Friday, April 12, 2013
In one of his jobs, he pronounces people dead. In his other job, he preaches the “word of life.”
Kenny Johnson has been Georgetown County’s coroner since 1997 but is now the pastor at Ringel Heights Baptist Church.
“I was called into the ministry at 16-years-old and it was something I pursued in my early adult life,” Johnson said. He attended Holmes Bible College in Greenville but after graduating he took a different path and went into law enforcement.
Johnson joined the Georgetown Police Department in 1982. He later went to work with the Sheriff’s Office, which is where he worked until being elected coroner.
“I never really followed through with my calling,” Johnson said.
He was an active member at Screven Baptist Church for more than two decades.
He taught a Sunday school class, sang in the choir, was chairman of the deacon board but knew there was more he was supposed to be doing.
In 2010, “after years of wrestling with it,” Johnson said he told God if becoming a pastor was what he wanted him to do, he would do it.
He received his license to minister in October 2010 and was ordained under the Southern Baptist Association last year. He then told the leadership of the association he would be happy to be a fill-in minister at any church that was in need.
That led to the talk about Ringel Heights Baptist who, at the time, did not have a pastor.
“I never had thoughts about becoming their pastor,” Johnson said.
In the spring of 2012, Johnson was asked to preach at a Wednesday evening service at Ringel Heights. Then, he was asked to conduct a Sunday service. After that, church leaders asked if he would do all the services in the month of May.
Johnson was asked to take over the pastor’s position on an interim basis.
“I prayed and was seeking the Lord then felt this is where God wanted me to be,” Johnson said. “After a couple of months of prayer and consideration I accepted the offer of becoming the full-time pastor.”
Johnson said he explained to the church members before he accepted the position there may be occasions where his duties as coroner may conflict with his being at a service. As of this week, that has not been a problem.
“I have part-time deputy coroners who can step in to help, if they are needed,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said he has made sure he is not using county property in his duties at the church. That is why, for example, the church has provided him with a cell phone. He did not want to use the county-supplied phone for church business.
Marilyn Shelley, a Ringel Heights member, said Johnson makes the services exciting.
“It’s never dull. My son came a couple of times and would almost fall asleep. But with Kenny he is wide awake the whole time,” Shelley said.
Julia Lambert said “he is a wonderful pastor and he has done so much for our church. I love Kenny and I love his wife.”
Johnson has been using both Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word about the church.
“We had a wonderful service this morning. Two people accepted Jesus as their Savior. 250 people worshipped and received The Lord’s Supper. God is pouring out His spirit on His people,” Johnson posted after this week’s Sunday service.
Her said he plans to continue to use social media and other avenues to get the message out.
“We have to be able to spread the good news in as many ways as possible,” Johnson said.
Johnson also has a third job. He is a part-time director intern at Graham Funeral Home.
“My wife (Rhonda) had a stroke a couple of years ago and is unable to work. I am like everybody else. Working to pay the mortgage,” he said.
Johnson said he is thankful to God and the members of Ringel Heights for giving him his first pastoral position.
“I feel like every time I am there I am rewarded. When I see people show up like they do. Despite my ranting and hollering style, they keep coming back,” Johnson said.
By Scott Harper