“God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15
In the late 1800’s, the Chattanooga area was slowly recovering from the ravages of the Civil War and the “Battle Above the Clouds,” fought on Lookout Mountain in November of 1863. In the years following the war, Lookout Mountain was primarily a summer community, accessible by one toll road and home to only twelve families living here year-round.
In “An Historical Narrative of Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church,” Rowena Frierson describes the efforts of Frank Caldwell, a church planter during that time.
“At this time on top of a mountain, with only a few families living there year-round, a man was going from door to door talking to the people about starting a church. This man was Mr. Frank Caldwell … His efforts were successful, for on October 15, 1892, the Church was organized due to the efforts of Dr. T. H. McCallie, chairman of the Home Mission Committee for Knoxville Presbytery.”
On October 16, 1892, at the Natural Bridge Pavilion on Lookout Mountain, twenty-seven charter members of our church gathered to worship God and to commission the Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church. Reverend J.W. Bachman, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, preached a sermon on I Timothy 3:15: “…God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” That same text was preached on Thanksgiving morning 1928 by Pastor Harris Gregg when the new church building was first used. (The first building-on the site of the existing Lookout Mountain Elementary School-was destroyed by fire in January 1929.) Dr. Edward S. Campbell also preached from that same text during the fiftieth anniversary celebration of 1942, when our sanctuary was dedicated debt-free. That great text was also our theme for the centennial celebration of 1992.
By November of 1892, the LMPC congregation made plans to build a small church building. Throughout the process, the building committee was counseled not to incur any debt, but rather to stop building until additional money could be raised to continue on. The first portion of the church was completed in 1894 and the entire structure finished in 1898.
By January of 1928, the congregation had grown to 147 members. The resulting overcrowding motivated the Session to call a congregational meeting for January 29th to discuss additional building plans. However, on January 22, a fire broke out during Sunday worship and the little building was lost.
“Committees were appointed to consider rebuilding the old Church, or tearing it down, and acquiring new property. It was decided in March 1928 to exchange the property of the church with the town property on the west side of Bragg Avenue and build an entirely new plant. The first service in the new Church … was held Thanksgiving Morning 1928 in the Sunday School Assembly Room.”
In 1940, Rev. E.S. Campbell, (the pastor from 1929 – 1945) set four goals for the church’s upcoming 50th birthday – her jubilee year – in 1942. They were:
- for the church to be debt-free,
- to have 600 members on roll,
- to have an equal division of expenses and benevolences, and
- for 75% of the membership to be in attendance on any given Sunday.
At the jubilee event in 1942, the congregation celebrated the achievement of the first three goals; the mortgage was burned and the building was dedicated on its fiftieth birthday.
Two major building campaigns soon followed – one in 1954-55 when the fellowship hall was added and the sanctuary expanded, and the other in 1965-68 when the narthex, chapel, and children’s educational wing were added.
The 70’s and 80’s were significant decades in the life of LMPC, faithfully led by Dr. George Long, (pastor from 1964 – 1986). In 1974, the first family camp was held and has continued to be a highly anticipated annual event. One year later in 1975, a lay renewal weekend occurred at the church in which God stirred the hearts of his people resulting in a swelling of interest in Bible study, small groups and outreach. In 1981 the Session voted to dissolve LMPC’s affiliation with the Presbyterian Church, USA and to align with the Presbyterian Church in America.
During the mid 1990’s, LMPC experienced unprecedented growth during Sunday worship from an average of 600 attendees to over 1,100. The Session responded by calling for three worship services to be conducted each Sunday morning. In the summer of 2000, the Session voted to plant a sister church “down the street” in Rising Fawn, Georgia (Rock Creek Fellowship) and in early 2003, they voted to begin a second campus of LMPC in North Chattanooga. What began as a group of 250 LMPC members and friends has now become the North Shore Fellowship Church in downtown Chattanooga. In 2005, Grace Presbyterian Church in Jasper, Tennessee, formally became a church after our local Presbytery planted it with significant assistance from the leadership at LMPC.
In February of 2005, the Session accepted an offer from the Will and Jane Harris Foundation to build the Jane Harris Youth Building on the corner lot of Watauga Avenue and Lincoln Street. This overwhelming gift was dedicated in the fall of 2006 and has become a gathering place for youth and members of LMPC as well as the Lookout Mountain community.
In 2011, as the attendance of worship grew steadily, the elders established Fellowship Hall Worship services to better serve the growing numbers. As of today, there are five morning worship services each Lord’s Day morning.
These changes were due to nothing other than a strong continuing biblical renewal in our congregation. The lay renewal event in 1975 was, in many ways, a new beginning for our congregation. The increasing influence and involvement of the Covenant College community has positively influenced our congregation. The multiplying effects of contagious, exemplary lives of many of our men and women continue to fuel God’s revival fires at LMPC.