Harpeth Heights Baptist Church Merger
May 30, 2018
UPDATE (June 13, 2018): The results are in, and both Brentwood Baptist and Harpeth Heights Baptist voted overwhelmingly in support of a merger. We'll be working with their church leadership in the coming weeks to complete the legal merger. As Harpeth Heights Baptist Church becomes part of the Brentwood Baptist family, we look forward with eager anticipation to all that God will do.
Harpeth Heights Baptist Church held its first meeting on August 19, 1939 with 28 charter members. With this meeting, a new congregation began serving Christ in Bellevue.
For many decades, Harpeth Heights Baptist Church effectively served God and their West Nashville community. In 1985, Pastor Mack Hannah (father of David Hannah, Brentwood Baptist’s regional campus pastor at The Church at Lockeland Springs) arrived at Harpeth Heights. Mack served the congregation as pastor until 2001. During his leadership, the church experienced its strongest growth which led to a new education building and worship center and a weekly worship attendance of over 700 people.
Over the past fifteen years since Hannah’s departure, many committed members have done meaningful ministry for the cause of Christ. The church owns a house used to host missionaries on furlough, leads a worship service at a nearby nursing home facility, and teaches ESL classes on a regular basis. Harpeth Heights also operates a weekday preschool, which is ranked a three-star program (the highest ranking available in an annual review process required by the State of Tennessee).
Despite the continued ministry efforts of the church and the commitment of the current members, the church has experienced decline in multiple facets of ministry effectiveness and attendance. Harpeth Heights Baptist Church Transitional Connections Minister Bob Vasser shared, “There was, as can happen in the struggles of a church’s life, transition from a long tenured pastor to short tenured pastors, and then a lot of discouragement and a lot of unhealthiness.”
Since 2001, there have been three different pastors in leadership at Harpeth Heights, none of whom stayed for longer than five years. Knowing that something needed to change, church leadership began devoting intentional time to becoming a healthier church and spent a year praying about and considering what a transition for their church could look like. Bob said they began to ask, “What’s the most significant church that we know that is healthy and living in this geography?”
In December 2016, a church-authorized Transition Team for Harpeth Heights reached out to Brentwood Baptist to inquire about what it looks like to be part of the Middle Tennessee Initiative. These conversations led Brentwood Baptist to work with them toward church renewal. During these efforts, Harpeth Heights leadership had the vision not only for renewal, but specifically, for renewal through becoming a regional campus of Brentwood Baptist.
Harpeth Heights Baptist Church member Rachel Wiles shared, “This church was founded to be a gospel presence in this community, and that’s still our call today. It doesn’t matter what our name is. Our call is to shine a light into a dark world and to be a place that meets needs for this community and talks about who Christ is and what He’s done in our lives. I pray that Harpeth Heights is always known for that in this community, even more so after this merger.”
Now, after 18 months of prayer and discernment, we look to a future together, where Harpeth Heights Baptist Church would merge with Brentwood Baptist to become, “The Church at Harpeth Heights, a regional campus of Brentwood Baptist.”
Kate Akers, Brentwood Baptist Church Marketing Director, and her family have been attending worship services at Harpeth Heights as Brentwood Baptist has been pursuing the potential merger. She shared, “We’ve been able to get to know some of the members there, and we’ve seen the hunger that they have for leadership and vision. But, what I’ve also seen is their members becoming re-energized and excited by the mission and vision that our Brentwood leaders have shared with them.”
Rachel Wiles acknowledged, “Having a community of campuses and a church network is a really strong place to serve from.” She also expressed, “Joining together with Brentwood Baptist and having a shared mission and vision that we can all rally behind—it’s just really important to keep the main thing,the main thing. And that’s to make disciples who make disciples.”
Brentwood Baptist leadership believes God has called us to this merger, and we believe we are poised to best serve the community of Bellevue and engage the whole person with the whole gospel of Jesus Christ anywhere, anytime, with anybody through a merger with Harpeth Heights.
Voting on this merger with Harpeth Heights Baptist Church will take place in all worship services on Sundays, June 3 and 10.