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Herb McMillian serves Nazarene for nearly 50 years

Herb McMillian has been with the same church for nearly 50 years

Associate pastor for senior adults at the First Church of the Nazarene, Herb McMillian, will be celebrated on Sunday for his unique long-term tenure at the same church.
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Associate pastor for senior adults at the First Church of the Nazarene, Herb McMillian, will be celebrated on Sunday for his unique long-term tenure at the same church.

He thought he’d be an insurance agent, just like his father. It just wasn’t his passion.

“I would rather sell eternal life insurance than earthly life insurance,” said Herbert McMillian, associate pastor for senior adults at First Church of the Nazarene. “It’s my job to help people find God’s plan for their life and to make it to heaven.”

McMillian, 71, is in a unique situation. He’s been at the same church for nearly 50 years.

On Sunday, the church that he has served for almost half a century will put spotlight on his contributions with a “This Is Your Life” celebration and open house at the church at 1616 59th St. W., Bradenton, from 3 to 5 p.m., and the ceremony following right after. Hundreds are expected to attend.

The Kentucky native began his church work story by attending Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville. That’s where he met his future wife, Dianna.

“She was a PK,” McMillian said. A preacher’s kid. “She knew that she did not want to marry a preacher.”

But a visit to Bradenton with a traveling church men’s choir brought him a job offer in a year’s time as a youth director. Right out of college, he was driving with his wife all the way to the Gulf Coast.

I would rather sell eternal life insurance than earthly life insurance.

Herb McMillian, associate pastor for senior adults at First Church of the Nazarene

In 1968, the church was concerned the majority of its youth group was more involved outside of the church than inside. McMillian was there to change that. For 20 years, he would build up that youth group with a choir and take the group traveling all over the world. Over his tenure, he’s been to more than 30 countries, including Italy, England, Ukraine and Israel.

Now, he’s providing the same ministries and activities, minus the singing, to a more mature group. His senior adults position, now on a part-time basis, calls for visits to hospitals and nursing homes, guiding people on their way to heaven.

“It’s been fun to know a lot of people,” he said. “I like people, and usually they like me.”

He peels back the layers of the human soul, finding that everyone wants to be loved, to be acknowledged.

“I enjoy characterizing people’s lives and finding the uniqueness about that individual and communicating that and quite often in a humorous way, finding some humor at a moment when it could be a rather sad thing,” he said.

The church has celebrated his contribution at his 40th anniversary, but this celebration is expected to be much bigger with friends, family and former colleagues flying in for the event.

Dianna McMillian said the church went beyond what they needed to do.

“I think they’re really a bunch of wonderful people to work for,” she said, now a volunteer for the church. “My husband has had such a history there.”

He’s lasted through eight pastors, each one able to choose his own staff, and each wanted to keep him on. He and his wife adopted and adapted to each of the pastors’ ways.

McMillian has tried to look at retirement. He likes traveling, but not that much. He likes exercise, but not that much.

“I’m going to live to be 100 or die trying,” he joked.

When thinking back on his life at First Church of the Nazarene, three things came to mind:

“The faithfulness of God, the goodness of God’s people and the blessing of a real partner in ministry through my wife.”

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse

If you go

What: “This Is Your Life” celebration for associate pastor Herbert McMillian, who has been with the church for nearly 50 years.

Where: First Church of the Nazarene, 1616 59th St. W., Bradenton

When: Sunday, Feb. 26. Open house from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with the ceremony following

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