North Shore Fellowship Growth Has Been Unconventional

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 - by Suzanne Walker

“Everything has been unconventional,” said Gary Purdy upon reflecting on the birth and growth of North Shore Fellowship Church. The 11 a.m. service will be held in a larger church building in the area beginning Aug. 13 because of its quick growth.

Several years ago Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church was “experiencing growth,” so leaders in the church “sought the Lord” on whether the church should “build or multiply.” Gary said the leaders decided to “look for a hole in the city that could be filled by a Gospel centered church.”

The Resource Foundation identified the North Shore area as a place where existing churches were struggling, so there was a need for a new church.

Gary said Lookout Mountain Pastor Joe Novenson unconventionally visited North Shore businesses and churches asking for permission to start a new church in the area.

About two and a half years ago, North Shore Fellowship acquired the former Woodland Church of Christ building, located right off of Frazier Avenue, and began holding worship services. On the first Sunday the church, which holds around 380 people, was full for two worship services, said Gary. “The hunger for a fresh expression of the Gospel in the church was broader than anyone anticipated.”

From the beginning, the vision to “fill a hole” in that region was clear, he said. However, people from all over the city responded.

Soon after worship services began a search committee was formed to find a pastor for the church. Pastor Novenson and other church leaders filled this role for a time.

In the meantime, Gary was heading up Crossroads Ministry at University of Georgia, when a student from Chickamauga mentioned North Shore Fellowship to him. The student also told Pastor Novenson about Gary.

“I had never led a church and I was not ordained in the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America), so I really didn’t fit the grid,” said Gary. However, “out of a favor” to a friend and pastor of the church Gary attended, Pastor Novenson invited him to Chattanooga for an interview.

“To our surprise, things clicked. In a lot of ways it was illogical, but the Lord directed for these things to happen,” said Gary.

In July 2005, North Shore Fellowship became an official church, and in August Gary began to fill the role of pastor.

Since then Gary has strived acclimate to North Shore by building relationship with people. He said the church hopes to reach out to all demographics in the area.

Beginning on Aug. 13, the 11 a.m. worship service will be held in Northside Community Church located deeper in North Chattanooga at the intersection of Tremont and Mississippi Streets. Gary said the pastor at Northside offered to allow them to use the church building because Northside has a small membership but their building can hold 850 people. “It’s very unconventional that another pastor would steward his building.” In return, the North Shore Fellowship congregation plans to do some renovations and repairs on the building.

Gary said he has talked to many people that have “not been turned off by Christ but the church culture.” Therefore he said, the mission of North Shore Fellowship is to “enjoy and embody Jesus Christ to the North Shore area, Chattanooga and the world.”

Through “Christ-centered teaching” and relationships, Gary said he hopes the church will “provide a simple relational organic infrastructure to sustain healthy growth” and establish a “meaningful presence” in the community.

Since the church is young, he said plans to fulfill their mission are constantly being discussed and developed. Gary said the church wants to look to meet needs in the community in a variety of ways. For example, he said he would like to see the church begin helping area schools and educators through after school programs. He also hopes that they can eventually offer counseling and job education programs.

Currently, members of the congregation are assisting Forrest Avenue Methodist with their ministry in feeding the homeless, Gary said.

North Shore Fellowship meets on Sunday mornings at 9:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Woodland Avenue. Sunday school classes are also offered during these times. For more information go to

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