Pastor marks 25 years in pulpit
CONNOQUENESSING — Keith Karns, the pastor of the Church of God at Connoquenessing, 1247 Evans City Road, said its been a year of milestones for him and his church.
In July, the church marked its 10th year at its new address since its move from its cramped location at 800 S. Washington St., Evans City.
And in September, Karns himself marked 25 years as the pastor of the nondenominational Christian church.
Karns said it’s been 28 years since he first felt the calling to become a minister.
“I was raised a Methodist, and I was saved when I was 18,” he said.
“I used to work for a living as a senior territorial manager for a sales and engineering company,” he said. “Then, at 37 I felt called to the ministry, to pastor.”
“My education has been in business and then I became pastor,” said Karns. “We in the Church of God believe your calling leads you. God is not going to call on someone who is a novice. ”
Two years after receiving his calling, he was ordained by ministers of the Church of God.
He took over as pastor of what was then the Church of God in Evans City in 1997.
By 2010, the congregation was getting cramped on the church's 1.25-acre lot. The church bought 21 acres from Thomas and Cheryl Hilliard and retained Ligo Architects of Slippery Rock to design a new church and moved the 140-member congregation to its current location in 2012.
The congregation's members contributed their efforts during construction of the new church along with the contractors.
“They took my vision and made it their burden,” said Karns
Karns credits his wife, Beverly, with his longevity as pastor.
He said, “My wife and I have been married for 45 years on Sept. 23. She works right beside me. She’s a typical good pastor’s wife. She teaches the women and plays the piano and organ.”
She helps with counseling and preparing the revival held on the church property twice a year in the spring and the fall.
The Karnses raised four sons and have 12 grandchildren with the expectation of more on the way.
“They're great assets. They’ve helped me quite a bit,” said Karns.
“The congregation is pretty close-knit. Everyone knows everyone else. There are no strangers in this congregation. We don’t treat anyone as a stranger,” he said.
He said while the congregation is filled with young adults and families, the church needs to expand its horizons and “increase our outreach.”
Karns credits a couple of really good helpers with aiding him in his duties.
One of those helpers is Jon Kline of Center Township.
“I’ve been a helper for the last six years,” said Kline. “I’ve been a member of the congregation for pretty much the 25 years he’s been pastor.
“He’s very practical, so his preaching and counsel is very practical for life. He never preaches over your head. He brings it down to your level,” said Kline.
Kline said Karns’ motto is that the Gospel is only as good as it is practical.
“He’s changed my life for the better. He’s been a great mentor and spiritual leader,” said Kline.
Karns’ anniversary was marked at the end of September by a dinner at the Steamfitters Hall in Jackson Township.
Karns said he turned 65 this year and he doesn’t know if he will still by the church’s pastor when he turns 70.
“There’s always so much to deal with as pastor. I try to stay relevant and deal with today’s issues,” he said.
He said if he can continue as pastor another five years until he reaches 70 he will be very grateful.
But he added the most important part of his job was “preaching doctrine and lifting up the word of Christ.”
“I give all glory to God. I am what I am by the grace of God. He’s led and directed my life to this point,” he said.