District Elder Ronald Earl Stephens

District Elder Ronald Earl Stephens is Temple Church of Christ’s only fourth pastor in 100 years.

The Temple Church of Christ, 2741 Dayton St., will host its Centennial Celebration from Friday, November 30 and Sunday, December 2. It is the oldest Apostolic Church in the St. Louis area. The Centennial theme is “Continuing the Legacy … Embracing the Future.”

The current pastor is District Elder Ronald Earl Stephens (2008 – present), only the church’s fourth pastor in 100 years. Serving before him were Elder Clifford Wayne Matthews Sr. (1997-2007), Bishop Samuel Austin Layne, Sr. (1967-1997) and Bishop Austin Augustus Layne, Sr. (1918-1967).

The church went from worshipping in tents, storefronts and stables to mansions and opulent edifices with modern amenities. It all started in a little storefront church on Market Street. On November 20, 1918, Elder Austin Layne and his wife, Lady Selena Alberta Layne, arrived in St. Louis. Upon their arrival, they assumed responsibility for a small church with a congregation of some seven to 12 people. They held religious services at the Market Street location, with a seating capacity of approximately 25.

The members of the St. Louis storefront church were very poor. Consequently, the Laynes used their personal funds to buy 25 chairs and a stove. They also wallpapered the interior of the building. They worshipped at this location until the building was leased and they were forced to move.

After moving from Market Street, they found a new location on Laclede Avenue, also in St. Louis. The monthly rent was $20. It was a smaller and less desirable building without conveniences next to a horse stable.

Temple Church of Christ moved into a more desirable location in the fall of 1920. The new location on Leffingwell and Bernard streets was more commodious and sanitary. However, with the monthly rent being $10 extra, some of the members thought the church would not be able to make the payments, since they struggled to pay the $20 monthly payment at the previous location. Their courageous leader told them that God would provide – and that He did!

In the spring of 1922, Elder Austin Layne was informed of a large three-story mansion on Bell and Cardinal streets for sale for $14,000. He immediately began negotiating for the property –with no down payment. The church was given three months to raise $1,000, in addition to the $5,000 that the real estate company would loan them. Again, members wondered how they would pay for the property.

Elder Austin Layne was a risk-taker and stuck to his mantra that “God will provide.” With the help of the Lord and the cooperation of church members, they made the $6,000 down payment. Although they were unable to make any renovations, the building was used as a home for some members, as well as a parsonage for the pastor and his family. They were also able to remodel the stable in the rear of the building on Cardinal Street. In the spring of 1926, Elder Austin Layne felt led to remodel the first floor of the building. The progressive and proactive congregation gave $600 for the project to get underway. The mortgage of the property at Bell and Cardinal was liquidated in 1936.

On January 18, 1948, property was purchased at 4146 Washington Blvd. in St. Louis. This would be the new home for church members. The new edifice was built and equipped for $125,000. On September 12, 1948, the cornerstone was laid. On February 18, 1949, the saints worshipped in their new edifice and the first communion service was held. On November 25, 1962, the church liquidated the mortgage – six years before maturity. The last project to be completed by Bishop Samuel Layne was the installation of central air-conditioning for the church, which was estimated at $11,000.

In April 2008, Pastor Ron E. Stephens was installed as pastor. Under his leadership, many accomplishments were achieved at the Washington Boulevard location, which included the reversal of the pending sale of the property to include the parking lot owned by the church, restoration of the baptismal pool and building-wide renovations.

On November 1, 2015, the church moved from Washington Boulevard to its present location at 2741 Dayton St. With the help of the Lord and under the leadership of Pastor Stephens, they paid cash to purchase the building (with two parking lots) and additional property. This means … no future mortgage to burn! As of today, the sanctuary has been totally renovated, extensive work was done on the two parking lots and the entire roof has been replaced, among other renovations and additions.

Elder Stephens is lauded as a visionary and a change agent. Since his arrival, he has implemented the School of Prayer and Community Cafés in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office, Vision for Children at Risk, St. Louis System of Care and community leaders. Desiring church members to be financially stable, he partnered with St. Louis Regional Unbanked Task Force to offer budgeting and finance classes. His aspiration to be a progressive church with a family-like feel led to the creation of Brother’s Keeper and other initiatives.

The most recent groundbreaking initiative of District Elder Stephens was the establishment of C.A.T.C.H. – Christ Amplified to Change Hearts. In September 2018, Elder Stephens closed the church on a Sunday morning and took to the streets. The congregation conducted outreach in five different locations and concluded with a worship service in a local park.

For more information or tickets to the Centennial banquet on December 2, visit http://templechurchofchrist.com or call 314-535-7458.

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