VANCEBURG, Ky. (KT) – Rusty Pruitt is a bi-vocational pastor of a rural Baptist church that is nestled on a country road 3½ miles off the Double A highway in northern Kentucky.
In other words, it’s out there.
Pruitt’s path to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, and then a Kentucky Baptist preacher, makes the road to his church seem like a walk in the park.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father, church and religion were never in the picture. He found a love for music in the 1960s and then found his first idols in life, the Beatles, whose influence eventually led him into a Hindu lifestyle.
As a teen, he dabbled with the spiritual world through Ouija boards and metaphysical experiences. His brother was a lot like him, especially with music, and they both began studying Hinduism, moved to Dallas and became involved in that religion. They found a guru, took Indian names and pledged to become monks.
“I was probably more Hindu than a lot of the Hindus,” he said. “My guru had given me the mantra to repeat. I was literally an idol worshiper. We even worshiped a smooth stone that embodied a deity that was found in the Ganges River.”
Pruitt said his wife divorced him as he followed this path for two years living with others practicing Hinduism. But the man who was his guru allowed him to have Jesus as one of the deities he worshiped. The library where he was studying had lots of books on different religions and he began his own personal study.
“I started reading the Bible, mainly Psalms and the gospels,” he said. “They started calling me the Bible Freak. But I thought Jesus was one of the lesser gods, to be honest. I was drawn to the person of Jesus.”
Pruitt said he backslid some from the Hindu religion but felt guilty and returned. He asked the guru if he could make Jesus his personal deity. “With regular Hindu practice, as a formalized ritual, I started saying prayers to Jesus every morning. The more I did that, the more drawn to Jesus I became. I was more interested, more fascinated. The more I read the Bible, the more real Jesus became.”
That soon became a craving to learn more about Jesus and he began separating from the Hindu religion. Pruitt returned home to Portsmouth, Ohio, and learned his “relatives had got ‘saved’ and were going to church. I didn’t know what being saved meant.”
Pruitt had become a certified yoga instructor. Upon returning home he planned to teach them about Hinduism. “They said we’ll let you teach us yoga if you go to church with us. I don’t remember hearing a sermon ever in my life. I thought, ‘OK, it’s not going to hurt me.’ The preaching is what drew me. I was fascinated by it I’d never heard somebody break it (the Bible) down and go point by point.”
He kept going to church and was invited to play the drums for the music portion, learning later that the pastor was just trying to keep him attending.
“The Lord just saved me,” he said. “I didn’t really even know all the doctrines of Christianity at the time. Jesus came in and saved me.”
Pruitt said it was through the preaching of Paul Badgett, who was an interim pastor in South Shore at the time. Badgett is now the east regional consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention where Pruitt is pastoring. “I see the Lord’s hand in it all,” he said
Pruitt, 72, said he’s been preaching the gospel since 1980. He has been at Heselton Baptist Church for eight years. Once a thriving church in the Bracken Baptist Association, it has fallen on tough times. There are about 55 members with about half that number attending regularly.
Pruitt, who is a social worker in Portsmouth, said the church is limited by its location although he remains optimistic. They have added a handicap ramp and a new sound system at the 110-year-old church.
He is also a songwriter affiliated with the Nashville Songwriters Association International and has had several of his original Christian songs recorded by various gospel artists and groups.
“We live in an area that’s the only Baptist church in the area,” said Faye Ginn, 86, who has been a member for 63 years. “It used to be a pretty thriving church but so many people have left these small churches to go to larger churches. To tell you the truth, a lot of people on this road aren’t Baptist-minded.”
Ginn said the small congregation has fallen in love with Pruitt. “I like the way he simplifies things,” she said. “I like him because I think he’s genuine.”
“The church is good people who love the Lord,” he said.
Pruitt’s sermons are posted on a Youtube channel, Proven Faith LLC, and the church has a Facebook page.
Pruitt’s path from unchurched, to Hindu, to the saving grace of Jesus Christ has given him an appreciation of where God has decided to put him.
“I can see the Lord’s hand in it all,” he said.