St Matthew Lutheran Church was founded in Cascade, in 1970 as a mission congregation, as Pastor Jim Henning was assigned to make disciples in the area growing east of Grand Rapids. After spending our first few years in what is now the Forest Hills Schools administration building, a new building was constructed in the late 70’s with the current church and education wing added in 2003. In 2013, the rapidly growth led to the construction of the multi-purpose Family Life Center. Pastor Rob Appold is our church’s 4th full time pastor.
St Matthew is about drawing nearer to a God who loves us, and following Him. We want to love the people He loves, both within the church and in our surrounding community. We are passionate about worship, growing up in Jesus, children, and sharing His love with one another and with our community.
We are a growing church (increasing from 150 people per Sunday in 2004 to over 400 today), we offer a wide variety of Bible studies, serving opportunities, activities, and worship styles. We love to grow closer together in love, prayer, study, friendship, and caring for one another in various kinds of small groups. We have become a regional church of people from many backgrounds and cultures – people who love to worship and grow in our relationships with God and with each other, and to grow to be more like Christ.
Mission Statement: In thankfulness to God’s grace, we are called at St Matthew Lutheran Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). We are; “Followers of Jesus, Wherever We Are”
Vision Statement: Our vision is to create a community where people will experience the heart of God in Jesus Christ. We desire this place to be where people know and are known; love and are loved; serve and are served as followers of Jesus Christ who will stop at nothing to bring the world to experience the heart of our heavenly Father.
The story of St Matthew Lutheran Church includes an amazing period of struggles and successes, as God’s people sometimes acted courageously in faith and other times struggled in human weakness. Throughout all these times God has shown Himself to be faithful to His promises in Jesus Christ. Looking back over our 50-year history, we can see people following Jesus and growing in Him with their head, hearts and hands as the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus was proclaimed and spread.
In the fall of 1969, the Michigan District (LCMS) identified the developing area east of Grand Rapids as a potential mission site. Members of several Churches – St. Mark, Kentwood; Our Savior, Grand Rapids; Holy Cross, Jenison; and St. Paul, Caledonia — canvassed 3,000 homes in this area to survey the need for a new Lutheran church. The work progressed with Pastor James E. Henning, a 1970 graduate of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO, being given a call as a missionary-at-large to create a new church in the Ada-Cascade area. In July 1970 the Michigan District through the Church Extension Fund purchased 5.8 acres in Ada (our present location at 5125 Cascade Rd.) for a new church.
The first service was held November 29, 1970 at Forest Hills Schools Administration Building at Burton Street and Cascade Road. In January 1971, communicants committed to the new mission and the name St Matthew was chosen. Members worked hard to build a new church to meet the needs of residents. Ground was broken for the new building in April 1972 and the new St. Matthew Lutheran Church was dedicated on February 11, 1973. Its 5,250 square feet included a sanctuary, three classrooms, an office, work room and utility area.
The church grew and from 1980-1985 new classrooms, offices, an improved kitchen, fellowship, nursery, storage, resource center and improved narthex spaces were added. Average worship attendance at that time was 150. An expansion in 2003 included a new sanctuary and education wing which the congregation quickly outgrew. The latest expansion in 2014, included a Family Life Center, a spacious Commons area, increased parking along with more classrooms and an expanded kitchen.
St Matthew has grown over the years under the guidance of several pastors: Pastor Henning served until 1991, Pastor Dan Lochner from 1992-1997, and Pastor William Wagner from 1998-2003. Pastor Rob Appold came in 2005 and has served to the present. St Matthew has also been served by Associate Pastors Nick Mullen (2011-2014) and Pastor Matthew Starner (2019-present). Along with our pastors, our present staff includes, Lori Wieneke (Director of Spiritual Formation), Stephanie Sherman (Student Ministries), Rose Mill (Office Coordinator) and Joan Koczenasz (Controller). Of course, there would be no staff without the tremendous members and friends of the church who call St Matthew their home church.
What started with a small group of people has bloomed into a congregation of 400 gathering on Sundays which includes more than 250 adults in small groups and many people serving in the church and in the Forest Hills and Grand Rapids area. St Matthew continues to face new challenges of continued growth and will consider improved ways to serve the marvelous community in which we live. Though the past 50 years, we have seen God is faithful to his promises and we seek to live by faith – doing the things God promises to bless.
We go forward with the charge the Lord gave to Joshua, (Joshua 1:8–9) “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”