The story of Christ Church Nashville began in 1949, when J. O. and Mary Wallace organized a small congregation in the South Nashville community of Woodbine. The new church would be under the direction of Wallace’s father, J. W., pastor of the West Nashville Pentecostal Church. Mary Wallace’s brother, seventeen-year-old Lawson Hugh Hardwick Jr., had just enrolled in Freewill Baptist Bible College. He wanted to help his sister and brother-in-law plant the new congregation in Woodbine; unbeknownst to him, fifteen months later he would become its pastor. Pastor Hardwick was eighteen years old, and had just married Montelle Carson, whose parents had accompanied the small group from West Nashville to begin the church.
The young couple began their family as they learned how to care for the needs of a congregation. They served the people as they served their children, with love, tenderness and growing wisdom. During the first fifteen months of its existence, the church had purchased a piece of property at the corner or Rose and Sadler streets for two thousand dollars. However, by 1957, they acquired property on Elberta Street, a few blocks from its original location. At first, there was only a basement and the congregation met there until 1963 when it finished a beautiful chapel for 250 people. The bills were challenging for the modest group but they worked hard and lived frugally. In the meantime, the church began to grow.
Within a few years, a fleet of buses was going out each Sunday morning to gather the expanding flock. By 1972, the church began looking for property further south, on Old Hickory Boulevard. Because that was the outer limits of urban growth at the time, it was a stretch of faith to think of the area as having potential for church growth. However, Pastor Hardwick convinced the congregation to move, so they purchased the first seven acres of rocky hillside, which is the beautiful campus the church enjoys today. They asked Bill Sheldon, a Brentwood architect, to design a sanctuary to fit the unique location. Soon after relocating, the congregation began to experience a new wave of growth. People began to come from different Christian backgrounds and join themselves to the original group. Although this was challenging at times, the church’s emphasis on scriptural teaching, worship and fellowship worked to unify the various strands into a single congregation. The people learned from one another and blended the strengths and insights they had brought from their various backgrounds. They soon created life-long friendships and, in many cases, blended their families in marriage.
Many people came to the church because of its outstanding music. Landy Gardner had founded the Christ Church Choir after moving to Nashville. Its unique sound made it into a well-known part of our city’s culture. Landy was a child of the sixties and seventies and understood the changes that the nation was experiencing, especially in its music and other arts. Raised Pentecostal, he also knew that the old divisions between the White and African American stands of gospel music were quickly dissolving and was able to foster a worship experience that connected with a much wider audience than most churches at the time. In the early eighties, the church began emphasizing training and education and Pastor Hardwick sought out the nation’s best speakers and teachers to feed the church’s theological and intellectual life. In 1985, he invited Dan Scott to speak and soon afterward, asked him to become the church’s associate pastor. A leadership team had evolved, consisting of a number of people with expertise in specific areas of ministry. The synergy of this leadership team provoked explosive growth that required continual building, new organizational structure, and the mobilization of hundreds of volunteers. During this time, the church built its present sanctuary building to accommodate the growth.
The book, Let the River Run, tells the story of this season of Christ Church Nashville. It is available as a free download, or in print version from the bookstore.
During the nineties, the church continued to grow. Many people went out from the church to establish ministries of various kinds and to serve God in other locations. Under the pastoral guidance of L.H. Hardwick, the church continued to adapt to the changes occurring in the world, the nation, and in the area immediately around it. Pastor Hardwick led the church to build its community center, establish a church cemetery, and to acquire land for future expansion. Globalization was beginning to have a visible impact upon our area of the city and it became obvious that the church would require different tools and new kinds of knowledge to touch the people it wanted to serve.
In 2006, Montelle Hardwick died after her long struggle with kidney disease. Her fifty-five years of service to this congregation had made an impact upon several generations of people. She and Pastor Hardwick had poured their lives into a single community and the effects were obvious. As the era of leadership that they had personified began to end, the church worked to discern its future. How would CCN serve God and humanity in this era that was, in many respects, quite different from the era in which it had been founded?
Pastor Dan Scott had been serving a congregation in central Phoenix, in Arizona, for ten years. He had returned to Christ Church Nashville in 2004 as an associate pastor. When L.H. Hardwick became pastor emeritus in 2007, Pastor Dan became the senior pastor. With his deep roots in the history of this church, he has continually affirmed his intentions to maintain the elements that grew the church in its first sixty years, as it addresses the needs of contemporary life. His training and experience in missionary work has given him a particular passion to reach and serve a city that is deeply affected by global migration, especially in the area immediately surrounding the church. He is also dedicated to identify, train, and release the leaders of our younger generations to carry on the work of this important congregation.
This brings our history full circle: an eighteen-year-old man began his adult journey as a father, a husband, and a pastor. Year after year, he served the people around him with the love of Christ and grew a community to help lift untold thousands into new life in God. It remains dedicated to that same path today.