New pastor settling in at FBC LaPlace

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2010

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – It has been a three-year endeavor for the members of LaPlace’s First Baptist Church to find their new pastor, Paul Naylor. For Naylor himself, the journey has been much longer.

The preacher’s own story began what some might consider a lifetime ago when Naylor was working as a mechanical engineer. He graduated from the University of Illinois, his home state, with a mechanical engineering degree and toiled in that field for five years before being called to the ministry.

“God just convicted me that He wanted me to preach the gospel and that I wouldn’t be fulfilled doing anything else,” said Naylor.

Since that time, his life has been one leap of faith after another.

“(God’s) taken care of me ever since,” he said.

He and his wife, Kendra, left their jobs behind and moved to North Carolina, where Naylor attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. They left behind their jobs and put their faith in the correctness of the path they were following. They did not need to rely on faith for long.

“Two weeks to the day after we moved we were both employed again,” Naylor said.

After finishing school, Naylor and his wife moved to Arkansas, where he began his first official tenure as church pastor. He then moved to a church in Florida before returning to Arkansas, where the Naylors have family ties, to take a position with the church where he and his wife were married.

In Arkansas, Naylor worked as an administrative pastor, and he was happy to be working in a familiar community. Nevertheless, Naylor felt God had called him to preach, not to sit behind a desk.

“To me it was a conviction that I’d rather be a pastor with administrative skills than an administrator with pastoral skills,” he said.

Then, according to Naylor, God’s plan once again made itself visible to him in the form of the position at First Baptist Church.

By then, Naylor’s family included two children, so he wanted to be sure the move was right for everyone.

“I do understand that it is stressful on them,” he noted.

What’s more, the thought of selling the family’s home in Arkansas seemed daunting and the house the family was eyeing in LaPlace was under contract and would not be available for them upon arrival.

But once again, Naylor put his trust in God, packed up and headed from Northwest Arkansas to Southeast Louisiana.

And once again, God provided.

Naylor’s Arkansas home sold in just three weeks, and the contract on the LaPlace home fell through, clearing the way for the Naylors.

He said, “When we got to the new house, the church had hung a banner saying ‘Welcome Home, Naylor Family.’”

And for the pastor and his family, it truly did feel like a homecoming.

“The church family here has been really warm and welcoming,” he said.

First Baptist Church held a special celebration on the family’s first Sunday in town.

“It was well attended,” said Naylor. “People wore name tags to kind of help out.”

Since then, Naylor has spent much of his time getting to know the congregation as well as his new surroundings.

At the urging of his son Samuel, the family took a drive into New Orleans to see the Superdome and the Aquarium of the Americas.

“I’m getting used to all the good food y’all have down here.” Naylor said, adding, “There’s much more of a mixture of cultures here.”

“I think one of the biggest surprises is the heat early in the day,” said Naylor.

But these are not the only differences between the River Region and Arkansas. Naylor said it is also the first time he has been pastor in such a predominantly Catholic area.

That is one of the reasons Naylor has chosen to focus on denominational unity through a belief in Jesus Christ.

Naylor described his preaching style as expository.

“I generally pray about a book of the Bible that God wants me to teach,” he said.

He said the advantages of this style are that it is easy for the congregation to follow, and it is more objective than what he called “topical” preaching.

Still, Naylor recognized the need for someone in his position to remain flexible. He said he leaves time open each day to take care of sudden needs that may arise. He has also begun to pray for victims of the oil disaster during his Wednesday prayer meetings.

“You can’t avoid hot issues, and you can’t just preach on what you want to preach every week,” he said.

For the time being, however, the only waves Naylor is looking to make in the community are the ones made out of crepe paper that currently adorn the pulpit area of the church. First Baptist’s Vacation Bible School begins next week with the theme “High Seas Expedition.”

“They go all out with the decorations,” Naylor said, referring to the effort of community volunteers in readying the church for the weeklong event. “My kids will be in it, and they’re looking forward to that.”

Naylor noted that all are welcome to attend VBS, regardless of denomination. It is a theme he carries with him throughout the whole of his teachings.

“We have a lot of different beliefs, and one of our themes would be finding a commonality in faith in Christ,” he said.