Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church
Grace Alone. Faith Alone. Scripture Alone.
Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Panama City Beach began as the vision of just a few people many years ago. It started as a small ministry in 1953. Trinity Lutheran Church in Panama City, the "mother church" in this area accepted the property from Judge Ira Hutchison so it could build a beach chapel. The chapel, built and dedicated in 1960, was called the Holy Cross Lutheran Chapel, with the Reverend H. J. Storm of Windsor, Ontario, as its preacher. A year later, the large wooden cross was erected outside by Mr. & Mrs. Bill Hackbarth in memory of his mother, Mrs. G. W. Hackbarth, Sr.
Attempts to establish a permanent ministry at the beach failed until 1987. Then the church leased the chapel to the Southern District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. John Johnson was called from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, as a missionary-at-large and asked to begin work in Panama City Beach. The chapel housed the new ministry.
Pastor Johnson began in July, 1987, by gathering demographic information, getting the facilities in order, canvassing, and planning for the future church. In September, 11 people gathered for informal worship and Bible study. Through prayer and hard work, the ministry grew. Regular services and classes began, and on May 22, 1988, the church held its Charter Sunday with 35 baptized and 30 communicant members.
In 1989 the church was dedicated, became Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, and bought the building and property from Trinity Lutheran. Pastor Johnson accepted the call from the new church to serve as its first pastor. He faithfully served Christ Our Savior until he accepted a call to Boynton Beach, Florida in October, 1994. The following year, a call was extended to Rev. Jason Rensner, who served from June 1995 until November 1996 when he was called to a church in Illinois. Rev. Keith Enko was called to be the third pastor of Christ Our Savior in July 1997. Pastor Enko accepted a call to New York in June 1999. In October 1999, a call was extended to Rev. Robert Lydick who became the fourth pastor of the church and served until his retirement in December 2013. On July 13, 2014, the congregation of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church voted unanimously to call Pastor Timothy E. Sowers to serve as the churches new pastor. He had been serving as the interim pastor of the church since April, and was officially installed during services on Sunday, August 3, 2014. In June of 2016, Pastor Sowers received a call to teach at Concordia College in Selma, AL, which he accepted. On July 17, 2016, the congregation voted unanimously to call Pastor Jack Onkka to serve as the churches new pastor.
The original chapel was razed in 2001 and the new church and fellowship hall were built. The fellowship hall uses part of the old chapel's foundation. The large wooden cross still stands. The church conducts weekly Sunday services and Children's Church, Bible Study, Catechism Classes, fellowship groups, Vacation Bible School programs and seasonal holiday services. To the community we offer a Food Pantry, handmade heart pillows for local cardiac patients, and a Thrift Store. We support our winter northern visitors from the United States and Canada, and we serve as the "guest church" for many summer visitors. In these ways, we spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.