Lay minister considers Apostle PaulRussell brings business background to Christ’s Lutheran assignment

The Rev. Mark Allen Russell had always been interested in pursuing the ministry and helping others but didn’t grasp the full scope of his religion until enrolling at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Parish Lay Ministry Academy in Fort Worth.
“I started in 2000 and graduated 10,000 miles later in 2002,” said Russell, minister of Christ’s Lutheran Church at 2002 N. Lincoln Ave. “There is a depth to Christianity that most people never understand. It’s mind-blowing.”
One of the lay ministry candidate’s assignments, he said, was to choose a subject and write a Scriptural defense of it. “Mine was that the Apostle Paul would be a great Texan with a cowboy hat, belt buckle, boots and spurs,” Russell said.
“Paul loved to travel and would talk to anybody. He was boisterous, a tent-maker who loved the water and the land, and he was very courageous.”
Russell became associate minister at Christ’s Lutheran in ‘02 and was called on to accept the full-time role when Pastor Richard Lamb left 2 1/2 years ago. “You are constantly immersed in reading Scripture,” he said.
“The responsibility of being here for these people is always on your mind, and that changes who you are. In 10 or 12 minutes, the church hears what I’ve been thinking about for a week.”
An average of 20 people attends Russell’s 10:30 a.m. Sunday services.
The 58-year-old Odessa native graduated from Odessa High School in 1976 and took a degree at Odessa College. He owns Redhawk Heating & Air Conditioning Co. He and his wife Ramona have two children.
Russell was the chaplain at Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch, 25 miles north of Fort Davis, from 2000-08. He said his sermons “are always pretty much the same, that we are saved by grace through faith.
“The ELCA’s theology is founded on the Book of Galatians, which says that God loves us very much and there is nothing we can do to mess that up,” he said. “But we can’t accomplish anything outside of God.”
Asked if he has a favorite season to preach about, Russell said, “I like all the seasons.
“They have a rhythm to them. We have the excitement of God’s coming to us at Christmas and again at Easter. It works out well because the heating and air conditioning business is busiest in the summer.”
Eddie Rhodes, a heating and air conditioning man who works with Gideons International, said Russell’s “whole family is really straight up.
“They treat people with respect and don’t talk down,” Rhodes said. “Mark is a thinker. He studies things in depth and brings thought-provoking questions to the surface.”
On the church’s 60th anniversary in 2009, Lamb said Christ’s Lutheran had been founded in 1949 with 18 members who met in the San Jacinto Elementary School Auditorium until the building was opened in 1951.