In the beginning, 75 adults met on November 4, 1946, at Greathouse School to establish a Lutheran Church in St. Matthews. Sunday evening services were held in the school under the auspices of the Louisville Lutheran Ministerial Association.
By the fall of 1947, there were sufficient prospective members for the Board of American Missions to call Pastor Samuel P. Diehl to organize the new church. Pastor Diehl conducted his first service on Sunday, August 1, 1947.
The congregation purchased a church building and property from the St. Matthews Methodist Church, located on the corner of Grandview and Breckenridge Lane. Services there began in January, 1948. St. John Lutheran Church was officially organized on Palm Sunday, March 21, 1948, with 80 Charter Members.
The congregation grew rapidly as the average attendance increased from 65 in 1948 to 107 in 1951. Early in 1952 it was necessary that two worship services be held every Sunday morning. Plans were developed for a "new" St. John house of worship in 1955, at the current site. The congregation grew so large that during the construction of the new building worship services and Sunday school had to be moved to the St. Matthews Elementary School beginning in February, 1956 until the first service on October 6, 1957 at the present site. Dedication of the church was delayed, however, due to a gas explosion and fire on October 21st. Pastor Diehl was the only person in the building at the time and was therefore the only one injured by the blast. Due to swift work, the congregation was able to worship in the new sanctuary by Christmas of 1957. The building was officially dedicated in February, 1958.
The 60s brought more change. St. John continued to grow. New ideas were put into action. Educational programs were developed. By 1968 another expansion was needed. Plans were developed for a new north wing, for alterations to the existing wings, and to air condition the entire church. Ground was broken on November 13, 1968, with the wing being completed in October 1969.
In 1967, Pastor Diehl announced he was leaving to accept a call elsewhere, after 20 years with St. John. A committee was formed, though fearful of change, and the search for a new pastor was underway. In the summer of 1967, St. John called the Rev. Richard Whonsetler. The St. John vision continued and membership increased to over 1,000 baptized members by 1970.
In March 1973, the congregation celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Later in the year water lines broke and flooded the church causing damage to the nave and other parts of the church. An aggressive renovation of the nave and heating system ensued and new stained glass windows were designed for the garden side of the sanctuary. The windows were dedicated to the memory of loved ones in September, 1975.
The vision continued into the 80s. The economy was in decline . A new roof was necessary. Some programs of the church had to be discontinued. Attendance and income were down. Yet, St. John was determined to meet the challenge and continue to promote the vision started in the 40s.
In September 1982, the national convention of the Lutheran Church in America was held in Louisville. At that convention the LCA merged with three other Lutheran Churches to become the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. St. John was an integral part of the national convention. Many served as hosts/hostesses at the hospitality booth, others were involved with the planning of events, many attended the convention events and many of the ladies created 1200 butterfly bookmarks and greeted delegates as they arrived in town. St. John was one of the churches that delegates visited for worship on Sunday.
In March 1988, the congregation celebrated its 40th Anniversary. The church was filled with people as many past members came back for the occasion. At that time, a scholarship fund was established at Trinity Seminary in the name of Rev. Samuel P. Diehl. The church also named the social hall "Diehl Hall" in his honor.
The 90s brought more change and new vision. New pews and carpet were installed and dedicated in March 1990. Plans for a new kitchen were approved and within a year and a half the "new kitchen" was completed thanks to the fund-raising efforts of many of the women of the church.
In late 1991 Pastor Whonsetler retired and a search committee was formed. The Rev. Edward Young was called to St. John on April 5, 1992. His ministry formally began in June.
With Pastor Young's arrival, a new spirit blew through St. John. Attendance and membership steadily increased. Outreach increased and included building Habitat for Humanity homes.# were built in the 90s.
In 1995, 22 diverse members were tasked with developing a vision for St. John. The purpose of the vision statement was to find ways to be more effective in ministry in the name of Jesus Christ in the mission field St. John occupies. Part of the vision led to Friends School finding a home here at St. John. That relationship continues today.
In 1998, the congregation celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The congregation was asked to commit to three things during this grand occasion: 1)commend our Mission and Ministry to God daily in prayer, 2)pray for and then invite a friend or family member to church, and 3) come weekly to workshop and Sunday school. At this time a Covenant was also drawn up calling the members of St. John to: seek and welcome the stranger in our midst; boldly live the Faith we profess; support our mutual ministry through our prayer and offerings of time, talents and treasures; grow in our relationship to Jesus Christ through worship, service, learning, and fellowship; and support our co-workers in Christ through the ELCA, the Indiana Kentucky Synod, and the South Central Conference.
The following years brought rapid and sustained change to St. John. A million dollar Capital Campaign in 1999 led to a ground-breaking in April of 2000. Construction of the Family LIfe Center (later renamed Edward Young Activity Center) took just over a year to complete and brought in new life in the form of more rental space and more rooms for Friends School to occupy.
In addition to new construction, the early 2000s brought new staff. Ruthann Stemler was called as the Associate in Ministry in 2000. Her focus for the next 6 years was on programming for the older members of St. John, visitation, and other assistance for Pastor Young. She retired in 2006. Another new hire was David Alcorn as full time custodian in 2001.
After a 2 year wait, a full time Director of Youth and Christian Education was hired in 2005. The church had been growing and the need for youth programming beyond volunteers was realized. Martin Young was hired and brought structure and stability in a much needed area for St. John.
2008 brought an economic downturn. Combined with an ice storm that knocked out most of the city, St. John suffered along with the rest of Louisville. In the face of these challenges, St. John continued to do its best to move forward and "be the church in the world." Pastor Young encouraged three activities: review and adjust the Constitution for this new reality; create a new vision; and, put together a new Long Range Plan to set St. John up for the new millennium.
As St. John changed and adjusted to the new realities of a down economy, the membership dealt with the needs of an older building and new technology. Roofs were replaced, doors were wired with fob technology replacing keys, and other small repairs and fixes - prioritizing as necessary when funds were short.
In 2011, a new Constitution was approved. This helped solidify the records of the congregation and "got the house in order" in the event of more change. And change came soon, with Pastor Young announced his plans to retire in the following year.
In 2012 St. John bid a fond farewell to Pastor Young. A large celebration was held in the Activity Center and it was renamed in his honor.
In the 2+ years after Pastor Young's retirement, St. John held itself together with strong leadership and two equally strong Interim Ministers. A new vision statement was created to provide the Call Committee with a direction to search for the new permanent pastor. After a long, prayerful, sometimes disappointing search, St. John found its new called pastor in the Rev. Andy Rutrough. Pastor Andy began his ministry at St. John in March 2015.