WORTHINGTON -- The Rev. Thomas Braun just can't contain his enthusiasm for evangelism.

"Sharing Christ, man. That's where it's at," he said with a huge grin.

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Braun recently began his duties as pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 1505 Dover St., Worthington, filling the void left when the Rev. Robert Schulze accepted a call to Messiah Lutheran Church, Lakeville. Wife Colleen is joining him in the St. Matthew ministry as the director of music.

"I grew up in inner city St. Paul," Braun detailed. "My dad was a pastor."

At Concordia University, St. Paul, Braun met wife-to-be Colleen, who grew up in Reading, the daughter of Lee and the late Bev Meyer, and graduated from Worthington High School.

"We were in the same touring choir at Concordia all four years, but we didn't start dating until the last quarter of our senior year," Braun recalled.

Because of its outstanding music program, Braun chose to attend seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., and he and Colleen were married after his first year there.

"My first call was over by Rochester, a dual parish in Claremont," he detailed. "I was there three years, then I got a call to a struggling mission church in Andover, the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. They had gone through two pastors in five years, and there were some real problems there."

Although the first year was difficult, Braun stuck it out and served that congregation for 12 years. He was senior pastor of a staff of eight when he left.

"Then I started this church, Christ Victorious, in Chaska, 12 years ago," he said. "When I left at the beginning of August, I was senior pastor with seven of us on staff."

Leaving the church he founded was difficult, Braun admitted.

"We were so blessed up there. It almost became too comfortable," he said. "I'd probably had a call or two every year," which he turned down until the Worthington opportunity arose and he knew the time was right to move on.

"We shed a lot of tears," he continued, "but I know this is where God has called me to serve."

The decision to move to southwest Minnesota had nothing to do with Colleen's roots in the area, Braun added.

"This really would not make sense for anyone, but when God calls me, we go," he said. "This is a new challenge to share Christ, with new opportunities to help people grow in their faith."

Braun has jumped headfirst into those opportunities and is determined to bring some new vitality to the St. Matthew ministry.

"We really need to be a church that seeks to share Christ in the community," he explained. "We need to expand those ministry opportunities and be Christ in the community. We need to show by example, show that Christ is in our lives."

One of the first ways the church will begin reaching out to the community is with a new contemporary service, slated to begin on Sept. 13, weekly at 10:30 a.m. Colleen has been busy auditioning musicians to be part of that contemporary ministry team.

"It can also be a ministry to people who aren't churched," Braun noted about the informal service. "It's easier to bring people to a less-formal-style worship.

"I'm also trying to do as much calling on people as I can," Braun continued. "I want to get to know people. ... I'm loving people in Christ so we can make changes, slowly but surely."

The Brauns have two grown children who live in the Twin Cities: Darren, an accountant employed as a tax auditor for the State of Minnesota; and Curtis, who has a nutrition degree and works for General Mills.

"I don't have many hobbies," Braun said about his life outside the church. "I like to walk with Colleen. We're best friends. We spend our time together. I thank God several times a day for Colleen.

"I'm always looking for new opportunities to share Jesus," Braun said about his personal passion. "I'm weird that way. ... It's all about Jesus. All about Him, never about us."