Through the Years at Lascassas Church of Christ
The Lascassas Church of Christ was originally called the Nazareth Christian Church and then the Nazareth Church of Christ. The churches in Rutherford County bore the name Christian Church until about 1908. At that time, 65 members left the East Main Street Christian Church to establish the Central Christian Church where they could affiliate with a national missionary society. It was at this time that other Christian Churches in the county changed their names to Churches of Christ.
Although it is not known exactly where the early Christians met in this area, the date on our building reads 1872. Early organizers include Silas McHenry, Sr., Arch Hight, G. E. Bradley, Wesley Rucker, James C. Reeves, M. B. White and James W. Dill. In 1877, the Christians worshipped in a one-room building, 50 feet by 60 feet, made of lumber, hand-hewn. It was located on the McHenry farm east of Lofton and on the south side of Liberty Pike, which ran past the Adam S. Butler Cave, and on to the town of Liberty. That portion of the road is no longer in existence. Evangelist Thomas Wesley Brents preached the first sermon in the new building and Jesse Sewell was the minister. He was paid by 48 men and 2 ladies of the congregation pledging from $1.00 to $7.00 each.
In 1911, a log building that had been used as a school was rolled north to the Dill farm on Lascassas-Milton Road. The Christians worshipped there for 43 years, with few changes made to the building except weather-boarding being applied and the building painted white. Bird Florida and B. F. Jordan were two of the church leaders during this time, and Mr. Jordan donated the table that we used for communion until moving into our new building in 2010. (That same table is now located in the church lobby.) Some of the early Lascassas Christians prior to the 1930s still have family members who worship here. The late Thelma Herrod McElroy (Patsy Morris’ mother), the late Mollie Bowen Floyd (mother of our Emma Jean Whitworth & Betty McCullough), the late Jim Bowen (his son, David, is currently living at Stones River Manor), the late Pauline Hopkins Warren (mother of Debbie Huddleston) and the late Ben Brown (father of Buddy) are names listed in church records as children at that time. Records later also show that in the early to mid 1940s some of the younger people included present members Frank Caffy, Joe McElroy, and later, Linda McCrary (Brown), Buddy Brown, and Patsy McElroy (Morris).
In 1944, Charlie E. Dill deeded a lot to the church for $1.00 but apparently the membership decided not to move at that time. Then in 1953, the newly named Lascassas Church of Christ bought a one-acre tract from W. F. McCrary where the old building sits today. The first sermon was on June 1, 1954 by I. C. Pullias and lunch was served across the road at the old Lascassas School. Over the years, improvements were made such as Sunday school rooms, a baptistry, and restrooms. Carl Hall, Calvin Lester, Keele McElroy and Earl McCrary were some of the leaders during that time. Edmond Arnold, Wayman Meadows, Wymer Wiser, Ben Austin, Clayton Briley and Leon Stancliff were some of the ministers.
Paul Gray Cooper started his ministry here at Lascassas on the first Sunday of November in 1976. In December 1979, Ben Haynes, Robert Bowers and Joe McElroy were asked to be elders, and Frank Caffy, Earl McCrary, Keele McElroy, Frank Callaway and Bill Cooper consented to being deacons. Additions to the church grounds since then include a donation from the Delay family of .2 acre, and the membership buying the adjoining lot and brick house along with building an annex room. With no other usage for the house at that time, it was rented out for several years to various families from the community.
In the mid to late 1990s, we recognized just how much God’s blessings were on our spiritual and numerical growth. Our membership consisted of almost 60 different households, we often had 100 for Sunday School, 130 for Worship Services, 50 for Sunday Night and 70 for Mid-Week Bible Study. In 1997, the heirs of Becky McCrary donated 60 feet behind the church for additional parking due to the rapid lack of space. Also that year, brother Charlie Bowman from the Woodbury congregation began preaching for us the first Sunday of each month in order to give brother Paul Cooper some much-deserved rest. As the growth continued, Lascassas members rejoiced with the angels as a record high of 17 were baptized into Christ in 1998. The following year, March 1999, Mike Huddleston, Mark Neely and Joe Thomson were confirmed as deacons. At this time, brother Bowman felt he could return to his home congregation after our elders hired David West to work alongside brother Cooper.
