Thursday, February 28, 2013
Lifelong Catoosa County resident the Rev. Bill Gardner is serving at a church close to home for the first time in his 25 years of ministry. After serving in Tiftonia, Ooltewah and Dalton, he now serves at Cloud Springs Baptist Church in Fort Oglethorpe.
Working in the community he calls home, Gardner plans to take the church to the next level of growth over a 10-year period.
He noted that statistics compiled by the Southern Baptist Convention and other denominations show that 5,800 youth between the ages of 12 to 18 in Catoosa County do not attend church.
“What we are hoping here is if we can gain 10 percent of the students not attending church in six years that would be 580 kids,” said Gardner. “I’m looking 10 years down the road at what types of facilities we need to have, and God will bring that about.”
Youth need a network of people to laugh with in joyous occasions and to cry with in sad times, he said. Gardner added that many youth are dealing with being in a family that is falling apart or dealing with the stress of unpredictable weather like tornadoes.
He plans to add more outreach ministries of the church as well and to host men’s and women’s conferences.
“We’ve got to follow the plan that God gave us,” said Gardner. “We’ve got to go into the hedges and spread the message of hope. To change society you must love people to give them hope. They need a lot of hope.”
In 2010 Gardner was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said his faith and hope for a cure led him into a closer walk with God and a realization that all things are possible with the help of Jesus.
“I was losing weight, not feeling well and unable to sleep,” said Gardner of his cancer diagnosis, which he received in the summer of 2010. “I did not have the energy to pastor and doctors ran tests and found that I had prostate cancer. I was in shock. I’ve held the hands of people that had a bad heart or cancer before, but when it came down to it, I was so busy that I did not take care of myself.”
God allows things to happen to slow people down in order to focus on him, he said.
“A lot of people do work for God, but it’s more important to have an intimate relationship with God,” said Gardner. “God showed me a few things through my cancer. The ‘all clear’ came last August of 2012.”
Now cancer-free, he plans to help others walk hand in hand with Christ too.
“This world can’t keep standing as it is,” said Gardner. “We’ve got kids that go to bed hungry and don’t know where their mom or dad is. We have single moms and single dads. Something has to change.”