three children.

Miles is a native of Carthage, Tenn., a town whose most noted native is Vice President Al Gore. “Don’t hold that against me,” Miles said, laughing. Tim and wife, Julie, now live in Smyrna.

Brewer said he and Miles are a bit of an odd couple temperamentally, which makes them compatible in their ministry.

“I am the administrative pastor and Tim is the discipleship pastor,” Brewer said. “We have different personalities and it works very well in this situation. We have a unique friendship and it is obvious now how God has worked it all out.”

    About the Author

  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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