tampabay.com

Humbled to be called to lead

Crystal River United Methodist Church welcomes its new senior pastor to the pulpit.

By GAIL HOLLENBECK
Published July 1, 2006


CRYSTAL RIVER - The Rev. David Gill will preach his first sermon Sunday as senior pastor of Crystal River United Methodist Church.

"I'm very humbled to be appointed as senior pastor of the church," Gill said in a recent interview. "During our two visits there we have sensed the deep faith of the congregation, which has been shepherded by the Rev. Alan Jefferson for the past 17 years."

Earlier this year Jefferson was appointed to serve as superintendent of the Southwest District of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. The congregation celebrated the ministry of Jefferson and his wife, Jo, last Sunday.

Gill moved here recently from Eustis with his wife of 32 years, Susan. They have four adult children.

An eighth-generation Floridian and a second-generation Methodist pastor, Gill has been the pastor of churches in South Miami, Union Park, Lake Alfred, Highlands and Fort Caroline in Jacksonville and Eustis.

He said he was "called into the ministry" while in college.

"I worked one summer for several churches that needed help to hold youth and children's activities and discovered, much to my surprise, that God was using me to help young people grow in their faith," Gill said. "The following winter I was working as a youth director at Monticello Church and during a service of Holy Communion, I felt God asking me to give my life to his service in the church."

But Gill said he "came to Christ" long before that summer.

"I have never been able to get away from the experience the first time I understood that Jesus Christ died on the cross for me personally," Gill said.

"I was 8 years old at the time and had just asked my father to help me understand why my cat had died and why anybody ever had to die. As we sat on the front porch of our wooden house, he told me that death was coming to each person because of sin, but the good news is that God has overcome sin and also death when Jesus gave away his life for everyone of us on the cross.

"I wept copiously," Gill said, "and decided to trust Jesus as my savior. Teen years for me were a time of questioning and inwardly rebelling, but God led me back to himself through teaching me to pray, all by myself and with a small group of friends in college."

Gill said his primary spiritual gifts are teaching, mercy and evangelism.

"I get to teach and evangelize through preaching the Bible and to show mercy by associating with people who are hurting and oppressed," he said. "One of my goals in life is to mentor others in practical Christianity by the way I live, not just by teaching concepts."

Gill said he hopes to continue the good work begun by previous pastors at the Crystal River church that was founded in the 1880s.

"On the foundation of faith, worship and service, which is evident in the life of this church, I am praying for God to keep lifting up the good news that Jesus Christ is the Son of God sent to save every person," he said.

"The church is large (more than 1,000 members), but as long as there are any individuals who do not believe that God loves them and wants them in his church, we have work to do."

Mrs. Gill will help with the church work, he said.

"My wife is fully devoted to Jesus and his church," Gill said. "Her main vocation is to be a schoolteacher. As she prayerfully gets acquainted with the needs of the church, she will take an active part in the part of the Lord's work that is right for her."

Gill is impressed with the church's vision.

"My first impression of the church was the largeness of its vision for the future and I'm excited about being a part of the future ministry that the large campus will accommodate. I expect the church to continue to reach all generations for Christ."

And of his personal growth he says:

"It has been an interesting journey, and I still have much to learn about following Jesus."