The founding pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Dallas began his career in the ministry at 19.
“I felt a call from God to go into the ministry, and I answered that call,” Voyles said, though not right away.
“I had to struggle with it for awhile and pray a lot, because I wasn’t sure,” he said. “Finally it was clear to me that that’s what God wanted me to do. The moment I surrendered and was submissive to the call, it was a very exciting experience and humbling experience.”
Voyles was ordained in 1954 at Shady Grove Baptist Church in Austell, and during the course of his 60-year career he has been a pastor at 10 churches in Paulding, Douglas and Carroll counties. His crowning achievement as a pastor was founding Unity Baptist Church in January 1989.
With fewer than 20 people, he started the new mission church with the goal of attracting 120 members. In a mere 15 months, the church hit that number — with four to spare.
“When you start a new mission church, usually there is rapid growth and you can reach more people when a new church starts than you can with an established church that’s been in an area for years,” Voyles said. “It’s an opportunity for faster growth and reaching more people.”
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Paulding County’s population hit a growth spike, it was the perfect opportunity to create a new church.
Now 25 years later, the congregation has grown to 460 members. The original church building is now the fellowship hall and education building, with a new worship center built seven years ago.
Voyles said he can feel himself slowing down a bit as he ages, but he still is not ready to step down from the pulpit quite yet.
He will celebrate his 80th birthday this year, stretching his career nearly 15 years past what he said is a normal retirement age for pastors. Retirement is something he thinks and prays about, but the passion he has for being a minister and spreading the word of God keeps him going, Voyles said.
“I have never lost the joy or the excitement — I have never lost the awe of being a pastor and being a preacher,” Voyles said.
He said his calling was not only to spread the word of God, but to minister to people, and he feels being a founding pastor — the only pastor from start to present — of the church in Dallas has given him that opportunity.
“Unity Baptist Church has been the most rewarding experience of all my ministry because I actually gave birth to the mission and I’m the only pastor it’s ever had. They followed my leadership, so it made it extremely pleasant and rewarding and that’s one of the main reasons I’ve been able to continue on is such a loving relationship with my congregation,” he said.
“I’ve been blessed. God’s really been good to me.”
The church is hosting a celebration of Voyles’ 60 years of ministry Sunday during the morning service at 11 a.m. A covered dish dinner will follow that evening.
Unity is located at 431 Mustang Drive in Dallas.
Information: (770) 445-8024