Pastor Andrew Gardner
(Senior Pastor, Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire)
I first gave my life to God as an 8-year old. Even at that young age, I knew I needed to be right with God. When I was 16 years old, my friend and I amused ourselves by creating makeshift bombs in a shed. One of these efforts blew up, injuring my friend. It hit me that death was a reality and I needed to be sure that when I died I would be with God, so again I prayed that Christ would save me. It might seem strange to you, but after that I rebelled against God, then at Christmas 1975 it suddenly hit me that life without Jesus felt shallow and empty.
For a while I walked with God as best I could, then in the summer of 1977 God’s Holy Spirit met me in a powerful and life-transforming way. I was at a service in Garstang Free Methodist Church when I felt compelled to go to the front and kneel down. Suddenly I had the feeling of being overwhelmingly loved by God. It felt like my life had been smashed into a thousand pieces. I felt utterly worthless. I wept for over an hour because I was a sinner, then I wept as God somehow pulled me back together. From then on, I sensed a spiritual call to be in full-time Christian work. I began to study the Bible and lead worship services, to preach and to tell others about Christ. In 1979, after two years of an increasingly strong sense of calling, I joined the London School of Theology to train for the pastoral ministry. There, I went through a time of intellectual conversion, as it dawned on me that God’s truth was not merely an emotional feeling dependent on my mood, but ‘true truth’ for everyone and for all history.
I also met my wife, Katharine, at Theology College. We were married in 1981. A year later we went to work at Yeldall Manor, a Christian drugs and alcohol rehabilitation centre. This was a tough time, but we loved the exciting work, which was a great foundation and preparation for future church ministry. In 1984 I became a candidate for the Free Methodist Ministry. Since then I have pastored or helped lead church plants in Fulwood, Penwortham, Lancaster and Carnforth. In 1995 our family moved from Lancaster to Fulwood. Our three daughters grew up here, all married here and we now have five grandsons. To relax, I play golf or get absorbed by woodturning. I enjoy reading theology, books on churchmanship and sci-fi. And I love a good movie.
My heart is to grow church. I constantly long that those who gather at Fulwood will grow steadily in spiritual maturity, because the love and truth of God is clearly shared. It is thirty years since I started serving as a Christian minister and I love it more than ever. It has been, and continues to be, a great privilege to be a pastor at Fulwood Free Methodist Church.