Woodstock First Baptist Church, which has an estimated 14,000 members, will begin services Sunday at 11 a.m. at the new church, called Woodstock Church, Shallowford, off Shallowford Road in Marietta.
The Rev. Jonathan Catanzaro will serve as the church’s campus pastor.
“We’re just excited, this is a new beginning for this church that was here on Shallowford Road,” he said. “We’re excited for the new beginning (God) has for us as we move forward and seek to love people just as Christ has loved us.”
Woodstock First Baptist is also opening a new church location in Jasper.
Woodstock First Baptist Senior Pastor Johnny Hunt will oversee the teaching at both church campuses.
Sunday worship services at the new Marietta location will have live video feeds at 11 a.m. projected onto a larger screen of Hunt preaching from the main church campus in Woodstock. Live music will be led by musicians at the Shallowford campus.
Sunday morning Bible study has been planned for all ages at 9:30 a.m. as well, in addition to weekly student and children’s ministries.
Originally Shallowford Falls Community Church, the new Woodstock Church is part of Woodstock First Baptist’s efforts to spread the word of the Bible.
“Woodstock Church, Shallowford, seeks to love and serve the surrounding community as well as be a light of hope with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the church website states.
Catanzaro explains how the church did not expect to gain its new location.
“It’s not really something that we sought to do, but God has opened up some doors for us,” he said.
The Shallowford Falls Community Church contacted Woodstock First Baptist in November, and the two churches began discussions on starting a partnership, he said.
The Shallowford Falls church decided unanimously the same month to join the worship services of the new Woodstock Church, Shallowford.
“So really God worked it out and opened some doors,” Catanzaro said. “We’re just really excited about where we are. We’re within three miles of about 65,000 people. We’re really looking forward to serving and ministering to families all over the place in this area and answer the call to serve and to let people know there’s a church here that loves them and really does care about them. Hopefully, we can serve them and their families in the future.”
The pastor has been mentored by Pastor Hunt at Woodstock First Baptist.
Each year, from January to December, Pastor Hunt takes two upcoming pastors and spends the year mentoring them and showing them his life in ministry and family life.
“I was blessed to have that opportunity during 2012 to spend January until December with him, sitting in meetings with him and traveling all over the globe doing ministry and preaching,” Catanzaro said. “He gave me many opportunities to serve in that way. So it was a blessing to see him and his wife and how he lives with his family and really for him to model what it means to be a pastor who loves people and serves people.”
Catanzaro relates how his great experience taught him some important lessons on ministering and even on life.
“One of the biggest things that I saw from him is that he’s the same person on Monday morning with his family and grandkids as he is on Sundays in the pulpit at First Woodstock,” Catanzaro said. “That is who he is, that’s who God made him to be.”
It was a beneficial challenge that Catanzaro had to overcome.
“It really was an encouragement and challenge for me to not separate those two things. As he (Pastor Hunt) always says, ‘If you can’t be a good Christian in your home, how do you expect to be a good Christian anywhere else?’ So that was a challenge to me as a pastor and as a husband and a father — to just be real and authentic.”
Catanzaro also says that Pastor Hunt taught him about leadership and a pastor’s relationship with his followers.
“Another thing I learned from him, in terms of leadership,” Catanzaro said, “is that one of the most important qualities in a leader is not the leader’s position, but it’s his relationship with his people. So for me to lead as a pastor, to love and to shepherd, and to have a relationship with the church was a model I saw and learned from him. I think that’s really important for a church.”
Catanzaro grew up in New Orleans and Wake Forest, N.C. While at Wake Forest, he served as an associate pastor.
Catanzaro obtained a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Divinity, and Master of Theology from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary before moving to Woodstock with his wife, Elissa, and their two children.
Catanzaro says that he and the new Shallowford Road church are eagerly awaiting what’s in store for the future.
“We’re ready to serve and to help families with whatever needs they have,” he says. “We want to be a light in this community, and we want people to know that we love them and we’re here for them.”
The new Woodstock Church, Shallowford will be located at 3662 Shallowford Road.
The public is welcome to join the church’s launch this Sunday.