Rev. Gary, Sonja , Daniel and Joanna Bettie
Looking back over his calling as a pastor, Gary Beattie is the first to admit that he has come a long way. He is now one of the senior pastors at Bangor Elim – the church where he was once employed to clean the toilets.
The church’s team leadership style is unique in that Gary shares the leadership with fellow-minister David Beckett.
‘Our church is team ministry driven’, he explains,.
‘When we came, Bill Craw-ford and David Beckett had already been here for a long time.
‘We never use the term senior pastor, but as Bill was the oldest, he naturally did the senior pastor responsibilities, then, when he retired, David and I decided we would run with a senior pastoral team. We oversee different areas but share the the overall responsibility. It’s a great support. Rather than all the pressure and responsibility falling on one man’s shoulders, it falls on two.
‘It took a bit of time to build it but we’ve always been close, so it wasn’t difficult.
‘People on the outside often find it hard to understand because we don’t work on a hierarchy. At Bangor, the pastors are not at the top of the pyramid, but at the bottom, supporting and helping the body,
‘We’re not the bosses, we’re there to help, support and equip the church’.
Meanwhile, the team at Bangor grew last year with the addition of a third pastor, Hugh Moore. And in the almost ten years that Gary’s been at Bangor, a lot has happened at the church,
He says, ‘We really are a 24/7 church, Something is happening every day and night of the week, We have around 800-1 ,000 different people pass through the doors on Sundays.
‘We have two regular services – one in the morning and one at night. Our building seats 700 and at the moment we’re looking at extending o premises, increasing the seating capacity to 950.
We’re a very evangelic church. We’re in the middle of a five-year vision called Full House. Jesus said, “Go into highways and byways and call them to come in, so that my house may be full”. We believe that Jesus wants his Church to be full – not just of people but of people who are full of Him, Every empty seat represents a soul and a life.
‘In everything we do, we try to have an evangelistic aim in mind, One way we reach into the community is through our Social Action Team (SAT) aim is to reach out practical ways.
‘Among other things they run a cancer support group, a well as Freezer Friendly, which provides hot meals for families with people in hospital etc. They also work with the local centre for ex-offenders.
‘Grief Share is a programme which helps those who have suffered bereavement, It’s not hard core evangelism, but we try to share the love of God in practical ways,
‘Bangor has a population of 60,000 people and there are around 60 evangelical churches, so our desire is to reach at least 1 ,000 people then we will have done our share’.
Gary admits that at onetime c he could never imagine himself as a full-time minister.
‘It came as a shock to many who knew me, never mind me!’ he admits. ‘I was a bit rough around the edges. I gave my youth leaders a air bit trouble land funnily enough, now some s of them are members here in Bangor and I’m their pastor.
‘It’s quite interesting where God takes you if you’re wise enough to put your life in his hands, To end up pastoring any church, never mind the sort of church we pastor now, as well as being a member of the Irish Executive, is amazing. I would never have dreamed that God would have used me as He has.
Gary’s testimony is an encouragement to anyone struggling with the call of God on their lives.
He says, ‘grew up in East Belfast at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland in a very working class environment. I had no church background whatsoever and was never involved in the church .
After four years at Dromore and just under three at Dundonald Elim the call came for him to back to pastor Bangor – this time as pastor.