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Baptist pastor turns his church — and himself — on their head
by Michelle Zewin
Mar 25, 2008 | 1777 views | 4 4 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Nathan Orme</a> Pastor Brian Minnes, 39, came to Emmanuel First Baptist Church in Sparks seven months ago for his first senior pastor position.
Tribune/Nathan Orme Pastor Brian Minnes, 39, came to Emmanuel First Baptist Church in Sparks seven months ago for his first senior pastor position.
Pastor Brian Minnes has no problem doing cartwheels for Jesus. And that's just the beginning.

Seven months ago, Minnes took over head pastor duties for Emmanuel First Baptist Church at 1100 12th St. and so far he's just what the doctor ordered.

"My adrenaline, personality and excitement fuels this place," Minnes said. "I'm a salesman at heart and my product is Jesus Christ. I'm a grace wholesaler."

Minnes' personality came through loud and clear on Easter Sunday. After befriending a couple of kids in the neighborhood he told them if they came to church that Sunday he would do a cartwheel in front of everyone. They did, so he did.

"I got up on stage and I told everyone the story," Minnes said. "I told them, 'I'm not your grandfather's pastor and I'm a man of my word. I promised someone that if they came to church today I would do a cartwheel.' "

A drum roll began and sure enough Minnes busted out a cartwheel right there on stage for all to see.

But excitement isn't the only thing Minnes brings to the table. One of his most significant changes at Emmanuel was unifying the congregation by combining the traditional and contemporary services into one.

"Everybody said it would be pastoral suicide," Minnes said. "But it's ridiculous. There were older people at one service and young people at the other and this thought that never the two shall meet. But, of course, I'm suicidal so I did it. And it's been the best thing for the church."

Minnes explained that the only change this really entailed was in the music. Instead of organs and pianos or electric guitars there are keyboards, acoustic guitars and electric drums. And Minnes said the results have defied expectations.

"People assume that those who are older and have been coming for years would be against this change," Minnes said. "But they're the most accepting. They told me the church needs to get young again before it dies off."

Minnes said since his arrival seven months ago, attendance is averaging about 100, up from the usual 74. And Easter Sunday brought out 184 people, by far the most Minnes has seen.

"It's been really exciting," he said. "And younger families are starting to come back."

Minnes said his goal for the church has been the same since he got there: build up the ministry.

"I can't be in 15 places at once," Minnes said. "What would be really detrimental to my congregation is if I spend so much time here that I forget to be a husband and a father. As they say, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

So Minnes is doing everything he can to not only bring people into Christianity and his church but keep them there.

"Our job is to take the Gospel to the streets," Minnes said. "Jesus walked with his disciples for 3-1/2 years. Too many Christians bring people to the step of Christianity and leave them saying 'Welcome to the club.' But it's a journey. I'm a pastor and I haven't even arrived. I'm a Christian and I'm on a lifetime journey."

And it's already been quite the journey. Hailing from the Philadelphia area, Minnes grew up Roman Catholic. At 17 years old, Minnes said he was just looking for an excuse to break away from the church. One visit to the confessional gave him just what he was looking for: When the priest asked him an inappropriate question, Minnes said goodbye to Catholism and hasn't looked back.

Ten years later while living in Virginia Beach, Va., Minnes realized God had different plans for him.

"As if there isn't any irony in God's world, I met an ex-Catholic from Philadelphia at Gold's Gym."

The two became friends and Minnes discovered that the man was a volunteer youth pastor.

"I was leery like most seekers are," Minnes said. "I was not wanting to commit to anything but I was curious. This guy walked his talk."

After not stepping foot in a church for 10 years, Minnes agreed to go to with his friend. That Sunday the pastor spoke about God's grace and it changed Minnes' life forever.

"That day I was overwhelmed," he said. "I call it the light bulb philosophy. It finally went on for me and it was revolutionary. Being raised Catholic, I always thought I had to earn my way to heaven."

Soon Minnes began to help out his friend. From there he took Bible classes and became ordained.

"Before that I was a carpenter," he said. "And now I'm following the carpenter."

Minnes moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he became the youth minister. There, he built the program up from six kids to about 70, he said. But then he felt God was calling him to do something more.

"I was preaching up to 10 times a year," Minnes said. "And I loved it. I really enjoyed it. I felt like it was a gift I had been given."

And after several members of the congregation continuously sought out Minnes for guidance, he made the decision that he wanted to cover all ministry and not just youth.

"Adults are just big kids anyway," he said.

So Minnes' next decision was whether to plant a church or take over a faltering one.

"When you plant a church, you're the law from the beginning," Minnes said. "You start out with no building or finances but the trials and tribulations of that can be a little easier than taking on a church that someone has left for dead and get it thriving again."

Needless to say, Minnes chose the latter and Emmanuel First Baptist Church and its 100-year history became his project at hand.

"And it has a rich history," Minnes said. "A lot of people have poured their heart and soul into this church."

And now he's doing the same.

Emmanuel First Baptist Church is at 1100 12th St. in Sparks. Sunday service is at 10 a.m.

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Carole Billau
March 27, 2008
Brian - can't wait to see what you will bring next week! You are a man of God with plenty of energy and it is a pleasure to be a member of God's Family at Emmanuel. We are truly blessed by you and your family coming to our community to serve our Lord. The journey has just begun!
Dot Nolan
March 27, 2008
Congratulations to you for following your heart. Watching you grow up I never would have thought. LOL But Larry and I are very proud and very happy for you and your family. Continued success.

Love to all

Christopher Minnes
March 26, 2008
Hey Brian,

Next time I'm in Reno I'll stop by. (I can't believe how much you look like Uncle Ben)

Roelof Minnes Jr
March 26, 2008
I just want to say, Congratulation's Brian. You have certainly earned it. Love always, Your cousin Rudy, Melissa, Little Rudy and Madison Minnes from New Jersey !!!
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