Our Story

History of First Lutheran Church, Cleveland Tennessee

The congregation of First Lutheran Church has been blessed richly over the years with various full-time pastors and interims who each brought his own special vision and talents to share with our community. Our current pastor, Rev. Robert Seaton, has shared in our ministry since 1998, becoming our longest serving pastor.

The dream of a Lutheran Church in Cleveland began in the hearts of three Lutheran families who had been transferred to Cleveland to open up the American Uniform plant on Parker Street. A small gospel chapel was acquired on Chambliss Avenue and the first worship service was held on Sunday, December 18, 1949, led by Pastor Richard P. Jahn. In August of 1955, First Lutheran was blessed with our first full-time resident pastor, Elmer E. Scheck.

From that small beginning of eight communicants and five baptized children, a faith community grew to 88 by 1957. At that time the congregation acquired the current property and began construction of the sanctuary and fellowship hall. It was dedicated November 1957. Continued growth in Sunday School led to the addition of an education wing in 1958 which was used for several years as a congregationally sponsored kindergarten. By 1960 the congregation was able to dedicate a parsonage on the property facing Julian Drive.

In 1970 our congregation sponsored a preaching mission in Athens which became Athens Lutheran Church. Due to the grace of God and excellent fiscal management, the mortgages on both the church facilities and the parsonage were retired by May 1979.

Growing to 300 members by 1987 under the leadership of Pastor Richard K. Smith, planning began once again to expand the facilities to accommodate and facilitate growth. The theme “Building on His Promises” could be seen everywhere as God’s people focused their efforts toward glorifying him through our congregation. After many meetings and much planning, the new sanctuary was dedicated on January 7, 1990 just 42 years after that first service on Chambliss Avenue.

The Lord’s richest blessings upon our church community, however, have not come in in the way of brick and mortar, although these are the most visible. Far more significant is our Savior’s unconditional and forgiving love which has been proclaimed and manifested in our Christian family over the years and the saving faith which the Holy Spirit has created and strengthened in the hearts of hundreds of His redeemed people as the result thereof. Realizing this, God’s people here at First continue to commit themselves to the following mission statement:

Knowing it is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ that His disciples share the gospel with the whole world, and believing that our church has the privilege and responsibility of making disciples of our families, friends, and business acquaintances in Cleveland and throughout the world; we therefore commit ourselves to focus our worship, preaching, teaching, fellowship, stewardship, and outreach towards motivating, training, and equipping God’s people to make disciples in accord with their God-given potential.

May our Living Lord Jesus continue to instill His life-giving will in our hearts and minds and empower us through His Word and Sacraments to grow in and build on this mission for which we have been called into existence.