One of Those God Things

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Steve Willis in Article from The Messenger

More than 25 years ago, Dee’s younger sister was 14-years old and loving her youth group.  Before their new youth pastor came to town she was only slightly involved with Simpson Creek Baptist Church but under the leadership of this new guy, the youth group was vibrant again.  Jennifer (Dee’s sister) would share with me what they were learning, activities they were planning, and how she was growing closer to the Lord.  My mother-in-law was the church secretary and told me I needed to meet this high-energy staff member.  As a college student ready to head off to seminary to study youth ministry, she knew we would have a lot in common.

Soon thereafter, I grabbed dinner with him.  His enthusiasm for the youth ministry was contagious.  He had lots of dreams and visions for the youth ministry, but at the same time, his home church in Kenova, WV had recently expressed interest in him returning to join their staff.  He asked me to pray for wisdom in his decision making process.

The young youth pastor was a guy named Johnny McCallister.  He did accept the call back to First Baptist Kenova and after a year or so on staff, he noticed a dilapidated car garage next to the church and thought, “That would make for a great youth facility.”  With the help of a lot of young parents whose children were about to enter the youth ministry, Johnny and crew whipped up a new youth facility that helped draw hundreds of kids in the Tri-State to First Baptist Kenova.

While Johnny served in the Garage less than two full years, his impact and vision still affect us today.  Having The Garage youth facility was a major factor in my deciding to come here when Pastor Ron first called in 1998.  I thought it ironic that the guy who was once youth pastor to Dee’s little sister, the guy who asked me to pray for wisdom as to whether or not he should return to Kenova, it was that same guy who paved the road for me to come serve here and help lead the youth ministries for nearly a decade.  It’s one of those “God things.”

Today, Johnny is pastoring a church in Indiana which was named one of the 100 fastest growing churches in America. He has reached thousands for Christ since his time here in Kenova.  This weekend, I invited Johnny to come back and share some encouraging words with us at both Sunday morning worship services.  I look forward to what he will say and I hope you’ll make special effort to hear this blast from the past with our very own hometown hero.

–Steve