By Michael Reisig
First Christian Church of Mena is a conservative evangelical organization. Minister Gary Garrett said the church exists to search for and save the lost – to edify the saints and be a conscience for the community.
The church began as far back as 1897 but the main building in Mena wasn’t built until 1947. It was designed with extremely heavy walls, to serve as an emergency sanctuary for the community as well. Garrett has been the minister since 2000.
Pastor Garrett was born and raised in Bristol, Va., and graduated high school there in 1972. For many years he worked in sales but he had always felt a calling to preach and to teach the Bible. In 1990, he attended Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, Tennessee. After graduation he went on to seminary in Cincinnati. He began his dream of preaching in Wilmington, Ohio, in 1994. In May of 2000, he came to Mena to become pastor at First Christian Church, which he describes as being typical of rural Southern culture, which he is most comfortable in.
“I think we’re typical of churches that have been around for a while,” Garrett said. “We’re conservative socially and internally and we encourage people to live by the Bible, which is our guide. Our worship style is a blend of traditional and contemporary. This organization began out of the restoration movement — to restore the church back to New Testament principals. Scripture and the Bible alone are the sole path to heaven. The brotherhood of this organization came out of Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist styles. All had different ministries but essentially were teaching the same thing. They felt the creeds were dividing the church so they united into one official organization in early 1932.
“Today we are still a basic affiliation of congregations,” Garrett continued. “We represent a number of doctrines under one roof, but what we all have in common is that we believe the Bible is the word of God, and it is the only source of authority and truth.”
Garrett said his congregation is much like the area in that they have a number of people who have been with them for a long time and a handful of new souls. He added that his congregation is composed of giving and caring souls, always reaching out and helping those who are in need, locally and internationally.
“We support missions in Thailand and New Guinea, and we support a campus ministry at the University of Arkansas,” he explained. “We offer children’s/youth programs on Wednesday nights, as well as vacation Bible school, and we support the Cherry Hill Christian Service Camp, and we’re in the process of starting a Youth Praise Team.
We are a pretty accurate reflection of Polk County, with people from the entire social strata” he added. “The best thing any church can do is to make people more like Jesus. When that happens, they change the environment and improve the community.”
Sunday service starts at 10:45 a.m. Sunday Bible School is from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. with classes divided by ages. Sunday at 6 p.m. is a Bible Study class, and they also have a rotating Home Bible Study that meets on Thursday nights.
“Our church is doing well, congregation-wise and financially, but we always welcome people who would like to join us in the praise and the work of the Lord,” Garrett continued. “We believe people make communities more than communities make people.”