Founding was inspired by gathering the city together
The Middle Tennessee Billy Graham Crusade held in Nashville in June 2000 had an impact beyond its stated purpose. Members of the crusade Executive Committee saw racial, cultural and denominational walls broken down for the purposes of evangelism. As the Crusade ended, leaders agreed that a strategy should be developed to continue expanding the unity and diversity that came out of the Crusade. Formed as a non-profit 501(c) 3 ministry and named The Operation Andrew Group, leaders recruited a board of trustees, drafted a mission statement and bylaws, secured initial donations and office space.
The first major outreach became known as the Gathering, and was held in January 2002 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center (now Bridgestone Arena) in downtown Nashville. Over 150 churches agreed to suspend their Sunday evening service so that their congregations might join with other believers in a joint service of worship and praise. About 8,000 attended, and noted preacher and apologist, Ravi Zacharias, delivered the sermon. The event was held the following year in May, featuring well-known pastor and evangelist Tony Evans as the speaker.
In 2003, The Operation Andrew Group Board felt the ministry would be strengthened by having a pastor as its volunteer president. Dr. Charles McGowan, Senior Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, became The Operation Andrew Group’s first president.
Expansion within the Region
The Gathering was re-configured into regional events where congregations gathered to worship and pray together. During this time ministries were added and expanded, including fellowship and training seminars for church leaders, partnerships benefiting poverty initiatives in the schools and an annual Honor Banquet for church leaders and spouses. Two other citywide events were initiated through community partnerships: the National Day of Prayer “Downtown Expression” with the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, and the annual Citywide Thanksgiving Service, co-sponsored by multiple cross-denomiational churches.