A few years ago I popped in to see Friendship Lutheran Church in Cleveland, unannounced. They had been reporting worship attendance in the 20s, but there were only five people in worship, two of which were the pastor and his wife. Shortly thereafter they decided to close.
Three years ago I asked a theologically astute member of Grace Conroe, Dennis Shaw, to try starting something up in Cleveland again — a Bible study, a worshiping community, an effort of some sort. See what happens. Some folks from Grace Conroe help get it started.
Agape meets at the La Quinta in Cleveland, on Texas 59. Over the years they have had as few as seven and as many as 30. They have baptized several adults, served the community and given generously. When you don’t have a lot of overhead, most of your tides and offerings can go to help those in need. The La Quinta cost $45 a week, and Dennis Shaw volunteers his time. He is by vocational. He works full-time in the medical center. Dennis is in candidacy, studying to be a pastor. One day he will retire from his day job in order to spend more time in ministry.
The congregations offerings support Dennis is mileage, and his classwork, but their income exceeds their expenses by quite a bit. They been able to cover all expenses, give generously, and even save about $10,000.
How big is a church? Wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name. (Jesus had 12.) Wherever the word is proclaimed the sacraments administered.
Today, Palm Sunday, I visited Agape for the first time.
Grace, Conroe lovingly helps with bulletins.
You, the synod, provided cross and other liturgical hardware.
The La Quinta allows them to store thing in this rolling cabinet, that came from Joyful Life, The Woodlands.
A Pentecost altar…
The Fellowship Hall at the La Quinta is fully stocked. Worshippers can grab coffee and breakfast before worship.
None of these folks were raise Lutheran. The sermon tends to be conversational. People in this neck of the woods bring their Bibles, so they use the tables when there’s enough room.
Tammy provides the accompaniment.
Last year, Agape and Grace did God’s Work Our Hands service day together.
With the plenty of small town communities that have no Lutheran church, and the influx of so many ethnic groups, we need to learn how to foster small cell churches or house churches, and get better at recruiting and supporting the Pauline model of bi-vocational pastors.