BROOKSVILLE — The Rev. Kenneth McLellan may be 82 years old, but he's still going strong. Last month, he accepted the position as pastor of Turning Point Church of the Nazarene.
When the church's former pastor planned his retirement for late last year, the small congregation called on McLellan and his wife, Ginger, for help. The couple had ministered at the church before, when he served for a short while as the associate pastor. The McLellans said they would pray about the request.
"We were eating and sleeping and praying all night until finally, we felt that God wouldn't let us let this go," Kenneth McLellan said. "We made our decision that we would do it because God told us to."
With a successful ministry that was launched when he began preaching on the streets of Toronto at age 15 and that continued through decades of singing in gospel concerts, pastoring several churches and doing missions work — with Ginger at his side for the past 24 years — no one would have thought less of the McLellans had they wanted to retire.
"It was just one of those small churches that was losing momentum, and attendance was declining," McLellan said. "We got a burden for those people and didn't like the sound of it closing."
He preached his first sermon as the church's pastor Jan. 3.
It was in 1949 that a teenage McLellan preached his first street sermon. He had been inspired by the preaching of a then relatively unknown young evangelist named Billy Graham.
"I was always at Youth for Christ, and Billy Graham was one of our speakers fairly often," McLellan said. "He also spoke at our church. That was before he ever had his crusades."
McLellan had already decided at age 10 to become a missionary. But before venturing into the mission field, he was asked by a young couple to join them in forming a gospel singing trio. The threesome became the Canadian Viscounts, which later became an all-male quartet that went on to record several albums and win four Canadian Gospel Music Awards.
By 1984, McLellan had set his music ministry aside to begin mission work in Pakistan and India. Later, he would lead mission teams to Haiti, meeting Ginger, who was a team member on one of the trips. By then a widower, McLellan seemed perfectly matched with this dedicated Christian woman who also had a heart for missions. The two married and continued their travels to Haiti. Along the way, McLellan pastored churches in Nova Scotia, Maine and Florida, and the couple began touring as a gospel singing couple.
With the weighty responsibilities of a pastor, McLellan says he and Ginger will no longer travel. A recent concert given for the benefit of Child Evangelism was one of only a few that they will be able to fit in with their pastoral duties. For now, they both hope to help their new church grow in number while making sure it's "a very family-oriented and loving place."
McLellan noted they've gained one person each week for the past two Sundays.
"If we did that every Sunday for a year, we'd have half the church filled," McLellan said.
The church is traditional, which means the music will lean toward a Southern gospel style, McLellan said.
"Some of the old camp meeting style music that's in some of our hymn books fits us very well," he said. "Some of the old hymns have tremendous messages in them. If you don't drag them, and just tap your foot and sing along, some of them can be pretty peppy."
Musicians, such as a piano player, are very much needed.
"We're looking for musical people, for children's teachers. I guess we're almost looking for a whole staff," McLellan said.
And he's been giving a strong message to his congregation, telling them they need to be a spiritual hospital, willing to minister to drunks and prostitutes.
"We've always been rescue people, and I guess that's why we did the work we did in Haiti," he said. "We're treating this very much like that. We want to find people who might not be accepted anywhere else. If they want to stumble in our door dead drunk, we'll coffee them up and tell them about Jesus."
Services at the church are at 10:45 a.m. Sundays and at 7 p.m. Wednesdays.