Impact Fellowship’s new church building dream for former MLB player

The congregation of Impact Fellowship recently celebrated a ground breaking for a new church building on property just off U.S. 411 South.

For former major league baseball player Doug Bochtler, it was a surreal moment. When the shovel went into the dirt, it was a culmination of a dream he has had for four years. The dream inspired him to come to Tennessee to help build a new church.

Church pastor Dr. Greg Howard said Bochtler moved here with the intention of helping to build a church. “It is what brought him here,” said Howard. “He didn’t have family here. He felt like he was supposed to be a part of starting a new church.”

The former baseball player and Cherokee Fitness Center owner said the groundbreaking was a pretty special day.

“Four years ago, I had a dream I was going to help start a church in Tennessee,” he said. “To break ground on the property was pretty special. It was pretty surreal. The path to get here was not what we had planned but definitely what God had planned.”

Bochtler said that in March of 2004 he awoke from a dream at his family’s home in West Palm Beach, Fla. At that moment, he knew that he was going to help start a church in Tennessee. He told his wife about the dream. Minutes later, Bochtler listened as God put an exclamation point on Bochtler’s feeling.

After telling his wife about the dream that Sunday, he answered a phone call from a friend. The friend asked him if he believed God spoke through dreams, and then proceeded to tell him that he had had a dream that Bochtler started a church in Tennessee.

By Thursday, another friend phoned and described the same church-building dream. Bochtler said he knew it wasn’t a coincidence. “We didn’t all have sausage the night before,” he quipped. “Some strange food didn’t make us dream the same thing.”

Bochtler swung into action, planning a ‘road trip’ to find property.

“I said ‘Road trip!’ Time to find property,” Bochtler said. “The property was just placed in our lap, and I think the guys we purchased it from understood what we were trying to do and were more than supportive.”

While the couple lived in West Palm Beach, Fla., Bochtler said his wife understood his compulsion to move. “She understood there was a little more going on than my desire to leave Florida,” he said.

Bochtler said he was committed to getting to the area and finding a location for a church. “It was special. I wouldn’t walk away from what God told me do. There’s nothing that could make me do that. We just stuck it out and pushed through tough times to get to the point where we are now,” he said.

Howard said the front acreage of the property Bochtler bought was set aside for a church, and he built his own home on the remainder of the land. “Through a series of circumstances we connected a year and a half ago and as we just kind of connected and over time the property, we talked about it and found out his vision of what he wanted to see happen and my vision of starting Impact and what I wanted to do with it were merging into one single vision,” Howard said.

This past fall the church bought the property from Bochtler for just what he had in it. “He could have made a very big profit on that; everything down 411 is skyrocketing,” Howard said.

The campaign to raise the funds for the property and church started in the fall with a Spiritual Growth and Giving Campaign they called Building for Change. “The result of that was enough pledges and commitments to start the building,” Howard said.

Impact has had many homes. They met in the old Fairpark Plaza building on East Broadway Avenue, at Foothills Cinema and for the last 16 months they’ve been at Carpenters Middle School. When they make it into their new building, they will have been at the school two years, Howard said.

Howard said it would be nice not having to be portable. “You show up at 7:30 on a Sunday morning and spend two hours setting up for a service that is going to last an hour and turn around and load it up again. In this culture, people are not sure you’re legitimate if you’re portable,” Howard said. “I think people are excited about having a home.”

Howard said the church property tract is six acres and the building and parking will probably fit on about one acre. The facility will be between 12,000 and 13,000 square feet with a nursery, office areas, a multi-use auditorium and a very spacious lobby. “That’s a big deal for us on Sunday morning,” he said. “People enjoy being able to relax and enjoy each other.”

Gary Best is the architect and Odom Construction is the contractor.

Since relocating to Maryville, Bochtler said his business, Cherokee Athletics, has also become part of the community. “To see our travel teams going the way they are and being able to support a little league, I think we’re doing an awful lot for the community,” Bochtler said. “It’s a nice outlet to have to develop relationships and see people grow. It’s a neat place. We’re real fortunate.”

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