ROME — Cory Barnes is an honest, loyal, dependable, yet unassuming leader. At least, that is what Maribeth Futral, the executive assistant to Executive Vice President/Provost Donald Martin at Shorter University, declared. However, she had no idea that the associate professor of Christian Studies and dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University had an affinity to snakes. He might even be called a herpetoculturistm, or a snakeophile.
For seven years Barnes worked at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, Ala., with Royal Ambassadors. He served as a counsellor for four years and for three years as the camp director. At the beginning of each summer’s encampment he would make his way into the hills around the conference center and find a snake or two to place in a reptile terrarium for all the campers to view.
This writer admires the courage of anyone who would dare to approach a snake to actually catch it, but would tend to agree with the one who stated, “Once bitten by a snake, he is scared all his life at the mere sight of a rope.”
As a Ph. D. student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and while serving as a staff member there, Barnes participated in excavating the water system at Tel Gezer, a 33-acre site located on the western side of the foothills of Judah overlooking the coastal plain of Israel. The ancient city is mentioned in I Kings 9:15-16 as having been destroyed by Pharaoh, then presented to Solomon’s wife as a wedding gift and then rebuilt by Solomon. The archeological excavations at Tel Gezer have revealed much of the region’s history, but there are still many questions that are unresolved, and Barnes has been invested in helping find those answers.
Concerning the excavation project Barnes stated, “Working in the water system is like working in a mine. The work is wet, muddy, and has the potential to be dangerous.” One must admire one who has caught snakes and worked in an enormous tunnel with 17-foot ceilings, precariously digging through mud with the consistency of modeling clay.
Barnes grew up in Manchester, a small town in West Georgia. He explained, “My family didn’t attend church, but I was very aware of the Bible and would have called myself a Christian but had no concept of what it meant to personally be a part of the Christian faith.
“My mom and dad, who are now believers, were wonderful parents and made sure that we had plenty to read in our house. One of the things I remember reading most was a children’s Bible – The Beginner’s Bible, which my kids read today. So, even before I came to understand the gospel, I had a background of the basic stories of the scriptures. God used this in a powerful way in my life.”
One summer Cory and his brother were invited to Vacation Bible School at Trinity Baptist Church near Manchester. The LifeWay VBS had a “rodeo” theme that year. Cory reported, “I found out that I really enjoyed church. I learned more about the Bible; and all the stories I had read in the children’s Bible began to make sense. My little brother and I began to ride the bus to church on Sunday mornings. I didn’t come to saving faith in the gospel until several years later, but God was using the time I spent at Trinity Baptist to prepare me to receive the gospel.”
Cory continued, “I came to faith in Christ when I was 13 years old after hearing the gospel proclaimed at Shiloh Baptist Church. My parents were raising a child whose mother was not able to care for him because of drug addiction. He died after living in our home for several years. God used his death to show my entire family how Jesus had overcome death through his resurrection. Shortly after I was saved, I knew that God was leading me into the ministry.”
As Cory was in the process of considering where he would go to college some of his high school friends were being recruited by Shorter to play football; and he decided to go with them on one of their visits. God made it clear that Shorter was the right school for him.
In retrospect, Cory stated, “As I look back on the decision to attend Shorter, I’m overwhelmed by how much it shaped my life. Everything that I have done over the past 15 years and everything I expect to do for the rest of my life has been shaped by the experience God graciously allowed me to have as a student at Shorter.”
Cory is married to the former Kayla Woodfin, who is the daughter of Kyle and Alanna Woodfin. Kyle is a former Georgia Baptist Pastor, founder of Georgia Baptist Mountain Resort Ministries, and current founder and director of Legacy Outdoor Ministries in Hawkinsville. Cory and Kayla have two daughters, Zoey and Noel.
“I met Kayla when my family began to attend the church in Manchester where her dad was serving as pastor,” Cory testified. “God began to make it obvious to me that Kayla was the most wonderful woman in the world and that for reasons that are still beyond my understanding she was willing to marry me.”
Cory and Kayla have both committed their lives to ministering to Shorter students as a family. They have students in their home for meals, love to connect with students on mission trips and partner with Campus Minister David Roland in ongoing mission projects in Covington, KY.
For the past two springs, Barnes has worked with Shorter faculty and students to teach pastors in the Horn of Africa.
It is apparent that he has a deep and an abiding love for Shorter University. He explained, “Each day I come to work with the mission of ‘advancing God’s Kingdom through a commitment to academic excellence, spiritual growth, Christian leadership, and global service all through the context of a biblical worldview.’
“What a wonderful way to work out the calling God has placed on my life!”
Although Barnes has become effective at remotely instructing his students, he readily admits that he does not prefer the online teaching that has become commonplace for practically every institution of education in the country. He loves his students and the remote teaching model that has become necessary during the coronavirus pandemic is not his ideal, because he is not just a detached professor “doing his job.”
Cory Barnes is a God-called teacher, mentor, minister and friend to his students; and he looks forward to getting them and many new students on “The Hill” (campus) in Rome as soon as circumstances permit.
J. Gerald Harris is the former editor of The Christian Index.