A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC
Snapshots of Congregations from Around the Church of the Lutheran Confession
Driving down Frankford Road, a busy three-lane, it is easy to notice the painted cedar-wood exterior and pitched roof of St. Matthew Lutheran Church. Located in a prosperous area of North Dallas, the city has literally grown up around the church since it was built in the late 1980’s. Where there were once fields and empty lots, now stands a mix of residential homes, stores, and restaurants. This area of Dallas is about twenty miles north of the downtown skyscrapers, thirty miles northeast of the new Cowboy football stadium, and nine miles from former President George W. Bush’s residence on the northern edge of the city line (President Bush hasn’t stopped in to see us yet). Dallas itself sits on the plains of Texas at the tail end of “tornado alley,” and alternates between droughts and flooding, extreme heat and ice storms, interspersed with countless days of beautiful sunny weather.
The congregation originally chose the Frankford Road location for the church because it sat in the middle of a triangle of current members, somewhat equidistant from everyone. Then, in a labor of love, they built the church by hand and volunteer labor—including installing wooden planks across the high ceiling and constructing stained-glass windows.
The church was completed and dedicated to the glory of God in 1989. The building was originally designed to also house the pastor, and did so for many years. However, in 2007, a separate parsonage was purchased three miles north, in the suburb of Plano.
The location itself has turned out to be one of the greatest outreach tools for the congregation, which has been blessed with an average of thirty visitors from the area walking through the doors every year. This is also due, in part, to the general cultural climate; which is conservative and friendly to church goers. The Dallas area is home to five of the fifty largest churches in America. There is a strong Baptist presence, but also a general respect for the importance of church and worship that is not found in all metropolitan areas. This leads to many opportunities to share the truth, and many have joined our church family after the Lord has led them through the door on a Sunday morning.
The congregation of ninety-five souls is a mix of southerners, native Texans, and northerners who have moved south for a variety of reasons, including warmer weather and the growth in job opportunities. The congregation began when a group of people in Dallas reached out to the CLC church in Spring, Texas, and later were served by the missionary-at-large, who at the time was in Austin, Texas. The missionary-at-large (Pastor Paul F. Nolting) determined there was great potential in this area. As the church continued to flourish, it called its first full-time pastor in 1986. The congregation has been served by four different full-time pastors in its thirty-six years.
Much of the current membership of the church is spread out over the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex of seven million people, and a good share live at significant distances. More than one family makes the drive from forty plus miles away through the city to church on Sunday. The challenges of traversing congested city areas are always present for a majority of the members. St. Matthew also continues to serve members and contacts to the north and south on Highway 35 from Oklahoma City, to Waco, to Austin. This makes our time when we can all be together to worship on Sunday morning precious. An average of fifty-five per Sunday gather together to worship, with Bible class for adults and Sunday school for children before the worship service.
In addition to our regular Bible instruction classes for adults, confirmation students, and children; we recently started a young adults’ class that has a wonderful blend of apologetics and evangelism. It closely examines the breathtaking wonders of God in creation and the errors of the unscientific claims of evolution. This class, created and taught by Mr. Brian Mibus, has been a great blessing to our young people.
St. Matthew was able to connect with the broader CLC when the “Lone Stars” traveled for the first time to the grade school basketball tournaments in Eau Claire in 2015. Many of the parents also made the journey, and it was a unique opportunity to meet fellow Christians and be introduced to the ILC campus. A number of children have also been able to take part in the CLC Youth Camp at ILC as campers and counselors.
If you move to this area, you quickly find out that the soils in much of North Texas, and certainly the Dallas area, have a high clay content. This may not seem important, but when the expansive clays absorb moisture, they tend to swell. Likewise, when they dry, they tend to shrink. This repeated action many times causes the foundations of buildings to move up and down and inevitably causes damage to the structure. Much of the Dallas area is literally built on shifting ground. This is a great reminder of the truth of our own lives as Christians—we do not build the foundation of our lives, our faith, or our ministry on the unsteady soil of this world, but on the rock of Christ. We are thankful that the Lord has built St. Matthew on the True Foundation and continues to give focus and strength through the cross, to take the joy of the Gospel and message of salvation out into the world.
Matthew Hanel is pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Dallas, Texas.