Calvary Chapel Knoxville Reaches Out Downtown
Story by Liel Kirk and Emily Capps
Photos by Stephanie Morrison
Liel Kirk, a 23-year-old believer, shares her first-person account and thoughts from a downtown outreach with her church, Calvary Chapel Knoxville, TN. A refreshing breeze chased dark clouds away as a group of about 40 believers—newborn babes in the faith to faithful elders—joined voices in song and prayer for the city.
We lifted up the name of the Lord for Knoxville, a crux of lively city life—as well as brokenness and hurting souls. After the recent riots and protests in our nation, God had placed intercession on my heart for our city and led me to organize this downtown outreach. Despite the forecast of a storm, He showed favor on us with good weather; more importantly, He drew curious observers and fellow believers to us so that we could share the Gospel and pray with them.
Liel Kirk extends her arm while worshipping as part of an outreach initiative in downtown Knoxville.
Interceding for Knoxville
A certain verse in Ezekiel had earlier convicted me to intercede on behalf of our city. In Ezekiel 22:30, the Lord confronted Israel’s wickedness as He admonished: “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”
The Lord is constantly looking for intercessors—those willing to stand in the gap—that mercy might triumph over judgment (James 2:13). The Lord used this truth to stir my heart to intercede on behalf of our city and nation—His eyes might find us and that He might heal our land.
Gabrielle Thress (l-r), Liel Kirk, and Denise Kosicki pray for Knoxville.
Encouragement for the Outreach
Even before we began the outreach, the Lord encouraged my heart through an encounter I had with a woman at a local coffee shop. Some friends and I had met to prepare for the event when we were approached by a woman fully dressed in an Indian saree. She had seen our Bibles and heard our discussion and came to encourage us. She explained that she was from the southern part of India, born into a Hindu family, but had been rescued by Jesus as a young woman and was now living her life fully for the Lord. She encouraged us to continue in our pursuit of Jesus and to remain diligent in our prayers for our city.
Young believers gather on downtown stairs to pray.
Sharing the Gospel Downtown
Families new to Tennessee were especially excited to be a part of reaching out in Knoxville. We often pray for our city from our homes and church building, but we find more conviction and resolve when we physically stand in the midst of the city we are interceding for.
As we prayed, sang, and worshiped, we had the opportunity to share the Gospel with several curious observers—and to share our heart for the city with other fellow believers. While we were praying, a homeless man with kind eyes and a sweet spirit approached us and mentioned that he was a Christian. As we spoke more, we discovered his struggle with alcoholism; we shared the Gospel and prayed for him concerning this stronghold on his life.
Gabrielle Thress and Liel Kirk join hands in prayer.
One of our more mature ladies with a heart for evangelism also had the opportunity to share the Gospel with a man who had been observing us from a nearby bar. He told her he had a hard time processing why a Father (God) would allow His Son (Jesus) to die. Although resistant to the truth of the Gospel, he allowed her to pray over him before he left.
Finally, during the last worship song, two men adorned in simple clothing and carrying backpacks joined us. While my friend spoke with one of the men, I shared with the other and discovered his desire for Christians to truly take up their crosses and follow the Lord, and his concern over the lack of self-denial he sees in the modern church today. He told me that he lived with seven others like him who travel the world, believing that they are following the commission to forsake all and follow Christ. Although some of our beliefs differed, his intentions seemed sincere, and I prayed for him and those traveling with him that they might be grounded in the truth.
Gabrielle Thress plays guitar and worships downtown.
A Call to Intercede for the World
Isaiah 55:6 tells us, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” As the world is getting darker, our resolve to call upon the Lord should be all the stronger, with the confidence of Psalm 145:18, which says, “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”
In Isaiah 59:1, we read, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.” How often do we live in unnecessary suffering because we have neglected to bring our petitions before the Lord? In the case of Isaiah 59, Israel’s sin had separated them from the Lord.1 Peter 4:17 declares that the time has come for judgement to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
People from the Knoxville community join members of Calvary Chapel Knoxville to worship.
It is the responsibility of those in the church to cry out to the Lord on behalf of our world—the obligation of those who do know His voice to plead for those who do not. It is those to whom much is given that much is required—so let us search our hearts, repent of our sins, lay down our complacency, and stand in the gap knowing “that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11b).
The Lord loves our city and our nation, and He listens when His people pray. Walking in obedience to Him will never be in vain.
Two travelers stop to listen to Liel Kirk share God’s Word.
A member of Calvary Chapel Knoxville speaks to a man as part of an outreach initiative in downtown Knoxville.
Pastor Mark Kirk of Calvary Chapel Knoxville ministers to a man downtown.
Tracy Kirk (center), wife of Pastor Mark Kirk of Calvary Chapel Knoxville, ministers with women in downtown Knoxville.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.
© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.