Coffee, Conversations & Church Planting from THE SOUTH : Pastor Mark Kirk

Coffee, Conversations & Church Planting from THE SOUTH : Pastor Mark Kirk

CCPN connected with Mark Kirk who planted Calvary Knoxville 18 years ago, and continues to pastor what has become a healthy, growing, and vibrant Calvary Chapel nestled in hills of Knoxville, Tennessee.

In the past few years, Pastor Mark has brought on three church planters – Ebo Elder, Jason, Brown, & Travis Carroll – to serve as assistant pastors at Calvary Knoxville. In this series “Coffee, Conversations, & Church Planting from the South” we’ll discover some “church planting lessons learned” from these planters and their experiences.


CCPN: “Tell us your story. How you came to know Jesus, & know that He called you to be a church planter.”

Mark: “I grew up in the south, and I’m the son of a Methodist pastor; but I didn’t get saved until the age of 25 in Calvary Chapel out West. I trained for seven years at a Calvary Chapel in New Mexico and there felt God’s calling to go back home to planting a Bible teaching Calvary Chapel in Knoxville.”


CCPN: “With so many churches in the southeast, is there a need for more?”

Mark: “In the south we have a lot of preaching but not teaching. The south has churches everywhere, and there are a lot of great churches, and some great preachers; but very few teachers.

Teaching the Bible is rare.We have a guy in our fellowship that was seeking for a Bible teaching fellowship and told me that he kept a record of all the churches he visited. He said he visited forty-three churches in our area… we were number forty-four, but the 1st that simply taught the Scriptures.

So, YES, there is a need for good, solid, Bible teaching churches in the South.”



CCPN:  “What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned as a church planter and pastor that are transferable to new and prospective planters?”

Mark: “I’d say two things…”


Be Careful With Your Expectations

“Like I said, I was really trained in ministry while living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Calvary Chapel I served went from 150 attending to 1,800 in just five years. Pastor Skip Heitzig wasn’t too far from us, and he was pastoring a church of nearly 10,000. So I thought… okay…. year one… we’ll have 100 people…. by year two … maybe 300 people… by five years in, we’ll see about 1,000 people. Well, it didn’t happen like that. I had one person at our 1st Bible study, and after a year, we had twenty people attending. I thought I was failing because I expected to see similar pace in Knoxville as I did in Santa Fe. For the 1st few years of ministry I allowed it to discourage me. Don’t do that. Stay on the path that God has set for you and be FAITHFUL and CONSISTENT to the people and place God has called you to.


Focus on the Fundamentals

“Some of the best coaches in the world aren’t the ones who have radical ways to change the way the game is played, but those that focus on the fundamentals of the game. Like Paul encouraged Timothy to ‘continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…’ so too we need to focus on some of key fundamentals that Pastor Chuck modeled.

Line by line teaching through the Bible, ensuring that worship stays worship and does not become entertainment, and a dependence upon the Holy Spirit to build His church are some of these key fundamentals. I’ve been attending Calvary Chapel conference for 24 years and I remember many times Pastor Chuck calling us not to seek to perfect in the flesh what God as done in the Spirit.


PastorMarkNew1Pastor Mark Kirk is the Senior Pastor of Calvary Knoxville, TN. He, his wife Tracy, and four daughters live in Knoxville; you can find out more about Pastor Mark and Calvary Knoxville at



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