Pastor Gary Lewis is the 60th pastor to serve at Bristol since it was established in 1842. A former newspaper reporter, Pastor Gary brings a unique skill-set as pastor. He teaches and preaches from the Bible in a clear, concise style.
He began his pastoral work on Jan. 1, 1989, and has served churches in Milford, Marion, Gas City, Bluffton, Logansport and Crawfordsville before arriving to serve Bristol in July 2017. He earned his Master of Divinity at United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Franklin College of Indiana. He and his wife Jenny have been married 34 years. Their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter reside in Oneonta, New York.
Here is Pastor Gary’s salvation story in his own words:
“I did not grow up in the church. In fact, I have no memory of going to church with my parents – not even to a wedding or a funeral. My parents did allow me, though, to attend church with some friends. Ernie and Iris Hopkins of Waveland, Indiana, picked me up and brought me to church every Sunday.
“I didn’t know it – but I was attending a Baptist church then. The folks at Freedom Baptist Church took this unattached tag-along with the Hopkins’ clan and loved on me. I will never forget the Sunday night when our new pastor – it was his first Sunday – was preaching. He issued an invitation to come forward and accept Jesus as Savior of my life. He explained how Jesus died on the cross to save my sins and how I did not have to be “good enough.” All I needed to do was accept him and follow him as Lord so I can experience God now and eternity in heaven. I was 17-years-old at the time. I turned to my friend Tony and said, ‘I am ready to follow Jesus so he can be Lord of my life and I can experience eternal life.’
“Many years later, Iris told me that instead of walking directly forward, I went all the way to the back of the church and walked up the center aisle. She said she had never seen anyone do that before! I wish I could tell you that I saw the angels descend from the sky – I didn’t. All I knew is those folks at Freedom Baptist Church had something I was missing.
“I guess that first experience is fitting because my relationship with Jesus Christ has filled a void in my life. No matter where I am, where I serve, or what problem or difficulty I may be facing, God’s presence is right there beside me … urging me to keep moving forward in faith.
“Every day after that, every decision after that, God has been with me, walked beside me, helped to guide me. He has led me to a purpose-driven life, dedicated to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to a world in need.”
CALL TO MINISTRY
It was while attending his home church, St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Syracuse, Indiana, that God began to direct Gary’s life into full-time ministry. Here is how he describes it:
“I really began to grow in my faith by being involved in a small group at church. I was named chairperson of the evangelism committee. I began reading books and networking with other churches (we didn’t have the Internet back then) about evangelism and began feeling a calling from God. I was working as a reporter for The Goshen News and was happy and fulfilled in my new position. Our daughter, Sarah, was born and I was busy trying to learn the ropes. It was my church involvement that began pulling me into a different direction.
“At first, I flatly resisted any thought of a change. What became clear to me is that God wanted me to stop reporting on the news and instead invest my life into a different kind of news. The kind of news that really matters. Then, it happened. This unsettling prayer time with God suddenly took a new turn.
“Lewis Hathaway was the pastor at St. Andrew’s at the time. He called me into his office and told me that God had laid on his heart to ask me to preach on a Sunday he would be away. I was flabbergasted. I resisted and told him I was not a preacher. Lew persisted, though, and I finally relented.
“It was about a month away and I worked constantly on that first sermon. It was awful! Yet, I experienced a different form of communication on that Sunday. Somehow, God used my words to impact others. The best way I can describe it is that it was like the words floated off the page.
“People shook my hand after the service and asked me if I had ever considered the ministry. They sensed something about that message. While, I wanted no part of it, in my heart-of-hearts, God was DOING something in my life. It felt right.”
“So with a two-year-old at home, I quit my job and went to seminary in Dayton, Ohio. It wasn’t easy. I can show you the spot on the road at State Road 13 when I nearly turned around and began thinking about getting my newspaper job back.
“Instead, I kept driving south – and I haven’t stopped driving since. Ministry is not easy work. Yet, God’s calling on my life continues to this day.”