As he gears up to celebrate his 40th year as a licensed preacher, Bishop Neil Ellis said he is “humbled” by the fact that God saw fit to call him into the sacred gospel ministry and allowed him to preach the “glorious” gospel.
Ellis gave thanks to God for the late Dr. Earle Francis whom he said recognized the call of God on his life and licensed him to preach the gospel on August 22, 1982, and the late Dr. Charles W. Saunders who ordained him into the sacred ministry in May 1986.
Ellis, who is gearing up to retire as senior pastor at Mount Tabor Church (MTC) will celebrate his 40th year on Sunday, August 21; his official anniversary is Monday, August 22.
Ellis’ retirement is scheduled for December 2022.
The “soft” Sunday celebration which will kick off the launch of the countdown to Ellis’ retirement will take the form of tributes and taking people down memory lane.
An official retirement gala is scheduled for October 14. The official retirement service is December 11.
Looking back at the past four decades, Ellis said many changes have taken place since 1982.
“I have pastored under every prime minister [Sir Lynden Pindling, Hubert Ingraham, Perry Christie, Dr. Hubert Minnis and Philip Davis] in our nation’s history [to date]. That in itself speaks to the many changes in our country over the last 40 years that have had an impact on the way we do ministry.
“In 1982, Sundays were sacred days – non-essential businesses were closed and food stores were only open until 10 a.m. Today, Sundays are just like Fridays,” said Ellis.
“In 1982, sporting events, if played, were done in the afternoons but, today, the reality is different. This generation seems more and more determined to destroy the foundations which upheld previous generations. Those solid foundations such as holy matrimony, good, wholesome family life, the high ethics of public and political offices and faith in the Bible as the inerrant word of God, seem to be receding from their roles in national life.”
Referencing other changes in the church he has seen, Ellis said many of today’s preaching makes reference to the Bible, but he said the preaching is mixed with human wisdom and opinions so much so that it loses its divine authority and uniqueness.
“Many preachers have stopped preaching the word of God in its power and authority. At the same time, many Christians have become so secularized in their worldview that to them the Bible has been reduced to nothing more than a great work of spiritual inspiration instead of the authoritative, infallible inerrant word of God.”
Ellis said Christians are increasingly responding to opinion polls, popular human philosophies, concepts and gimmicks to address the needs in their lives, demonstrating a lack of confidence in the sufficiency and authority of the scripture.
“For too many people, the Bible may be a great showpiece on their desks or coffee tables, but the truth is that it occupies a very significant and unproductive place in their lives.”
Ellis celebrates four decades as he continues his journey to retirement as MTC senior pastor, a process that has taken 10 years. He gave the church notice in 2012. As his final year winds down, he said he feels “fulfilled”.
“God has allowed me the opportunity to lead some of the greatest people here in our country: the Mount Taborites. I’m so grateful. This has been a challenging and wonderful experience and, now, I feel like I have run my leg of the relay and it’s time to pass the baton on.”
When he officially steps down, Ellis said he has several options to pursue, but has not given any meaningful attention as he remains focused on his assignment at MTC until the end.
“I want to end this part of the journey strong. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I would have done so.”
Ellis previously told The Nassau Guardian that he is still sought after for conferences and special church events. Even though he is stepping down from the top spot of MTC, he said he was not retiring from active duty.
Ellis is also the founder and presiding bishop of Global United Fellowship (GUF). He won’t be stepping down from the organization, which is headquartered on New Providence, and has expanded to over 40 countries, embracing over 1,400 churches and organizations.
“One step at a time,” Ellis previously told The Nassau Guardian. “I do ascribe to the view that a fellowship as intricate as mine should be led by a senior pastor.”
He also said at some point a person has to know when to fold.
Ellis accepted the Lord at age nine. He answered the call to preach at age 21. He was licensed to preach at age 22. He was ordained into the ministry at 25 and started pastoring at age 26.