To most people driving down East Lamar Alexander Parkway, the building at 3715 never garnered much attention.
Jeff Coleman didn’t notice either, until one day he had to drive by on an errand. This pastor of New Harvest Church was looking to buy a building to house his congregation of about 100. They were renting space in a storefront on Sevierville Road, and there was no room for growth there.
So as the church building at 3715 ELAP came into view, he pulled into the parking lot and got out to look around. There was no “For Sale” sign on the property.
“Something is going on with that building,” Coleman said he thought to himself. “Nobody was there. We prayed and got back in the van. I said, ‘God could give us this building.’”
Wife Farrah was with Coleman on that ride. He said he went home and called his eight church elders and asked them to meet.
He shared the story and told them to pray.
“That was 16 months ago,” the pastor said. “We never said anything else about it. We never talked about it again.”
As a matter of fact, Coleman said he continued to look at other possibilities and made offers on two other properties, both of which were turned down. Then a woman who attends New Harvest called the pastor to tell him she was going to call a local church pastor and ask about his building. Coleman told her to go ahead and do so.
“Two weeks later, that pastor called me and wanted to talk about his building,” Coleman said. “I said, ‘Where is your building?’ He told me. It was this one” — 3715.
New Harvest just held its first service on Aug. 4 in the space once owned by Smoky Mountain Presbyterian. Its pastor, Bill Fikes, is now leading services at Vienna Coffee House in downtown Maryville.
Fikes said most of his congregation lives in the vicinity of Maryville proper, so the move fit them. New Harvest was meeting in that rented space on Sevierville Road. It is only 3.8 miles from their new church home.
Making their debut
On a visit just days before he was to deliver his first sermon, Coleman and Farrah were on-site, getting last-minute things in order.
They, with their church congregation’s help, already had painted several rooms, built a platform for the sanctuary, a sound system stage, added large screens and made some repairs.
The new sanctuary seats close to 300, the couple said. In addition to the worship space, there are several classrooms, nursery, conference room, kitchen, fellowship hall, outdoor playground and office space.
The building sits on 2 acres.
“We were limited where we were at,” Farrah explained as she gave a look around. “This move will allow us to have children’s church. We previously haven’t been able to do that because we didn’t have room.”
She said when new families came to visit, they wanted programs for their children. That is possible now.
New Harvest also has a youth group and a group that meets on Fridays, called Living Free. It is an addiction recovery program.
The church’s outreach also includes feeding the homeless.
Finding place to land
New Harvest opened its doors in June 2017. The Colemans started the church after moving here from Ohio. The church has a presence on Facebook where programs are listed. They also have a radio program.
As they prepared for that first service, there were things that still needed doing. They wanted to place rubber mulch in the playground area and install some new floors. The back side of the property will be cleaned off and made into more parking sometime down the road.
“Our vision is to build a gymnasium for our youth,” Farrah said.
Those who call New Harvest their church drive here from nearby Alcoa and Maryville and also Walland, but some come as far away as Knoxville and Lenoir City, the Colemans said.
As they get settled in, these two said they plan to make connections in this community, including schools like Walland.
It was God, Pastor Coleman said, who put them here in this new place. He said New Harvest will continue to serve God and people.
“We push relationships more than religion,” he said. “That is our objective, not religion.”
He said he found statistics that 42% of Blount County claims to have no religion. “Even though I am not pushing religion, we are into reaching that 42%,” he said. If you ask people if they have a relationship with Christ, that number would be higher, he said.
The pastor describes his church as a nondenominational, spirit-filled church.
In coming days, Farrah said they will begin knocking on doors in their new community, inviting people to come see what New Harvest is all about.