This afternoon I participated in a service honoring a pastor who has served the same congregation for fifty years. On September 3, 1967, Rev. Earnest Garner moved from where he was pastoring to become the pastor of the Friendly Church of the Nazarene on the near west side of Indianapolis. With his wife and three children, he moved to Indianapolis. I am sure he never envisioned that fifty years later he would still be pastor of the same congregation. Pastor Garner may not have changed churches but the congregation has changed many times over the years. People have moved in and out of the neighborhood. Pastor Garner worked a career at Chrysler motors. He has faced up and downs including the death of his wife, and his youngest daughter. The neighborhood has changed. The city of Indianapolis has become a large city. Rev Garner has retired from his factory job, but he keeps pastoring. He has done over 200 funerals many of them people from the community around the church building. It is quite a common sight to see the pastor walking up and down the streets of the neighborhood visiting with the people of his neighborhood.
I asked him one time why he never took another church. His reply “The Lord never told me to move.”
He represents so many pastors who have never been asked to speak at a seminar. Earnest Garner has never been featured in a magazine about preachers, he has instead lived out his call in the neighborhood he has lived in for 50 years. His faithful witness for Christ has made an impact in his community.
I remember well the evening that I heard the news that the Friendly Church of the Nazarene had been destroyed by a fire. I called Pastor Garner and went to meet with him at his home. Rev Garner is always the same, he was positive and giving God the glory that no one was hurt. I went to the building and it was still smoldering and several of the folks from the neighborhood were gathered and each told Pastor Garner how sorry they were at the loss of the church.
A few observations:
Pastor Garner pastored three churches two were short and one has been long-term. He still exemplifies the idea of a pastor who lives among the people.
Pastor Garner displays the same sweet spirit whether eating a meal with him or attempting to comfort him when he is facing a major trial. His countenance and attitude remain the same. He has been and remains a steady and positive influence for Christ.
Pastor Garner loves his family and church. He has been a calm and steady influence for his family and his congregants as well as the community in which he lives.