As we entered the new millennium, the Lascassas congregation experienced growth like we never thought possible. Due to lack of space in the auditorium, a second Sunday Morning Worship Service began in February 2002, but the Sunday Bible Study, the Sunday Evening Worship Service and the Wednesday Bible Study times remained unchanged. We still, however, were in need of additional classrooms and inside storage as it was not unusual for us to welcome 210+ at the Morning Worship Services and between 110-140 on Sunday night and Wednesday. It was then the church leaders decided to stop using the brick house next door as rental property but instead use it for storage and a Youth House where Bible Classes could be held on Sunday & Wednesday.
David West continued to preach once or twice a month throughout 2000, ultimately being asked to assume all pulpit duties when Paul Cooper retired. Andrew Collins was hired part-time in December 2000 to work with our youth, and not long after, three additional Christian men agreed to work in the role of deacons … Thom Coats (January 2001), Keith Kellum & Eddie Spears (both in October 2001). With record attendance being maintained, David West was hired as our full-time minister in June 2002.
But one of the Church’s most memorable years would be 2003. On March 2nd of that year, three more of our most respected men … Sam Allen, Ernie Huddleston & Keith Kellum … agreed to become our shepherds along side Ben & Joe, and a remarkable eight men … Bruce Bugg, Darryl Elrod, Alan Jakes, Jerry McCullough, Whit Mitchell, Jon Palmer, Rex Rudd & Don Winningham … stepped forward to fill the role of deacon with Thom, Mike, Mark, Eddie & Joe. These men lead us in a wide variety of activities such as Vacation Bible School, 5th Sunday Singings, workshops, Inner City, youth retreats, Senior Christian & Newcomer Dinners, missionary trips … both international & domestic … community door-knocking, holiday baskets, an annual Family & Friends Day (which in 2006 gathered 519 of our loved ones together at Lascassas Elementary) and many other ministries and fellowship opportunities. We also celebrated and were blessed with 12 baptisms, 14 restorations, and 14 people placing their membership with us.
After many discussions over the past 10 years, an agreement was made in April of 2004 between our five elders and the heirs of Becky McCrary to purchase the land adjacent to our current building. Along with the property already owned by the Church, we would now have almost 9 acres to help us spread the boarders of God’s kingdom. By God’s grace, we would finally be able to build.
During this time, we continued to experience a steady climb in attendance with both services together consistently ranging from 230-250 … depending on whether we had members gone on retreats or a great number of visitors. Our Sunday night attendance had also grown, greatly due to a Bible Bowl Class for our 3rd-8th graders and a Bible Hour for our 2nd graders & below. We welcomed a new youth minister in 2005, Jeremy Knox, as Andrew Collins left a year earlier to take a full-time position in Kentucky. In a 12 month period alone, there were 64 responses to the Gospel (baptisms & restorations made public) and that doesn’t even count the number of new families who placed membership. In April 2006, four more gentlemen were asked to serve our congregation as deacons … Mike Brandon, Billy Higginbotham, Smiley May & Chris West. And believe it or not, our little church family had even grown to the point of needing an ‘official’ secretary. (J)
In March 2007, the elders asked three more of our most spiritual men … Billy Higginbotham, T. J. Wakefield & Greg Waldron … to oversee the congregation alongside them. Chris West accepted the request to be our youth minister in April. Jeff Howland, Tracy Rhodes & Sean Tussey were asked to begin serving as deacons in May.
