African American Pastors Impact Rural Ohio Communities

African American Pastors Impact Rural Ohio Communities

William Randolph, Jr. (left) and Byron McGee (right) 

By Reginald Hayes, SCBO convention relations - community

Byron McGee and William Randolph, Jr. are African American pastors who serve in Wilmington and Yellow Springs – small towns nestled in the countryside of southwestern Ohio. 

Both McGee and Randolph say they have always been comfortable in their calling. With a focused mission of sharing the gospel of Jesus with their neighbors, neither of their ministries are hindered by the small population of their hometowns.

  Wilmington, Ohio – population 12,502

Rev. Byron McGee pastors Cornerstone Baptist Church in Wilmington, where he’s lived since he was a young boy. His father, a career soldier, moved his family to multiple bases throughout his career. In 1964, they made their final move to the Nike Base in Wilmington.

He honed his ministry skills at Bible Missionary Baptist Church in Wilmington under long-time pastor and mentor the late Pastor Larry Harris. McGee never imagined being a pastor, but the Lord knew differently.

McGee and his wife, Sheila, founded Cornerstone in 2004 with nine people, including their two sons and a daughter. Serving in a small town brought challenges. However, McGee says the challenges helped him learn from his mistakes, and watch God remove his enemy. He’s also learned that no matter how bad or mean people are he’s their pastor, and their well-being and growth are in his hands as their shepherd.

God has continued to grow Cornerstone in a city with 658 African American residents. The church moved three times into storefronts before purchasing its current 10,000 square foot building on almost 4 acres.

“Ultimately, everything good that has happened at Cornerstone Baptist is only because of God, because any other way our blessings and opportunities would not have happened,” said McGee.

  Yellow Springs, Ohio - population 3,702

Rev. William Randolph Jr. currently pastors First Baptist Church, Yellow Springs. He is married to Florence, and they have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

In 1984, a career opportunity led Randolph to move his family to Yellow Springs, from Vallejo, California, population of 80,000, near San Francisco.

When the business closed several years later, Randolph was faced with a decision to stay in the small town or return to California, Randolph stayed. He and his family had fallen in love with Yellow Springs. 

Later, God called him to preach the gospel. As a young pastor, he led First Baptist Church in Jeffersonville, Ohio, a city of 1,200 people. 

“Whenever there was an emergency, I was always called as one of the first responders,” said Randolph. “Churches in small towns are very important to the wellbeing of the community.” He pastored there for 21 years. 

Churches in small towns are very important to the wellbeing of the community

In 2012 Randolph was called to pastor First Baptist Church in Yellow Springs, a town where only 434 African Americans live. Randoph says small communities face the same issues as large cities – drugs, alcoholism, family issues, and economic woes. “In order to impact, influence and transform society, you must know that your only source is God, then the resources and the people will come.” 

Both McGee and Randolph have a word of encouragement for young African American pastors who serve in rural communities. “You can serve effectively in a rural ministry. You must know it’s where God called you. You cannot think little because you are in a small community. God will bless your faithfulness, even when it hurts. You must trust God and know that He will provide.”