Silverdale Baptist Church launches campus in Apison

Staff photo by Andrew Schwartz / Silverdale Baptist Church's new Apison campus is seen March 17.
Staff photo by Andrew Schwartz / Silverdale Baptist Church's new Apison campus is seen March 17.

In recent years, the rolling farmland of Apison has given way to housing developments with curvy cul-de-sacs.

Now a big church is coming in. On Saturday evening, Silverdale Baptist Church will hold its first service at its new campus in the East Hamilton County community, where census data shows the population and housing density have increased.

"We started looking for locations that were rapidly growing in our county but really didn't have as many churches to meet the rapid growth of those areas," Silverdale Baptist Church's senior pastor, Tony Walliser, said by phone this week.

There was a time when people were happy to drive 30 minutes to a big mall-based megachurch, he said, but times have changed — and many churchgoers today like a more intimate worship experience. With its expansion into Apison, he said, Silverdale Baptist Church seeks to put the resources and infrastructure of a megachurch to the end of a local congregational experience.

Beyond its primary campus on Bonny Oaks Drive, century-old Silverdale Baptist had a satellite campus in St. Elmo when it purchased land and built a new church in North Ooltewah about seven years ago, Walliser said.

Over multiple services, about 1,000 people per weekend attend services in the 450-seat auditorium at North Ooltewah, he said. (He said the main Bonny Oaks Drive venue can seat about 1,200 per service).

Silverdale Baptist Church bought the roughly 10-acre Apison property on London Lane, near Hullander Farms, for about half a million dollars in 2019, Walliser said.

Service times

Service times at Apison Campus of Silverdale Baptist Church:

— Where: 10259 London Lane, Apison, Tenn. 37302.

— When: 

Easter weekend: 6 p.m. Saturday; 9:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday.

Non-holiday weekends: 9:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday.

(READ MORE: Classics still ring out from the red back hymnal in Apison, Tennessee)

  photo  Staff photo by Andrew Schwartz / Silverdale Baptist Church's new Apison campus is seen March 17.
 
 

Immediate plans to build the church structure were foiled, however, by the pandemic, he said. Construction commenced about 18 months ago, but the delay meant higher costs — at $6 million, about double that of the North Ooltewah campus, even though it has a similar architectural layout, he said.

For some services, Walliser's sermons will be broadcast contemporaneously. Others will be presided over by Ben Schoening, the longtime marriage, family and counseling pastor at Silverdale. Schoening will become the campus pastor in Apison.

By phone this week, Schoening recalled growing up as a pastor's child and moving about 10 years ago from Southern California to Chattanooga with his wife for a counseling job.

He worked at a psychiatric hospital or with children in homes — but he soon felt hamstrung: In that capacity, often government-funded, he could not offer the biblical counsel he felt people really needed.

"I had to be like, covert and slip it in," he said. "And so when I was able to get involved with Silverdale's counseling ministry, I really, really thrived and loved being able to be overt and explicit about using God's word."

Around late 2015, a volunteer gig in the Silverdale Baptist Church marriage ministry became a full-time position, he said. Believing in a virtuous cycle linking healthy marriages, families and churches, he led a premarital program and discussion groups for couples.

Then, a few years ago, his friend from church bought some land in Apison, and Schoening and his family bought in to it with plans to build their own house.

Knowing the Apison church was in development, he figured it would be his new worship home, he said. Schoening was praying for its success and said he figured he would aid it in some volunteer capacity.

In early 2022, driving out to the property where their new house would be, Schoening recalled, he and his family drove by the church to-be, and he turned to his children and said, "'Hey guys, isn't it cool to think that one day your kids could get saved right there?' And for my wife and I — we both looked at each other, and we knew God was stirring something in our heart."

(READ MORE: Redemption to the Nations megachurch opens new Cleveland, Tennessee, location)

A few months later, Schoening said, he learned church leadership had him in mind to be the pastor at the new church.

He will be aided by about 300 volunteers coming from Silverdale's main campus to attend and help plant the new church, which will be plugged into the infrastructure of Silverdale, with its maintenance team, technical know-how and without the burden of debt from the construction.

He'll also be joined by children's director Amber Darden; a worship leader, Zech Dallas; an office manager and guest service director, Leniese Schoening (his sister-in-law), and a part-time student ministry director, Kyle Zimmerman.

In recent months, Ben Schoening's family has finally begun to make the move to Apison, and he said his first objective has been getting to know the people there, acquainting himself with local school leaders and business owners. He said it is an incredible place, with lots of young transient families — hungry for community and looking to lay down roots.

"What we're saying about Silverdale Apison is that 'It's his church in your home,'" he said. "We really want people to sense that this is their home. This is a place that they're going to raise their kids in, and their kids' kids."

Contact Andrew Schwartz at aschwartz@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

  photo  Staff photo by Andrew Schwartz / Silverdale Baptist Church's new Apison campus is seen March 17.
 
 

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