God works in mysterious ways. When we are still enough to listen, we can hear Him in our hearts and minds. This week’s column came about differently than most. I felt the need to speak to this week’s topic before hitting the first keystroke.

Pastor Gary Lamb of Action Church is a busy man. When he is not taking care of his pastoral duties, he is organizing community events, operating his T-shirt business, or being a professional wrestling promoter. In his spare time, he and his wife of eight years, Christine, are busy raising children. He was kind enough to spend a couple of hours with me this week so we could talk.

With all the hats he wears, Gary has become a very public figure in our community. Hearing him speak of his love for the city of Canton was refreshing. There is so much negativity in this world, it was heartwarming to hear someone say, “I love my life and my community.” He meant it.

Any public figure will tell you everything they say and do is scrutinized. Gary is no stranger to this type of scrutiny. Most locals have at least heard of him. He hears positive and negative comments. Unlike many of us, he lets negative comments roll off him as well as anyone I know.

I told Gary I felt led to share a snippet of his story. I ask him how long he had been pastoring Action Church; a church he started. He responded that it was funny I asked. Because this Sunday, November 28, 2021, is the church’s 10-year anniversary. When he told me this, I thanked God for His perfect timing.

Gary told me about God saving him years ago. Feeling the call to the ministry, he became a pastor at a young age. His ministry flourished beyond anything he could have imagined. He said it grew to the point that his life became more about the carnal than the spiritual. Gary said his success led him to a place he was not ready for. In time, he lost his church and everything he had. When I ask him who was to blame for this loss, he said, “It was all my fault. There was no one else to blame. I was never mad at God.”

I have never been to Action Church. But before I met with him, I listened to about a dozen of his sermons. He often preaches about forgiveness which we as Christians often lack.

Every sermon I listened to come straight from the Bible. His sermons are filled with more than telling folks what to do and not do. He makes them applicable to everyday life. We need more of this in the pulpits. Though he and others who attend there jokingly refer to themselves as a bunch of misfits, they are anything but. Action is made of people from every walk of life.

In his ten years at Action Church, Gary has baptized more than a thousand people who gave their hearts to the Lord. This week, the people of his church provided Thanksgiving dinners to over 400 families. This equates to about 2500 meals. They have opened their doors to the homeless when the elements became too much for them to survive. And regardless of your sins, you will be welcomed to worship with them on Sunday morning. No one’s presence will alter Pastor Gary’s message. He ain’t wired like that.

Talking with Gary was an honor and refreshing. There is so much hypocrisy in the world, it was pleasant listening to someone who owns their failures as much as they do their successes. I talked to the pastor. The event planner. The T-shirt salesman. And the professional wrestling promoter. All wrapped in one man. Before he finished speaking, he said something which might surprise you. It did not me. He said as bad as things were at one time in his life because of his actions, he would not change a thing. The adversity helped shape him into the person he is today.

Many of you have probably attended events in Canton having no idea Gary made it happen. He does it because he loves our city. He enjoys bringing people together. It might have been easier for him to move elsewhere years ago and start over. But he believes God kept him in our community for reasons he does not even understand. Our city has reaped the benefits of this decision.

Like him. Do not like him. Make up your own mind. You will not change him. I like him and respect him. Gary hates sin as much as any preacher I know. But he loves the sinner. That is what separates him from so many others.

Happy Anniversary Gary, Christine, and Action Church for ten great years. May God give you many more my friend!

Chris Collett is a longtime resident of Cherokee County.

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