Pastor Tim Atchley and his wife, Sheila, were married in November of 1986. The following July, Sheila gave birth to identical twin daughters, and, though she was offered a large raise meant to completely cover day care expenses for both babies, she left her job by faith to enter her first full-time ministry, motherhood.
Tim and Sheila fasted, prayed, and took the step to bring her home. It was to be the first of many steps of faith. Twin daughters were followed by a son, followed by yet another son. God does not use “easy street” to train His leaders. Several very difficult years followed, where the couple learned to walk by faith, and the value of good old Yankee wisdom: “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without!”
Tim worked overtime as a rule, and yet served faithfully in Trinity Chapel as musician, sound technician, children’s minister, nursery worker, Sunday school teacher, prison ministry team leader, small group leader, and as oversight to several small groups. Sheila served in Sunday School and as a nursery worker, and was an area leader in Trinity’s Compassion Ministry. After moving to their current home in 1992, Tim and Sheila opened that home to a “house church”, a small group meeting within the framework of Trinity Chapel. This group peaked in its attendance at 40 adults and 19 children, not every Friday night, but many Fridays, house church was that well attended in their small home.
This group was an offshoot of another group the couple had led, a group that became too large, and to their amazement was to “multiply” again and yet again as Tim became a leader of several home groups in the city of Knoxville.
The leadership of Trinity Chapel recognized gifts in Tim and Sheila’s lives, as well as a calling for ministry,and after prayer they approached them about planting a church. This was met by a prolonged season of prayer and fasting on Tim & Sheila’s part, as they tremblingly sought God about His timing in their lives. They fasted, prayed, and took the step. They were indeed “sent” to plant a church, Harvest Church, and a very small core of families made the “Incredible Journey” with them. Their first service was held September 12, 1993.
Harvest Church began in a transient fashion, moving from a karate school, then to a storefront underneath the Goodwill (what is that Scripture about being “above only, not beneath”? Being beneath a Goodwill was interesting, to say the least. There seemed to always be a couch on the sidewalk . . . ), to using the facilities of a Presbyterian Church at 3:30 p.m. on Sundays. We now know we confused the entire community of Halls, Tennessee! “Hi! I am from Harvest Church, we are an interdenominational church meeting in the Presbyterian Church at 3:30 in the afternoons. Would you please come be with us?” You’d think a church could not grow under such circumstance, but several precious souls were added both to the Kingdom and to Harvest Church, folks who remain with us to this very day.
In 1997, God moved us to our present facility. That one season alone deserves a whole chapter in a book! We all learned that God is able to do above and beyond what we can ask Him. A few months later, with no average monthly surplus in the church budget, no money in Tim and Sheila’s personal bank account, no one to “pledge their support” (the parent church, Trinity, was deep in the throes of gathering funds to purchase land and build a brand new building), nothing and no one but the Lord to depend on, Tim left his full-time job and all its benefits at the clear leading of the Lord. Tim and Sheila again fasted, prayed, and took the step. God has met them every week, month, and year since that day. It has not always been easy, and the sacrifices have been intense for every Harvest member; but, as they say, “You never know that you have faith, until you’ve been in a GOOD fight.”
And now, here we are, an “established church”! We’ve seen souls saved, we’ve had weddings in our midst, seen babies birthed and begin to grow up, and together cried at the funerals of our members. It is a delight to see the Lord’s hand as the faithful and committed few of the original families embrace the new faces and new families who have heard the Lord to come be part of what He is doing in our midst. Our history is now their history! One big family working alongside each other in the Gospel!
Whether a new member or old, we share a common heritage that must be heard and learned by all. It is our family history, and it is also “His story”. It indeed must be told. Harvest Church is the story of an Antioch Church . . . a “church planting church”. There are many more chapters yet to be written . . . written by the very finger of God as He tells His Story through our every day kind of lives. However imperfect in our collective humanity, we are His workmanship, and there are yet many more good works foreordained for us to do . . . “house to house, community to community, and nation to nation.”
If you are reading this, it may be that the Lord is calling you to throw in your lot with ours, and come help us tell the rest of the story. Harvest Church has been established by God, and is a generational work. We invite you to come be with us. We eagerly expect God to use this growing fellowship to be a part of a mighty move of His Spirit in this city. We believe God will turn the world upside down because that is incredible. We believe He will greatly use Harvest Church as one of the parts of His body to do it, because that is impossible. Come believe for the impossible with us. God loves to do the impossible, by using the imperfect. Together, we qualify!