A Summary History of the Belmont Church

by Dr. Paul Phillips.

The Belmont Church on Music Row was organized as a Church of Christ on the then affluent 16th Avenue South after R. V. Cawthon conducted a two-week tent meeting in 1911. The original Greek Revival building, still in use as a conference center, was erected in 1915. In the early years there was no single regular minister, but several had monthly appointments including A. B. Lipscomb, nephew of David Lipscomb (founder of present-day Lipscomb University). Later illustrious ministers were Hall Calhoun, who became widely known for his daily radio program from the Central Church of Christ, and J. P. Sanders, Dean of Lipscomb.

David Lipscomb

Roots of the 20th century Churches of Christ in Nashville may be traced through the early 19th century Baptist Church of Nashville to Alexander Campbell, whose father’s famous motto “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent” became the hallmark of a fast-growing reformation. Ironically, Barton W. Stone, a co-founder of the Restoration Movement (a 19th century effort to “restore” the 1st century apostolic church) was host and a major participant in the 1801 Kentucky Cane Ridge Revival. Stone condoned, if he did not embrace, the many manifestations of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit called “exercises” including falling, jerking, running, skipping, dancing, laughing, shouting, and barking.

It was the recognition of the major active role of the Holy Spirit in the daily lives and worship of the fellowship, the emphasis on life in the Spirit including speaking in tongues, and the exercise of other spiritual gifts—precedents set at Cane Ridge—which highlighted the “Revolution at 16th and Grand” sparked by the charismatic Don Finto in the 1970’s. The introduction of instrumental music in worship, major anathema to the orthodox Churches of Christ, was, undoubtedly, the major factor in the drive for denominational independence of Belmont Church.

Another major theme in the history of the church is its outreach to the inner city and to the nations. Koinonia Ministries began twenty-five years ago as Koinonia Bookstore and Coffee House, which served the church body and the larger community including street people. Live Saturday night performances of budding Christian artists including Amy Grant, Gary Chapman, Chris Christian, and Dogwood (Steve and Annie Chapman and Ron Elder) among others, launched their careers in contemporary Christian music while inspiring Koinonia audiences. (1997)

(Abstracted by the author from his larger work, The Cloud Moves: Belmont Church, A History.)

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