Tag Archives: Alfred Johnson

ChurchSurfer @ Church of the First Born: Image and Expectations

Church Experience #28 – July 17, 2011

Church of the First Born – Chattanooga, TN

To Gain a Better Perspective

At the beginning of the summer, I visited Union Chapel (also known as “The Little Brown Church“) and was exposed to an inner city pastor named Alfred “No Middle Name” Johnson for the first time.  The article I wrote about that church experience dealt in part with observing the contrast of a black inner city pastor preaching at a white Signal Mountain church.  For the purposes of ChurchSurfer this provided great content because, in my mind, talking about how the love of Christ allows His people to rise above things that do not make sense to the world (all they see is the paradox of an inner city black man teaching wealthy white people), is a great way to glorify our Lord.  I felt like that article, although limited to just one speaker in a church that hosts a different speaker every week, did a good job capturing the essence of what the Little Brown Church is all about.  What the article did not do, however, was capture a clear picture of what Alfred Johnson was all about.  I was greatly impressed and intrigued with his sermon at the Little Brown Church in the way that it basically called to attention the current generation of youth that we, as Christians, are failing to reach in so many ways.  A sharp sermon delivered by a fiery preacher definitely gives insight into the man and his ministry, but it does not give a complete picture of either.  In order to get a more complete picture I knew I would actually have to see him in his ministry.  I needed to visit Church of the First Born, where Alfred Johnson serves as Pastor and see him in action in his own environment.  I always look forward to visiting churches where I am an ethnic minority anyway, because I feel like if I really want to gain a deeper understanding of other cultures and grow in my ability to truly love and connect to all people, I need to be exposed to people who are different than me.  If you really want to discover your own capacity for love, you cannot build walls and limit your contact to what you know…you have to explore the unknown.  So here is how my experience at Church of the First Born went…

ChurchSurfer @ Little Brown Church: Sustained by the Love of a Community

Church Experience #22 – June 5, 2011

Little Brown Church (Union Chapel) – Summertown, TN

A Church with a History

I will start this week with an interesting fact that many Chattanoogans may not be aware of:  Signal Mountain is not a mountain at all…it is a town that exists on Walden’s Ridge.  So when someone says “I live on Signal” or “I’m going up the mountain”, what they really should be saying is “I live in Signal” or “I’m going up the ridge”.  Walden’s Ridge extends much further past the town of Signal Mountain with other communities and towns tucked away on winding side streets that most of the time get lumped into the catch-all phrase of “Signal Mountain” that everyone recognizes.  One of these communities on Walden’s Ridge is Summertown, which has a very interesting history and a very unique and famous building called Little Brown Church (officially, Union Chapel).  For the sake of space, I will not get into the full history of Little Brown Church (there is an entire book on it) other than to say it is over one-hundred years old and was started by Chattanooga families that made Summertown their escape from the summertime heat in the valley and the Yellow Fever that showed up with the mosquitoes.    They built this little chapel as a gathering place, but rather than hire a pastor, they decided to save the money and do all the teaching and preaching themselves.  Little Brown Church operates from Memorial Day through Labor Day each summer, and to this day is a community-run entity, with no paid staff and a different person serving as the Director each year.