It was almost ten years ago, when Kristia and I came back to Chattanooga, to determine for certain that this was the place that God was leading us to as we began to sense a time of transition dawning over our lives. My mentor, friend, and local history expert, Kevin took Kristia and I on a tour of Chattanooga, and told us stories about the spiritual heritage of this beautiful city. One story in particular that resonated with me was about a group of missionaries that came to Chattanooga over two hundred years ago, to share the good news and love of Jesus with the Cherokee Indians. They built a school and started a farm, a compound so to speak where they offered a curriculum that included Bible study, hymns, prayer and vocational training like cattle farming, gardening, carpentry, craftsmanship, spinning and weaving. They weren’t perfect and much scrutiny could be applied to their methods, but their driving motivation was to make the name of Jesus known in this region.
Two Hundred years ago on this very day, the “Church of Christ of Chickamaugah” later called the Brainerd Msson Church made this covenant wth the Lord:
We do now in the presence of the heart searching God and before Angels and Men solemnly avouch the Lord Jehovah, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to be our God, our Father, our Redeemer, and our Sanctifier; and we cheerfully give up ourselves, our children and all that we have to Him to be His forever, purposing and engaging, so far as we know the state of our hearts to submit our souls, our bodies and all that concerns us to the government and disposal of His sovereign and holy pleasure for time and eternity. We do also engage by His gracious assistance, without which we can do nothing, to renounce forever, as objects of chief pursuit, the World, its pleasures, its riches, its honors, and our own private interest as infinitely inferior, in worth, in excellence, and in glory, to the worth, the excellence and the glory of the ever-blessed God; and we do therefore accept, most cordially of Him, in His whole character, as our chief portion to enjoy, choosing His will as our will, His service as our service, and His honor and glory in all things, as the supreme object of our affection and pursuit, – and inasmuch as it hath pleased Him in His condescension and mercy, to appoint us to the sacred work of building up the Kingdom; to associate ourselves to each other as brethren; promising to watch over each other in Christian love; to encourage, to counsel, to admonish., to reprove, and to assist each other, and willingly to be counseled, reproved, admonished, and assisted according to the instruction of Christ. We do further engage to submit ourselves to the discipline prescribed by the Redeemer, and to the particular administration of it in the church; to observe all ordinances, and commandments of the Gospel and to do what we can to instruct by prayer, by precept and example, our children, and all others committed to our charge, and thus prepare them by the blessing of God to unite with us in the same service and joy of our glorious Redeemer. And may God enable us by His free grace, faithfully to perform our covenant engagements, which we this day renewedly make to Him, to each other, and to our fellow man. Even so Lord Jesus; – Amen.
Thus we subscribe ourselves to be the Lord’s and His only forever.
In essence these missionaries said, “God we are Yours. Everything we have we make available to you for you to expend for your purposes.” Why? So that those to whom they had come to live among would fully know and love Jesus as they did. They purposed that they would let nothing inhibit them from doing what they had come to do.
In 1838, when the United States Government expelled the Cherokee Indians from the Southeast, the Brainerd Missionaries left their compound and walked the trail of tears with the people they had come to serve. All in all, 60 people stayed behind and a few of those are buried today in the Brainerd Cemetery which is the last and only standing monument to this work in our city.
This story impacts me deeply. So much so that today on this 200th anniversary of the signing of this covenant. I ask God – “What can I do to continue their legacy.” They kept their covenant, but the work they started here in our city, seems to be unfinished and I sense in my heart that the Holy Spirit issues a new mandate, a new covenant, to the people of our city to continue the calling. To live their legacy and to live it well. There is much work to be done in our city. I cannot sit by and not do my part, whatever that looks like.
God when you look at Chattanooga may You find not just a handful of people but an entire group of people who are willing to make the name of Jesus famous here once again. May we, as your body, gathering in different places of worship, but all in the name of your Son, be unified in purpose to truly “Be The Church” that you have called into existence. No matter our doctrine, our denomination, our class or culture – this – this Father is our mandate.