When Billy Franklin Ross Jr. was 6 years old, he heard a sermon about hell and knew for sure he did not want to go there. After telling this to his mother, she asked their pastor how she should deal with a child so young.
He told her to just answer all her son's questions fully, which she did. A few weeks later, in summer 1960, little Billy Ross walked up the aisle of Westwood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., and was baptized.
More than 40 years have passed since then, and Ross' faith has remained strong. He eventually became a man of the cloth and, on Jan. 12, he became the senior pastor at Centreville Baptist Church.
"There was a sense of God's direction," said Ross. "He was leading us here to minister in the Washington, D.C., area — the most powerful city in the U.S. and maybe in the world."
Born in Tennessee and raised in Nashville, he graduated from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., in 1975 with a bachelor's in accounting. And he worked as a certified public accountant in Birmingham for six years.
Although always active in church, Ross had "never asked the Lord what he wanted me to do as a career." But he knew that being a CPA was "just not fulfilling" for him. Then, after attending a large, singles Bible study — and through counsel and prayer — he "felt God was calling me to the ministry."
In addition, a Birmingham man who was a millionaire and vice president of the largest savings and loan in Alabama resigned his job to become pastor of the church Ross was then attending. Until then, he said, "Full-time ministry had never crossed my mind." But all these elements together got him thinking about it.
"I began to be challenged about God's will for my life," he said. "I wanted my life to count for God."
He then resigned his CPA job and entered Temple Baptist Seminary in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he met his wife Diane, also a student in the college there. They married in December 1980 and have two sons, Jonathan, 18, and Stephen, 15.
Ross and Stephen, a sophomore at Emmanuel Christian School in Manassas, are living in Clifton's Union Mill community. But Diane and Jonathan are still in their former home in El Paso, Texas. They'll move here permanently in May after Jonathan, a high-school senior and member of his school's baseball team, graduates.
However, they'll come up and visit over spring break — just in time to see Ross installed as Centreville Baptist's new pastor in a ceremony Sunday, March 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the church.
Ross received his Master of Divinity in theology from the seminary in 1981 and, this past December, he obtained his Doctor of Ministry degree in evangelism and church growth from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
He was ordained at Shades Mountain Independent Church in Birmingham in January 1983 and worked there as director of Christian education. He then started Grace Bible Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where he served as pastor for three years and saw its members grow from 25 to 130.
Ross then served as adjunct faculty member at Washington Bible College in Lanham, Md., before serving as associate director of Pioneers, a foreign-missions organization then based in Sterling, Va. While there, he visited foreign-mission fields in places including Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia.
He later became senior pastor at Spencerport Bible Church near Rochester, N.Y., and at Mount Franklin Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas. He and his sons are also sports enthusiasts, and Ross has coached baseball and basketball in community leagues.
He'd led his Texas church for six years when a Northern Virginia pastor he knew told him Centreville Baptist was looking for a senior pastor. It's pastor-search committee contacted him, and he joined its flock in January. He said the members have been supportive and receptive and have made him feel welcome.
Ross' personal goal for the church is to "glorify the Lord by reaching people with the Gospel. And those who come to faith in Him we want to build into mature disciples and equip them with ministry skills so they, too, can become 'ministers' and do the work of the ministry here in the D.C. area and around the world." He hopes to move people from "membership to maturity to ministry."
His focus in life and ministry comes from Colossians 1:28-29: "And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."
Ross believes that, "If we do that and are reaching everyone with the Gospel, then there will certainly be social implications. The core of what we're about is making disciples of Jesus Christ." To achieve that core purpose, he said, there's a multifaceted ministry involving Bible teaching and addressing social issues and needs that would be applied to people of all ages.
Services at Centreville Baptist are Saturday, 6 p.m., and Sunday, 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m. "Everybody is welcome," said Ross. "They don't have to dress a certain way, and we have a multi-ethnic congregation so everyone should feel comfortable."