By Pastor Paul Koch
I grew up here in Ventura California. I went to Montalvo Elementary, Cabrillo Middle and Buena High School. I was an active part of a Boy Scout Troop, learned to surf, applied for my first job, had my first girlfriend and experienced my first heartbreak right here. Throughout all those years, through the tides and turmoil of a young man coming of age, I was formed in the Chris%an Faith at Grace Lutheran Church.
While I didn’t know it at the time, Grace Lutheran was imparting to me something far bigger and more profound than its exterior portrayed. This plain looking, stucco covered church stands in a long and rich heritage. It confesses a faith that was defended and paid for by the blood of martyrs, far lost to our memory. The rhythms of its worship and the central teachings of the church are marked by antiquity and seemed less malleable than much of what passes for spirituality today. There is a much-needed depth that lives within these walls.
Through the faithful preaching of my childhood pastor, Dr. Ben Yaspelkis, and the instruction of the many volunteers of this congregation, my understanding of who I am and my place is in this world was being formed. I began to understand myself as a called and gathered child of God, a baptized Saint that would live in this world, though this world is not all there is. Christ and His gifts were consistently placed before my eyes as I found hope, security, and identity in a living Word of forgiveness and compassion. Within the walls of Grace Lutheran Church, I was caught up in a grand story that began before I arrived and would not end until the culmination of all things.
When Dr. Luther spoke about the nature of the church, he wrote about the work of the Holy Spirit. He said, “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and keeps me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” (Small Catechism, ART. 3)
While I was certainly being called and enlightened by the gifts of Christ, I realized that I was not alone. Just as our Lord gathered me to himself by the Gospel, so he gathered the whole church. My story wasn’t just my story, it was the story of so many others. Equally rooted in the blessings of Christ, equally in need of the identity, security, and meaning that was given by this ancient and living faith. And this gathering of the Saints was happening at Grace. My story is part of our story. Together we are inheritors of those precious gifts that the Saints before us have preserved and delivered to us. We are a church with exceedingly deep roots and those roots fuel our gathering together even today. From the elements of our worship to the teaching of our children we now hand on that which we’ve received. We form the visible foundation that is not easily swayed by every wind of change on the horizon. Our children and their children will benefit from what we are doing right now.
For while we are rooted in a rich and enduring faith, we are a thriving congregation as well. Our grounded core allows new branches and fresh ideas to blossom. Stemming from the foundation of proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Grace is growing freely within the society where we have been planted.
We are a dynamic and living community. We are a people who both stand boldly on what has gone before even as we engage the unknown of what tomorrow brings. We do not shrink from the challenges of the next generation but engage with the treasure we have received. The Word of God that has been the sure guide for our journey is now held forth as we boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ today and tomorrow.
The mission is now. The time is now. We are well prepared by those deep roots to take up the task set before us. Grace is a place where the love of Christ overflows, where there is forgiveness and support, where care and compassion continues to be handed on. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
The heart of our life together at Grace is grounded in worship. Yet, it is not centered on our acts but rather on our Lord's life-giving promises. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Jesus Christ came into the flesh to give His life as a ransom for many. And though our crucified and risen Lord is now seated at the right hand of God awaiting the Last Day, He feeds us with life by His Holy Word and Sacraments. In these gifts our Heavenly Father is present for us. There He delivers His freeing gifts of forgiveness and salvation.
We are rooted in a rich and deep heritage, reaching back to the ancient Christian Church. We stand firm upon the commands and gifts of our Lord Jesus Christ and thrive in our confession of the one true Christian Faith.
We believe, teach, and confess:
- The Word of God is inerrant and the only source of teaching.
- God created the world.
- Jesus Christ died to pay for the sin of all mankind.
- We receive our salvation from death and hell from Christ alone.
- God is found, today, in His Word and Sacraments.
- The Holy Spirit works through this Word to gather and enlighten us.
We join others who confess likewise as a member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LC-MS).
LC-MS recognizes the Lutheran Confessions as a clear exposition of God's Holy
Word. Click here to read the Lutheran Confessions.
Pastor Paul Koch grew up in Ventura, CA. He was a member of Grace Lutheran Church since he was six years old. Pastor Koch completed his degree from Concordia University, Irvine and then graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 2003. He served a congregation in Kingsland, GA for eight years before Grace called him to be their pastor.
God has blessed Pastor and his wife, Cindy with a family of 5 children. Between homeschooling, CrossFit and Jiu Jitsu, he and his family stay active! Pastor Koch enjoys to engage the questions concerns of our culture and is editor of thejaggedword.com and thecraftofpreaching.com. He loves to talk theology and welcomes all discussions!
9:00 am Sunday Morning Worship
10:15 am Coffee Fellowship
10:45 am Sunday School: Preschool thru Adult