Our Story

You can’t know who you are or what to do 
unless you first know what story you are a part of. 
Alasdair MacIntyre

The Power Of Story

At City Church, we believe that the stories we choose to live by shape our understanding of reality. They tell us who we are. They tell us where we come from and where we are going. Our stories are what define us and set us apart as individuals. But they are also what connect us together and bind us to each other in community. They allow us to truly know and be known, amidst love, loss, success and failure, and provide us with the context for finding meaning and purpose in this world.

We all feel most alive when we perceive that we are living in the midst of a great story. But in our modern, pluralistic, hyper-connected world, where we are all being confronted on a daily basis with an ocean of conflicting narratives of reality, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know which story is true and can actually lead us to flourishing.

What is the meaning of the seemingly mundane events of your life: paying taxes, doing laundry, or endlessly checking email? These moments are where the vast majority of our lives are lived. But are these moments meant to keep the viewer interested? Or are they foreshadowings of a meaningless life?

If the plot of your story is about a character who overcomes all obstacles to get what they want out of life, how does that story shape your understanding of kindness and truth, justice and mercy, or care for the oppressed and marginalized? Does your story draw you to love the unlovely and to sacrifice your desires for the good of others (despite their race, gender, politics, or socio-economic status)? Or has it led you to live a life of selfishness and indifference?  

What does the protagonist of your story do when you're wrong, when you're confronted with a moral dilemma, or when you're faced with a relational difficulty? Does your story compel you to be truthful, even when it hurts, and faithful, even when it costs? Or has it led you to live a life of deception and isolation?

How does your story answer these questions? What does the life you are currently living say about the quality and truthfulness of the story you've chosen to live by?
In the midst of our great cultural struggle to answer these questions, Christianity admittedly makes a very bold claim: that the great story contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible is not just one more story among the endless options. It is the one great true story of all reality and human history.

As J.R.R Tolkien once said:

"The Scriptures contain a story of a larger kind, which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. But this story has entered history and the primary world;...This story begins and end in joy. It has pre-eminently the "inner consistency of reality". There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or wrath. This story is supreme; and it is true. God is Lord, of angels, and of men--and of elves. For in it, Legend and History have met and fused."

At City Church, we believe that the Bible is one great unified story, that has been revealed to mankind by God Himself, in order to lead us to truth, reality, and life. Whether you consider yourself to be a Christian, a follower of another tradition, a hardened skeptic, or generally nonreligious, we believe that the great story of Christianity is a story worth knowing and understanding. Therefore, we warmly invite you to explore our website and to come visit one of our many community gatherings, services, or events. For our story is founded in His story.

The Story of East Nashville

East Nashville has been described as a “town within a city.” Our residents are perhaps the only population in our city who specifically claim their neighborhood (East Nashville) as home and not just “Nashville.” Some of this is geographical, as we are hemmed in by the Cumberland River, and some is cultural. East Nashville has its own festival (the Tomato Art Festival), Running Club (East Nasty Running Club), magazine (“The East Nashvillian”) and bumper stickers ("37206: We’ll steal your heart and your lawnmower”). Strolling through the community, one is immediately impressed by historic homes and grand vistas to downtown. Fashionable places highlighted in magazine articles—farm-to-table restaurants, organic grocery stores, vinyl record shops—coexist with used tire shops, payday loan stores, and an auto-diesel college. Sidewalks, street parking and neighborhood retail corners provide mini-hubs for impromptu, diverse interactions between residents of all backgrounds, who seek to enjoy a community catalyzed by physical proximity.

