New pastor faces new circumstances at Waco Baptist Church

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WACO, Ky. (KT) – Waco Baptist Church members will be huddling around digital devices on Sunday morning to hear the first word from their new pastor.

Welcome to the Days of Coronavirus.

David Johnson, 32, began his pastorate at Waco on Monday and will deliver his first message to a Facebook Live audience from a mostly empty church building. The 160-year-old church had its first livestream service ever last Sunday as Gov. Andy Beshear advised against gatherings of 10 or more.


“It’s not at all how I envisioned my first Sunday being,” he said. “It’s a loving group of people and we’re kind of all in this together figuring it out one day at a time. It’s a challenging time to do ministry. You have to think outside the box.”

Johnson has high expectations for himself and the church. He has already fallen in love with the membership who have made his transition a smooth one even during these uncertain times.


“These are people eager to serve the community and to share the gospel,” Johnson said. “That’s one of the things that drew me here was their passion to reach the community and invest (in the community). A church that’s 160 years old is typically set in its way and doesn’t want to change, but this church is not that way. They’re excited to have some fresh perspective.”


Johnson, who has been a family pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Stanton the past nearly four years, is approaching the coronavirus outbreak in innovative ways. He plans to insert more technology into the church along with doing some of the old school ways like writing cards and making phone calls as he navigates through the virus days.


The handshakes and hugs can wait, he said, and it’s certainly a difficult way to begin a ministry. But Johnson said God is faithful and he remains pumped about the potential that awaits at Waco.


“I was obviously surprised by all this, but God knew and that’s the comfort I have in it,” he said.


Johnson’s wife, Kelsey, is a teacher in Powell County schools and is home in Stanton with the couple’s three children who are 6, 3 and 6 months.


Waco is located near Waco Elementary School and is less than 10 miles from Richmond and Eastern Kentucky University. The church is already involved with the elementary school and a little less involved at EKU. He plans to push those ministries while also trying to reach the community at large with the gospel.


Waco is positioned for the future with no debt and sitting on 10 acres of land, he said. Johnson’s goal is to grow the church and serve the community while sharing the gospel at every corner. His experience as a family pastor will serve him well in the next step as lead pastor, he said.


“I’m still a pastor meeting the needs of people through the gospel,” he said. “The needs may look a little different (than children’s and student ministry) because of the life stage they’re in. But they still need the gospel, still need discipling and need to know God loves and cares for them.”


Johnson, who is from West Virginia and graduated from Liberty University, has a friendly familiar face among Kentucky Baptists in brother-in-law Matt Shamblin, the pastor of Rose Hill Baptist Church in Ashland.


Johnson’s first sermon will be on Facebook Live starting Sunday at 11 a.m. He hopes the congregation won’t have to wait too much longer to hear him in person.

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