SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — A Shreveport church is excited over its newfound attention after last fall’s Emmy-winning “The Good Stuff” broadcast on KSLA News 12, highlighting the unique story behind the congregation’s recent move into a larger church.
“I think it created a lot of encouragement to the people here,” pastor Michael Shannon says, referencing members of his Faith Lutheran Church in Shreveport.
“Almost every Sunday, there was someone that came because they saw it on Channel 12,” he adds.
To better understand the excitement surrounding Faith’s new location and recent growth, its best to revisit the story that Shannon and church members shared with KSLA News 12′s Doug Warner in October, beginning with when the sign in front of the Lakeshore Drive church read St. Paul Lutheran, a church established in the mid-1950s.
"My family has roots in this church," explains Tim Brobst.
"My grandfather was the second pastor of this church."
His grandfather Lothar Kleinshans was one of the many pastors who led St. Paul Lutheran through years and years of packed pews for Sunday services.
But as the years began adding up, church leadership identified a problem that reached a perilous peak by 2016.
"We tried for years to bring people to the church from the area," remembers Brobst.
But as the years past, the faces inside St. Paul began began disappearing, either because families moved away from the area or because others passed away.
"It was like pounding your head against a brick wall," says Brobst.
“Hopeless is the word I’d use,” echoes Bob Mathis, another St. Paul Lutheran member. “We didn’t see an outcome that would save the church until certain things happened.”
The church was down to less than two dozen members.
But help arrived in one of the most unsuspecting ways possible, the day their pastor was unavailable to lead Sunday service.
"Our pastor was away on a meeting and we had no one to preach that week," recalls Mathis.
So instead of inviting a fill-in pastor to lead service, many of the St. Paul Lutheran parishioners attended church at nearby Faith Lutheran.
"Those of us who went over were blown away over how they treated and welcomed us," cites Mathis.
But Faith Lutheran was dealing with growing problems of its own.
“We needed classrooms for Sunday school,” Pastor Shannon says.
His church's worship numbers were growing and their building needed major repairs.
“I can recall our roof was leaking,” adds Faith Lutheran member Eddie Swift.
Not long after that Sunday when St. Paul Lutheran’s members were led to Faith, the few remaining members of St. Paul Lutheran came up with this idea to save their church, and its history.
They decided to give Faith Lutheran, which was in desperate need of more space, their church, the property and what money they had remaining in their bank account.
"Because they showed us they were doing God's work in the right way," explains Mathis.
Not long after, Faith Lutheran moved its ministry and members to St. Paul Lutheran’s sanctuary.
“It was way beyond our wildest dreams or imagination,” Pastor Shannon remembers with a smile.
And even more surprising to him and others, the majority of St. Paul Lutheran members, mostly all white, decided to stay there at 4175 Lakeshore Drive and join Faith Lutheran, a congregation with predominantly black church members.
“I just prayed one day that we could be in a position to where people could come to our church and nobody cared who they were and could see somebody that looked like them,” explains Pastor Shannon.
“And the humbling thing to me, He allowed me to be a part of that kind of blessing.”