Predominantly White Woodlawn Baptist Church in South Charlotte says Pastor Michael Davis Was God’s Choice For Them

Michael Davis, senior pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church, took the helm of the traditionally white church about a year ago. Marty Minchin
Michael Davis, senior pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church, took the helm of the traditionally white church about a year ago. Marty Minchin

At age 16, Michael Davis sat on his front porch in New Jersey and looked at the sky. 

The mischief his friends had been getting into was getting more intense. One friend recently had died in a car wreck. Davis wasn’t sure which path to take.

“I said, ‘God, if you’re real, I want to know,’” Davis said.

He tried church, became a Christian and learned about the Bible from a knowledgeable Sunday School teacher. Several decades later, he’s the senior pastor at Woodlawn Baptist Church in south Charlotte.

He’s an African American pastor to an aging, historically white congregation.

“I can see all the things I’ve been doing in my life were preparing me for Woodlawn Baptist Church,” said Davis, who is now 59.

Davis attended Western Carolina University in the 1970s and earned a degree in industrial technology. He came south because he’d heard it was called the Bible Belt, and he couldn’t think of a better place to be.

Jobs were hard to find, so Davis got a job in Gastonia selling Florsheim shoes. He learned shoe repair and spent 16 years in the business.

He likes to say he’s spent time selling soles, fixing soles and saving souls. Davis couldn’t shake a pull toward full-time ministry.

He loves the Bible and reads it through every year, and eventually accepted a position with Child Evangelism Fellowship, an international nonprofit organization.

The ministry found an apartment for him at the corner of Woodlawn and Scaleybark, and he began leading Bible clubs at a school housed at nearby Woodlawn Baptist. He got to know the longtime pastor, Earl Pennell, and occasionally he’d make a courtesy visit for Sunday worship. Usually, he attended Fairbluff Bible Chapel off Woodlawn Road.

Davis was the only black person at Woodlawn, which didn’t have a regular Sunday children’s ministry, because there were no children.

“I started building up friendships,” Davis said. “The people were glad to see me. (But) I could tell it was a Southern Baptist Church. And I wasn’t.”

Pennell called Davis to his office one day and asked if he’d preach a sermon or two, so Pennell could take a Sunday off. Davis agreed.

Soon, Pennell called Davis again and told him he was planning to retire. In early 2014, Davis agreed to preach six Sundays while the church chose an interim pastor.

Davis worked his job in the shoe department at Dillard’s at SouthPark mall while preaching on Sundays. The people at Woodlawn liked Davis’ preaching. He laughs, saying he had to adjust to the church needing sermon topics well in advance, and to a one-hour service time limit.

“That’s not really my culture,” he said.

But Davis kept preaching, and ultimately was named Woodlawn’s interim pastor.

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Source: Charlotte Observer | MARTY MINCHIN