A Franklin megachurch with a Baptist affiliation dating back nearly two centuries is cutting those ties in a union with a fast-growing, nondenominational congregation that launched two years ago, the Tennessean reports.
On Wednesday, The People’s Church in Franklin will become Church of the City, with the latter’s founder as its lead pastor. The move comes three months after People’s former pastor, Rick White, surprised church elders by publicly requesting a congregational vote of confidence after privately agreeing to resign — which he did two days later.
For Church of the City founder Darren Whitehead, who preached at People’s this morning, it’s a return home. Whitehead moved to the United States from Australia in 1998 and joined the staff of People’s — formerly First Baptist Church of Franklin — under White. In 2004, he left to lead the college ministry at nondenominational Willow Creek Community Church in a Chicago suburb and later became a teaching pastor there.
Willow Creek’s attendance of about 25,000 routinely places it in religious media’s top 10 lists for size. Whitehead returned to Middle Tennessee in 2013 with a far different vision: 20 neighborhood Church of the City congregations across the area in 20 years. He launched the first two in Franklin and East Nashville — both meeting in rented spaces — which today draw a combined 800 people weekly.