Pastor Profile: Pastor Adolphus Garnett
Church: 54th Street Seventh-Day Adventist
Hometown: Los Angeles California
Family: Married to wife Carolyn 45 years, four daughters
Education: Oakwood College
Were you raised in church?
I was pretty much involved in the church up until 16 at which time I decided to go out on my own and explore the world. Then at 21, I met my wife. We got married and I was determined that I wanted to raise my family in a Christian environment so we both joined the church, got re-baptized, and have been in the church ever since.
When did you receive your call to the ministry?
It was around 1978 and I was working at a respiratory therapist clinic in Torrance Memorial Hospital. I would go to patients’ bedside, give them breathing treatments and pray for them. Patients in the next cubicle would say, “Preacher, can you pray for me.’ I would say, I’m not a preacher but I will come and pray for you.
I began to wake up preaching and I had never preached before. It was baffling to me and I shared it with my wife and she said ‘well, just pray about it.’ So I prayed and really thought nothing more of it. I was enjoying being a deacon and an elder, working as a respiratory therapist and my life with my growing family.
Then in 1978, our church was holding some evangelistic events and I was faithfully attending. One evening I got off work and got there early. I walked into the tent and immediately there was a voice just as clear saying, ‘this is what I want you to do”.
I didn’t feel the ministry was my calling, but the voice was very clear and I wanted to be an obedient child of God. I was hesitant, but I told my wife about what I thought the Lord was telling me to do and she said, ‘Oh no.’ It would inevitably mean that I would have to quit my job, sacrifice and start all over again which was rather terrifying both for her and me. So we discussed it and kind of brushed it off. And I’ll never forget the words of our pastor at the time. He said, ‘Ministry is not all it’s cracked up to be, so unless you have a burning desire in your heart, I wouldn’t bother.’ Well there was a burning desire in my heart.
In 1979, our fourth child was born three months premature. The doctor told us she was not going to make it. My wife began to question the Lord and I thought how is it that you want me to go into ministry and you are getting ready to take my baby. Well, our baby survived. My wife came to me afterwards and said, “Do you still have that burning desire?” I said yes and she said okay.
Was this your first church?
No. I started in pastoral ministry in 1984 and from then to now I’ve pastored eight or nine of our churches in the Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley area.
How did you get to 54th Street Seventh-Day Adventist Church?
When I left the office as the region director, the new region director came in and I was assigned to this. Currently we have approximately 150 members. We experienced a drop in membership prior to my getting here so we are in a rebuilding stage.
What’s the difference between the Adventist belief and a Sunday church?
As Seventh-Day Adventists, we believe that when Jesus Christ came, He died to fulfill the law and empower us to be obedient to the law. We don’t believe in righteousness by work. We believe in righteousness by faith. But as the scripture says, faith without work is dead and work without faith is dead. As a distinction, not better, not more important than anybody else but we feel that the message of the Sabbath is still binding. That's why the fourth commandment begins with remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. In it thou shalt not do any work. Unfortunately, men have accepted Sunday worship which was instituted by the Catholic church in Rome around 321A.D. There are only eight books that mention Sunday in the entire New Testament and none of them mention anything about this day becoming the Sabbath. That’s one of the things that we are different in the sense that we keep the Sabbath day holy, as God has called us. Not that we can’t worship on any other day we worship everyday but the commandment didn't say remember the Sabbath day to worship Him. It says to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
What is your preaching style and from whom do you get your inspiration?
I am a biblical preacher. My inspiration comes with visitation, where the members are. What’s going on in their private lives, not that I want to get too private, but I need to understand spiritually where they are as well as reading to understand the times that we are living now.
What are the recurring themes in your sermons?
That in everything we can trust God. We are living in a time where people do not trust God. They don't trust that God is the almighty— a very present help in the time of need. And when mankind stops depending on themselves, and put their trust in God, their lives can be much more wholesome and fulfilling and peaceful. But you can’t trust somebody you don't know. You have to spend time building a relationship and that relationship ultimately translates trust. Not just by what we heard but it has to become an experiential knowledge of God.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as pastor?
One that I am facing right now is that we have an aging congregation and as they age you lose the vitality of the church. We don't have a large segment of young people, but we do have enough to get them involved in ministry. We believe that when you die the dead know nothing.it is a sleep unto go and a death unto us. We can’t wake ourselves up, only God can. We want people to understand that when you die there is going to be a judgment which people do not what to discuss.
How involved are you in the community?
Not as much as I would like, but we have a food program every Saturday and we give out food just to say that we are not just interested in you spiritually but physically and people are receptive to that. We are working with the city to help the homeless. They have a program for people sleeping in their cars and RVs instead of being on the streets. They are asking faith groups to allow them access to parking lots so that it can get the homeless who have vehicles off the streets and into parking lots during the night. We also help seniors with their lawns and grocery store runs. Our men have even been involved in changing oil for seniors and single ladies to help then financially.
What would you say was you greatest strength?
I am a people person. I enjoy engaging, helping people and sharing with people the work of Jesus Christ.