Of course, decisions were also being made in regard to construction during that time. The white house that was part of the land purchase was demolished, and the rental/youth house we bought many years ago was auctioned & moved. Stan Harvey of Sun Builders was selected as our contractor … we secured a loan from Mid-South Bank … and all other individuals & companies needed to start construction were put into place. We started seeing bulldozers & dump trucks as the land was prepared. The elders planned a ‘ground breaking ceremony’ on Sunday, April 15, 2007. Unfortunately because of a lot of rain that day, things did not go as planned … and neither did the many, many months thereafter regarding construction. The work was completely shut down a few weeks later because our congregation had the distinct ‘honor’ of being the first church in Rutherford County to be built under a new set of fire codes. Many changes in the plans would have to be made by the architect before construction could continue.
In March 2008, brother Joe McElroy announced his resignation after being an elder here for 28½ years. Everyone that knew Joe realized the love he felt for this church family. He was often the first person to shake a visitors hand and ask if they were looking for a church home. If they were … Joe quickly told them that they had just found it. After being a driving force for so long in trying to purchase land and build a larger facility, he deeply wanted to remain an elder until the building was complete. But after having suffered a stroke 2 months earlier at almost 78 years old, his trust in the current eldership gave him confidence it was now the right time to step down.
In April of 2008 … almost a year to the day that construction was stopped … the Building Committee received word our blueprints finally met fire codes. The trucks & construction workers came back, and we thanked God that the tool in spreading God's Word was once again on track. The auditorium would seat 600 souls … a number that we looked forward to reaching, maintaining, and even someday surpassing.
The following November brought us extreme loss as we experienced the sudden death of our brother Ben Haynes. Although certainly not a tall man, 'bro. Ben' was a towering example of Christianity to all of us who knew & loved him. He & Joe became elders together in December 1979. In all those years, Ben never wavered on his faith and sound belief as he spread God's Word on the radio, in the local jail, from the pulpit, or with the children from Inner City. Although he had been sick on & off over the past few years, he seemed to be in good health the day he watched family members cut down an old tree on the family home place. Shortly afterwards, he went in to take a nap, and God softly & tenderly took him home.
As members, we deeply appreciate all of the men who continue to serve as our leaders, but we are also very grateful to all those who were once in a leadership position. They were each brought to Lascassas for a purpose, and the church is stronger because of their dedicated leadership & their various God-given talents.
Then finally … on April 1, 2009 … our congregation held the first service in the new building. We were suppose to move the services over the following Sunday, but due to a baptism, the old baptistry was not prepared and the new one was. We all walked over for the baptism and evening bible study and services have been held in the new building ever since.
In order to allow some of the 'bugs' in the sound system, parking, etc., to be worked out, the actual Dedication Day was May 3rd. We welcomed 158 to Bible Study that day and 342 to our regular Worship Service. We had lunch in the Fellowship Room (the old auditorium) and met at 1:30 p.m. for the Dedication Service. Bringing the Lascassas Church past & present together, Frank Caffy led our singing … Joe McElroy spoke on memories … and our five current elders spoke on a new beginning, appreciation, unity, confidence and the future. We didn't get an exact count, but the new auditorium was full of old friends that we've known since childhood, and with new faces that are here to help reach the goals God is planning for us today. By God's grace, we knew many loved ones who had recently gone before us … such as Earl McCrary & brother Ben … were enjoying the service as well.
What changes have been made since we moved into the new building? Not many … and that's just how we had hoped it would be. The new facility was built to be a tool that helped the congregation spread God's Word to more people, especially in this community. It was built so our young people could see how to plan for the Church in the future. It was built so God could be praised … nothing more and nothing less.
And although the little country church with empty classrooms and hand-held fans will never again exist for this congregation … that's okay. We know the small-town atmosphere and love this church family feels toward Jesus Christ and His Body will forever be its foundation.
Our thanks to the late Louise Houck Wiser for her book,
“History of Rutherford County CHURCHES OF CHRIST 1811-1996”.
It is from this educational book and
from our sister, the late Mary Belle Helton Bowen,
that we obtained a great deal of information
about our congregation prior to 1976.
Linda McElroy Elrod
“…To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”