ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – Jim Forrest said he felt the call to the ministry when he was 16 years old.
A Baptist Student Union team from Morehead State presented a youth revival at Fairview First Baptist Church in 1971 when he was a sophomore at Fairview High School.
He was on fire for the Lord, putting together his own youth team that brought youth revivals to churches. “The youth leader would go with us, but we had a team of a preacher, a music man, and instruments,” he said. “We mimicked it exactly after what Morehead did.”
Four years, later he was called to preach.
“My first actual job was youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Morehead,” he said. “I was the youth pastor and janitor and I got paid for both.”
Forrest said he was married there in 1976 and he and Dreama, his wife-to-be, cleaned the church on the eve of their wedding.
He immediately found himself as being a bivocational pastor, a position he has held onto ever since. Forrest isn’t alone in the role - more than half of the Kentucky Baptist pastors are bivocational, meaning they have two jobs and one ministry.
“Number one, being bivocational means you have another job,” said Forrest, who is general manager of a radio station in Ashland. “Most of us, we don’t have a lot of hours that aren’t already tied up.”
Sports broadcasting is another passion for Forrest and has been throughout his career. He has covered high school sports from the time he was in high school and was a longtime voice of Morehead State University sports too. But he also preached almost every weekend he was free through the Bracken Association while living in Morehead.
“As I look back, I see how many wonderful people I’ve met through broadcasting and sports,” he said. “It was an opportunity to talk to people about God through sports.”
Bivocational pastors have to find a balance, he said. That means dividing up family time to prepare for three messages a week and visit the sick in hospitals, or figuring out how to maintain the work/pastor lifestyle on little sleep.
Forrest is the pastor of Danleyton Missionary Baptist Church, a rural church in Greenup County. He’s had two tenures at Danleyton from 1980 to 1984 and from 2006 to the present. His congregation loves him and he loves them back. They run around 50 to 60 on Sunday mornings.
When he started there, the church had a small sanctuary, no indoor plumbing and a potbelly stove for heating. Only about 13 were attending.
“I was 22 years old the first time (at Danleyton) and to me it was way out in the country,” he said. “I didn’t know if that’s what God was calling me to do.”
He took a radio job in Morehead but drove the 60 miles back and forth for two years. Forest resigned in 1984 even though the church was growing. The distance was too much to overcome. A couple of years after he left, the church built a new sanctuary.
“My first baptisms there were in the river and it was cold,” Forest said. “We have a baptistry in the sanctuary now.””
He said they average about 4-5 baptisms a year and try to reach out into the community. The church is in the shadow of several Baptist churches, including First Baptist Church Russell which is the largest in the Greenup Association.
“It has always been difficult in a rural situation,” he said. “Bivocational pastors have to get other people to help you. If people slack off, it falls back on the bivocational pastor.”
Forrest has made good use of social media as a way to reach out and invite the community to events like Jump For Joy, where children are invited to an activities building on the church grounds that has several inflatables.
Nearly half the congregation is involved in a drama that Forest started during his first tenure. The life of Jesus is represented in song and drama and they’ve performed it to more than a dozen churches since Easter.
“This is our church’s ministry,” he said. “We don’t ask anybody for anything. We do it because it’s our ministry.”
His life was headed on a different path when he entered college.
Forrest attended Morehead State on an ROTC scholarship – one of only 100 nationwide to earn the prestigious award - with the idea of becoming an Army chaplain. His plans were to ask for a deferment and attend seminary and then serve as chaplain in the Army.
“I would owe them eight years, instead of four, be a chaplain for 20 years and then get out and be a pastor,” he said. “I forgot to talk to God about it.”
A new colonel told him he’d have to serve four years of infantry and then be a chaplain. Forest balked and rebelled, wearing his hair long and not putting on uniform. The ROTC court martialed him. However, a young lawyer helped get him released from his obligations.
“They grilled me for two days and he (Bill Mains) found a loophole. We won and I owed nothing,” he said.
The 64-year-old Forrest said God has been with him through life’s ride, including recovering from a recent heart attack where there was 95 percent blockage.
“The biggest problem was lack of rest,” he said. “I was pushing myself way too hard, starting at 3:30 in the morning (to prepare for radio).”
Forrest is recovering well with three months of rehabilitation behind him. He is getting eight hours of sleep a night not to mention changing his diet. “No red meat, chicken, salad and fruit,” he said. “Me and Little Debbie had a falling out.”
Forrest and his wife have two grown children and two grandchildren.