However, the older buildings and rapid gentrification belie a neighborhood where, for more than a century, change has been the only constant. East Nashville was an affluent area in the late 1800’s—so much so that Edgefield was described as Nashville’s most exclusive suburb. Sidewalks connected residents with schools, parks, churches, and other cultural amenities, which were all within walking distance. The strength of community made East Nashville an ideal and desirable place to reside. Then everything changed. A devastating fire (1916) and tornado (1933) destroyed many of the neighborhood's iconic homes. Vanderbilt University made the decision not to build on the east side of the river. A massive low-income housing complex (Cayce) was built in the 1940’s, bringing in thousands of poorer residents, and the corresponding problems of concentrated poverty. This complex combination of factors (among other things) prompted a major exodus of many residents, and led to decades of decline.

Another tornado in 1998 provided a catalyst for reinvestment, kicking off two decades of dramatic gentrification. In the early 1990's, affordable rent and walkable neighborhoods, proximate to the city center, initially attracted artists, musicians, and other creative types to the area. Fast forward to the present: the neighborhoods and sidewalks of East Nashville are now bustling with young families. But as the neighborhood has changed, so have schools and options for education, which has created both new opportunities and new tensions.

A major flood in May 2010, and a tornado in March of 2020, destroyed a great deal of the neighborhood's property. But these events also highlighted the degree to which East Nashillians self-identified and rallied to support their neighbors. Within hours of the March 3rd tornado, the streets were filled with chainsaw-wielding residents, clearing debris and consoling impacted neighbors. Residents, including many City Church members, wept for friends and worked tirelessly to care for those impacted.

East Nashville’s population reflects a broad mix of races, ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The neighborhood contains three distinct zip codes that each retain their own personality, strengths, and challenges. Despite notable gentrification, a significant portion of the population lives at or near poverty, and 23% of East Nashvillians age 25 or older have no high school degree or equivalent. Income, race, and age are only the beginnings of diversity. Ideologies and lifestyles span the spectrum, and East Nashvillians proudly embrace their differences.

It is in the context of this beautiful and broken story of East Nashville, that God has graciously been writing the story of City Church.

The Story of City Church

City Church's first corporate worship service was held on September 4, 2004, at a YMCA-owned facility in East Nashville, with approximately 70 people attending.

While serving as a pastor with Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN, our founding pastor Craig Brown discerned God’s call to plant a church in East Nashville. He had become captivated by the images and descriptions of the kingdom of God consummating in an urban reality, as found in Revelation 21-22. Under Craig's leadership, City Church established a vibrant culture, centered on an engaging corporate worship, a passion for serving our neighborhood, and an emphasis on strong relationships through Neighborhood Groups, which met regularly throughout our parish of zip codes 37206, 37216, and 37207.

Under Craig’s passionate leadership, we quickly grew, and moved our worship services from the YCAP building, first to East Academy and then to East Middle School. In 2013, Craig stepped down as the lead pastor of City Church, to focus on providing gospel-centered coaching for church planters and network leaders in cities around the U.S. and Ireland. He and his family still live in the neighborhood and he planted and pastors Redeemer Fellowship, which serves downtown Nashville.

In the summer of 2015, we called Jeff Wilkins as our new lead pastor. Under his leadership, we grew in our ability to love and care for each other in new ways, as our primarily younger demographic was transitioning into parenting, learning how to navigate education decisions, and also facing major cultural shifts.

The beginning of 2020 was an unfolding of a significant season of change, as we entered another pastor transition, a tornado ripped through part of our community, and COVID-19 forced lockdowns, all within a 4-week period. By God’s grace and mercy, we continued to worship in small groups virtually and outdoors and, in time, resumed our in-person worship gatherings. We maintained a core community of 35-40 households and gradually resumed programming and re-established our Ministry Teams.

In the summer of 2021, we called David Richter as our new lead pastor. He immediately helped us focus on a period of rebuilding and "re-visioning," as we moved out of the depths of the pandemic and began to stabilize from our seasons of transition. At the same time, in God’s providence, we were able to move our offices and worship services to Eastside Station near East Park, where we continue to meet.

Be A Part Of Our Story...

Join us every Sunday at 10am, as we gather together to worship
in-person at 805 Woodland St, Suite 330, Nashville, TN 37206
(You can also worship Online)