Small Group Beginnings

In the early 1990s, God moved Lance Robinson, who was attending school in North Carolina, to start a new church that proclaimed God’s word and engaged the culture. He came home to Knoxville and looked for others who would join him to do just that. A small group began to meet, and after canvasing the community and praying, they mailed hundreds of invitations to be a part of a new kind of church. On Easter Sunday, 1993, only 54 people came to Providence's first official gathering in a  local office building. This group leveled off to about 30 people (about half kids!), but Providence Church had been born. In 1996, Providence invited Chad Sparks to join the leadership and teaching team for this small church now meeting at Cedar Bluff Middle School. Chad initially declined, but after prayer, decided to leave the church he pastored in Johnson City, and move with his young family to Knoxville.

From the very beginning, Providence valued missions. With the recent fall of communism in Eastern Europe, nations formerly closed to the gospel suddenly became open. Even as small as we were, Providence felt compelled to give and go help begin churches in Romania which had faced severe persecution. Again after the fall of Apartheid in South Africa, Providence supported a formerly imprisoned pastor who planted two churches to an under-reached people group. This passion for planting churches as the core of our missions strategy still drives us today.

In the next few years, Providence made a number of crucial decisions that would define its identity: a disciple-making church for the unchurched. To counteract preconceptions and negative stereotypes, we decided not to affiliate with a denomination. We chose to craft worship services where music and teaching made it easy for those unfamiliar with Christianity and the Bible to become followers of Christ. We articulated our mission to "glorify God by making, being, and unleashing fully devoted followers of Christ" (later modified to "Making, Growing, and Unleashing Disciples of Christ").

Important Foundations

When Providence had outgrown the space at Cedar Bluff Middle School, our elders and other leaders began to pray and search for a new home for the church.  Two dedicated prayer nights were held in 1999 to consider where God would lead us, and after many sites were considered, we were drawn to 11 undeveloped acres at the corner of Lovell Road and Pellissippi Parkway. Thanks to the offer of a local foundation to purchase the property for the church's use, and to finance construction of a building that would be leased to Providence for $1 a year until the church was able to take ownership, Providence moved into 1432 Lovell Road in February of 2002. Inspired by the gathering of God's people in the Old Testament in moments of God's powerful working, Providence gathered for a "Sacred Assembly" that year to proclaim God's sovereign ability, confess our sin and weakness, and seek his empowering to accomplish his mission.

The immediate growth of Providence to double its previous size that came with moving into the new building caused our elders to take stock of whether we were staying true to the values that God had given us from the beginning. Providence adopted seven Core Values—beginning with the absolute authority of the Bible, which guided all our other values (as well as our beliefs, structure, and strategy). Despite losing a few who did not share this commitment to Biblical authority, God continued to use us to make disciples of Jesus.

Providence DNA

In the following years, our staff and ministry reach grew, as God raised up leaders from within Providence. We began to recognize the critical mission of planting churches locally and globally so that more disciples will be made. Yearly, we developed a vision for how God wanted us to mature and develop as a church, beginning in 2005 with Missio Dei (a Latin phrase meaning Mission of God). That year, we focused on 5 aspects of Gods mission for us: to pray, belong, serve, give, and tell. In 2007, Romans 10:13-15 formed the vision of having "beautiful feet," and over 200 people from Providence went on mission globally and locally, with another 200 sponsoring children in global areas of poverty. In 2009, we evaluated our growing complexity through the lens of the vision "Simplify." In 2012, we took on the crazy challenge of reading and teaching the entire Bible in one year as a church, in something we called The Journey. Tied with journeying together in community, prayer, missional giving, and missional going, The Journey became a formative year for every age group in our church. In 2013, with the help of an outside consultant, we asked if our strategies were still in line with moving forward in our mission, and we reaffirmed our commitment to being a disciple-making, church-planting church (rather than simply getting bigger and bigger). A year-and-a-half study in Romans beginning in 2014 further deepened our commitment to this mission.

The last five years have seen both numerical growth and the expansion of disciple making through intentional relationships. We've seen periods in which our parking and building could barely manage Sunday attendance, running a bus across Lovell Road to accommodate more cars! In 2018, we fully paid the mortgage on our building and became entirely debt-free as a church. This has freed us to devote all of our church's giving to the mission of making disciples and planting churches, with a budget that reflects this mission in staffing, funding of international and local church plants, mission trips, as well as organizations that help to serve the poor, those affected by sex trafficking, and so much more. Our own church-plant DNA means that we continue to operate as an all-hands-on-deck church family, where mission and discipleship is everyone's job. Providence Church Jefferson City became an autonomous church. In 2019 we planted Bridge Church in South Knoxville, and in 2021, Village Church will launch in the Norwood community. Maybe you will be a part of the next Providence church plant! 2020 brought a set of unique challenges as COVID-19 forced us to completely reevaluate how to gather as a church. We have adapted to the changing circumstances will all our might, but our mission and values remain totally unchanged.

What "Providence" Means

The word “providence” simply means God’s good plan and perfect guidance for his creation and all of us. He sovereignly brings all variables together, large and small. This includes the decisions humans make—good and bad—which God uses to accomplish his ends. We named our church Providence for three reasons. First, we recognize that God, not a human leader, started and sustains this church. Second, we want to submit to God’s will, bring him glory, and be a part of what he wants to do in this world. That’s our mission: to glorify God by making, growing, and unleashing disciples. Third, there have been crazy and unexpected circumstances throughout our history that God has used to establish and grow our church. It has proven to be a perfect name for us. That’s why we want to remember our history—because it reminds us of who we are and where we’ve come from by God’s grace. But it’s important for you to know that God, in his providence, may want to use you in our family, too. We invite you along for the journey!

Be part of our story.

Join us every Sunday as we gather to worship together and online at 9:00 am and 11 am.