After attending a Church Multiplication Network Launch training event in 2017, Zachary Owen Whitt not only launched a church, he also started a Chi Alpha Campus Ministries chapter in scenic Davidson, North Carolina.
Whitt built the foundation of the Davidson College Chi Alpha group, which now is led by Paul and Nicole Lee. Meanwhile, Whitt is focused full time on pastoring nearby Multiply Church Lake Norman, with the Lees serving as worship leaders. The church is in a parent-affiliated relationship with Multiply Church in Concord.
Initially, Whitt anticipated that the church would reach young couples. However, in part because of flier distributions, senior citizens comprised the majority of the three dozen attendees who first came to the church.
Those early congregants included Toby W. Hudson. Hudson, 72, and his wife now lead a church-affiliated Bible study every other Monday.
“I like that Zack is innovative and he takes risk,” says Hudson, a retired veterinarian. “He has the heart of a lion.”
While Multiply Church Lake Norman continues to draw “seasoned generation” attendees, this winter an influx of younger adherents has come through the doors. Whitt says attendance increased 75% to 200 adherents in a 12-week span after the church moved to new leased space at Liberty Preparatory Christian Academy. The church meets in the private school’s performing arts theater, which seats 300. Despite waves of COVID-19 cases in recent months, the kids’ program at the church grew to 60 regular attendees from just seven. Now half of the churchgoers are between the ages of 30 and 55.
Multiply also operates a coffeeshop, Good Drip Coffee, in the quaint downtown of Davidson, which has a population of 13,000. Whitt has his church office in the building as another means of connecting to the local populace.
Whitt’s nutritious-conscious wife, Jenna, likewise is involved in the community. She followed her passion and opened a vegan-friendly bakery, Wander & Whisk. The Whitts have two daughters, Piper Gray, 4, and Harlowe Jane, almost 1.
An additional way the red-bearded Zack engages with the community is frequenting the local CrossFit 926 gym. Whitt, 32, befriended owners Jake W. Norris and Zach Brock. Now he sometimes coaches 5 a.m. CrossFit classes. Whitt says one-fourth of the church’s attendees come as a result of a relationship with the fitness outlet. The business is based on biblical ideals, with the 926 reference to a 1 Corinthians quotation posted in large letters on the wall: Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.
“My business partner and I wanted to find a way to build the Kingdom without pushing it down peoples’ throats,” says Norris, 28. “But I don’t mind offending people when it comes to the good book.”
Norris notes that several patrons have come to Christ at the gym, and if a conversation warrants a need for church, he promotes Multiply. He leads a Thursday morning Bible study through the church. Norris is devoted to Whitt.
“Zack isn’t scared to tell you what you need to hear,” Norris says. “He makes you think, and challenges you to be a better Christian in everyday life.”
Even with the ongoing presence of the coronavirus, Whitt is planning to start campuses in Mooresville and Hickory, two other fast-growing cities in the area, by next year. Whitt, who holds two master’s degrees from Southeastern University, the Assemblies of God school in Lakeland, Florida, is a proponent of CMN’s planting methodology. He anticipates coaching at four CMN Launch training events this year.