City officials in Tennessee are looking to shut down a church-run nightclub in Chattanooga, alleging that the ministry is to blame for ongoing violence among youth in the area.
Chattanooga city attorneys filed a complaint Wednesday morning in Hamilton County Circuit Court looking to close Club Fathom, a youth outreach ministry of Mosaic Church led by pastor Tim Reid, a local news station reported.
Among those opposed to the nightclub are Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and Police Chief Bobby Dodd, who both expressed a growing disdain for the organization.
They cited several incidents of violence linked to the ministry’s location, which culminated on Christmas Eve. That night a fight broke out after youth were let out of the church 15 minutes before the city’s curfew at midnight. Nine people were injured.
“This has continued to be a problem in the downtown area and a danger to those who are using it for whatever purpose,” Littlefield told the media at a press conference. “It’s a danger to the patrons, and it’s a danger to the community at large.”
Dodd described more than 20 assaults reported near or at the club itself from 2006 to the present.
“We have youth ministries all over the city where we don’t have crowd fights; we don’t have stabbings; we don’t have shootings; we don’t have these kinds of problems,” the police chief added, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
“If it’s a church ministry, if it’s a youth outreach, apparently, they are doing something wrong, because I can’t recall in 25 years of service responding to another church in town and having to break up another fight like this.”
The mayor had during the last few years opposed the outreach ministry due to the escalating number of assaults, trying unsuccessfully in 2009 to close down the church.
Responding to the recent attempts to shut down their ministry again, including an upcoming New Year’s Eve BYOB (Bring Your Own Bible) party, Reid said in an official statement, “We ask city officials not to use Mosaic Church or our youth ministry Fathom as a scapegoat for the gang problem in our city.”
Though Reid acknowledged there was a gang problem in the city, he stated that the locations that the fights broke out in, including Coolidge and Renaissance Park, Walnut St. Bridge, near the movie theaters and Aquarium, and his own downtown venue as well, "cannot be blamed" for the acts of violence.
He also clarified that on Christmas Eve, a fight did not break out between the Bloods and the Crips like authorities had claimed, but that an ambush had occurred.
“The shooting were not two rival gangs fighting,” he shared. “We at Mosaic know that gang members seek retaliation against many of our young people who have walked away from the gang lifestyle and have pledged to join our church’s GANG (Gathering of New Generation). We proactively protect against these realities by always having off-duty police officers and professional security at all of our outreach events.”
Every single attendee, 400 in total, was searched before entering the church, and weapons of any kind were not found. No alcohol was served at the party as well.
When the church dismissed the Christmas dance at 11:45 p.m., Reid stated that all 400 of their youth left in “an orderly fashion preparing to go home.”
“What we did not know was that violent gang members were waiting in ambush outside our church for our youth that night or that they would open fire on innocent bystanders when our youth left the dance. Our youth were victims in this tragedy. Our youth have chosen to walk away from the gang lifestyle, but they remain in harm’s way because of the violence of Chattanooga’s current gang members.”
Despite the church’s precautions, authorities stated that more security measures should have been taken for the event. Though the church had paid for 10 security staff members the night of the shooting, only two of them were police officers.
For a crowd of 400, at least eight law enforcement officers were needed, Dodd noted.
Continuing to question the church, officials stated that Reid appeared to be more of a businessman than a pastor.
“This place is a low-grade business that has been a festering sore for years,” Littlefield said, according to Nooga.com. “It’s an insult to churches.”
Officials did not understand why Reid charged an admission fee for the Christmas dance targeting at-risk youth or why he sponsored secular hip-hop and rap groups for some of his events.
But the Mosaic pastor said that the money was collected so that the church could continue its mission in helping the unreached. As for his choice in entertainment, he used popular music to attract those who would not want to attend a traditional church.
Many have been standing by the church and behind Reid, whom they believe is a necessary force in the city.
“Mosaic Church and its pastor, Tim Reid, are being brutally attacked and falsely accused by many of our city leaders – including our mayor,” one resident by the name of Jason Mitchell stated. “These folks simply do not know Pastor Tim Reid and they do not know the ministry of Mosaic Church.”
“All of their allegations are false either from misunderstanding or from an intentional choice not to understand so that they can use Mosaic Church as a scapegoat for the gang problem in Chattanooga. Chattanooga needs the work of the church to address the gang problem and Mosaic is the leading church in Chattanooga addressing the problem by introducing young people to the person of Jesus Christ.”
Fathom Youth Ministry of the Mosaic Church has been actively involved in Project GANG since 2003, which exists to reach, save, and mentor gang members of inner city Chattanooga. They also have been implementing Operation SWAG (Spiritual Warfare Against Gangs) since 2007, which seeks to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ for at-risk youth through visual and performing arts classes and programs.
“We believe that the gang problem can ultimately only be solved by a lifestyle transformation and that Jesus Christ is the only person who can bring about this transformation,” Reid wrote.
For the inner city pastor, excluding youth from parts of the city where incidents had occurred did not solve the gang problem, which was what city officials tried to do.
“Where do the youth (who are not in a gang and want to choose an alternative) go after dark when the rec. centers, businesses, and churches close? What are the alternatives? Are other churches and ministries and citizens willing to provide places for these youth people to go?”
Mosaic Church wanted to continually reach out to those youth who were not being reached through their Fathom ministry.
“Mosaic Ministries are brave enough to get in the midst of this culture to show them the light of Christ,” Chris Edwards, leadership pastor at the church, shared on Facebook. “We are the voice of hope to the hopeless. This is why our ministry exists, and why we do what we do.”
“Kids from the ghetto matter, and we need to help them. We need the churches of the city to help us financially with manpower. We need the love of the government to help support us as the spearhead to combat this gang war with love and mentorship.”
Hoping to address the growing gang problem, Mosaic will be holding a pastor’s luncheon on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at noon to discuss how to best share the Gospel and bring hope to the gangs and at-risk youth. They are also inviting everyone to join them in a 24-hour prayer vigil that will start New Year’s Day.
“I’ve often been accused of having ‘too dangerous’ of a church,” Reid recently posted on his Facebook status. “I believe the church is ‘too safe.’ There isn’t enough risk, enough originality, enough creativity, enough love. Great love requires great risk, which in return is dangerous for your heart. Live dangerously for the cause of Christ.”