Brief History

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A History of Living Word Lutheran Church


Quiet Beginnings Living Word started when several people and/or families who were members of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) came to northeast Tennessee.  Since the closest WELS congregation was Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran in Knoxville, and the pastor came here once/month, conducting in-home worship.  As the group grew, we began to meet twice/month, renting a room in the Jonesborough Visitor's Center.

     The group then approached the WELS Board for Home Missions.  Excited by the dedication of this group – at that time numbering about 15 people – and by the prospects of our growing community, the Board agreed to financially support a new mission in the Tri-Cities area.  Pastor Thomas Kock became the first on-sight pastor in July 1992, just after his graduation from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Baby Steps

When Pastor Kock and his family arrived, the congregation – consulting regularly with the Mission Board – laid plans, chose a name, and got to work.  We chose a three-pronged approach: door-to-door canvassing, an extensive phone survey with follow-up by mail, and advertising (mass mail, newspaper, etc), all leading up to a festive opening service.  So we knocked on about 300 doors, phone-called about 9,000 homes (with help from a group of WELS senior citizens), and we sent a mass mailing to 15,000 homes.  Those who showed interest were added to our mailing list – it grew to include about 500 names.  In addition, Bible study was held each Sunday morning in Pastor Kock’s basement, and worship took place once/month.  


Next question: where will we meet?  We explored several avenues – schools, hotels, etc. – until the Johnson City Seventh-Day Adventists agreed to rent a portion of their facility to us for worship and Sunday School.  On March 21, 1993 we held our grand opening service; seventy-two people came, a few of whom were from Shepherd of the Hills in Knoxville, some of whom were simply curious, and some of whom were interested in becoming more involved.   Sunday School began several weeks later, and from then on we’ve held worship and Sunday School ona weekly basis.



Aggressively reaching out with the Word of God continued to bring steady results.  We began to rent more of the 7th-Day Adventists’ building.  Additionally, we needed a place for classes to meet during the week, a place for fellowship, for an office.  So in May, 1994 Living Word purchased a parsonage located in the Tamassee Park subdivision.  One room served as an office, another as a classroom.  (Later, in 2003, the congregation sold the parsonage to Pastor and Beth. )


In July of 2000 Living Word purchased 4.5 acres on the Kingsport Highway, purchasing it from White’s Foods for $350,000.  The grading work began in fall of 2003 (it took awhile for our building fund to grow again.)  An extremely wet fall/winter led to months of delay, so the pad couldn’t be poured until late spring of 2004.  Work progressed steadily afterwards, and we were blessed with a contractor (Rick and Larry Sangid) who allowed us do some work ourselves.  So, the congregation did workdays almost every Saturday – and many Sundays, too – for about a year, until the building was complete.

Today … and Tomorrow!

Where are we now?  Having started with such humble beginnings Living Word has now grown to more than 275 members.  Ministry opportunities have continued to grow as well;  we now offer a full slate of Sunday School opportunities, mid-week Bible Studies, youth instruction classes, children’s and youth fellowship activities, congregational fellowship activities such as a softball team, etc.  We’ve daughtered one congregation – Living Promise Lutheran in Morristown – and look to begin more.   Our Mother’s Day Out Ministry quickly blossomed.  

And the future?  It’s exciting!  In short, a gracious God has blessed us richly in the past, and we’re fully convinced that He will continue to bless us in the future!  Come, grow with us!  We’re makin’ a difference!