Young pastors step up

Published 8:53 pm Monday, September 17, 2012

Marking what one young pastor calls a “shift in the kingdom,” a number of young men from Suffolk and the surrounding area recently have taken on their first positions as pastors of established churches in the region.

“I believe that there is a shift going on,” said Travis Copeland, who grew up in Suffolk and is the new pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Kilmarnock. “I believe that God is calling young men to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. God leads strong young men that are going to stand firm.”

Copeland is one of several men under the age of 40 — at least five, at last count — to have taken new positions in the last year or so. They may be young now, but they started even younger.


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John Moore, 29, felt the desire to be a pastor at such an early age that his father built him a pulpit and he used the end of a jump rope as a microphone to practice. He now is in seminary and this month preached his first sermon as pastor of Sixth Street Baptist Church.

“Some guys are gifted in sports,” he said. “I guess my gift was proclaiming the gospel. I’m definitely excited about it. Pastoring is what I was born to do.”

Moore said he is a “people person” and enjoys doing things for the community.

“Jesus always met the physical before the met the spiritual,” Moore said. “He fed the 5,000, then he fed them spiritually.”

Trevon Boone, 37, the new pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Outreach Center, also preached his first sermon this month. He grew up in New Mount Joy Food for Living Ministries and previously served as the youth pastor there.

“I’ve always felt the call to serve,” he said.

Boone earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Virginia State University and then earned two degrees from the William P. Wiggins Bible Institute. He said it has been “bittersweet” not being in his old church but is excited to have a job just down the street.


“That’s what made it even more exciting, because it’s right here at home,” he said. “My goal is not to just get people to come to the church, but to stay in the church.”

Travis “Deon” Gatling, 32, grew up in Oak Grove Baptist Church and now leads Prince of Peace Church in Portsmouth.

“It’s been very exciting,” he said. “You’re learning a lot of things about people. It’s definitely exciting and challenging to meet the needs of the people God has given to me.”

Gatling said he also enjoys serving the community. He currently is a student at Roanoke Theological Seminary.

“It is very gratifying to help other people be able to meet their goals,” he said.

And then there is 28-year-old Copeland, who said the new positions of him and his friends are evidence of God working in the lives of area young men.

He was the assistant youth pastor at Missouri Baptist Church before moving to Calvary Baptist. He still commutes to work for most of the week and is attending Norfolk Theological Seminary.

“I think there are a lot of young people that need to be reached,” he said, explaining that it’s time for his generation to rise up and fill the gap. “The older pastors, they’re still reaching people, but there are younger people we can reach.

“I like to reach everybody, no matter what race or age,” he said. “Christ is for everybody.”