Kevin Vaughn has a compelling story of greed, grief, grace, and glory


ELBERTON, Ga. — For Kevin Vaughn, pastor of the growing Rock Branch Baptist Church, the path to effective ministry has not been without formidable struggles.

Vaughn remembers being “a normal kid growing up,” whose family did not attend church regularly. It was Vaughn’s grandparents who took him to church and the children’s programs offered.

Consumed by greed

After high school, Vaughn got a job at a local business building, equipping, servicing, and selling poultry equipment. In 2002, he built his own poultry farm while still working at Midsouth Cage Equipment.

At that time, he admits, his priorities were not in line with God’s. “When my wife, Leanda, and I got married in July 2002,” Vaughn recalls, “I invested more time and effort into the pursuit of financial and worldly gain. My primary goal in life was making money.”

Overwhelmed by grief

Kevin’s father died in September 2005, just a month before the birth of the Vaughns’ first son Kaden. The infant was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a rare and progressive liver disease. The congenital condition occurs when the bile ducts do not develop normally, leading to liver damage and cirrhosis of the liver.

“From 2005 to 2009 we lived for the world and ourselves,” confesses Kevin. He and Leanda struggled due to Kaden’s frequent hospitalizations and procedures, and their marriage suffered.

Kaden was placed on the liver transplant list in early 2008, and the wait for donor began. Finally, on July 4, 2008, Kaden received a new liver.

Though Kaden seemed to make progress following the surgery, his condition began to deteriorate on the 21st day. Leanda stayed in Atlanta with Kaden, while Kevin drove home to Elberton in the mornings to work and back to Atlanta in the evenings to be with his family.

Kevin remembers getting a phone call from Leanda late one September night while at his home taking care of farm responsibilities. Their son was sick again, Leanda said, and would require another procedure early the next morning. Kevin immediately headed back to Atlanta to be there for the procedure.

On the drive, Kevin says, he was “overwhelmed” and grieving over the plight of his son. “The weight I was carrying pressed down on me like an unbearable burden.”

Intercepted by grace

By the time he reached the Perimeter, Kevin was weeping, unable to continue in his own strength. “So, right there I surrendered my life to Jesus,” Kevin says, “and gave Him every bit of who I was and all I would ever hope to be.”

When he arrived at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Leanda and Kaden were standing in the hallway near the nurses’ station on the sixth floor, and Kaden came over to hug his father. Leanda, unaware of Kevin’s profession of faith, told him that Kaden had suddenly gotten better and wanted to get up and walk around.

Kevin recognized God’s hand in his son’s healing, and “knew it was my Father’s way of strengthening my faith and assuring me of my salvation.”

After his salvation experience, Vaughn started attending Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Bowman. “I just soaked up everything I could as God began to give me a deep hunger for His Word,” he explains.

In February 2010, God opened the door for the Vaughns to begin serving the Lord at Cedar Grove Baptist Church. Kevin taught the Wednesday night Bible study with his pastor, Reggie Vaughn. He was then given the opportunity to teach a Sunday School class that grew to the extent that they had to move to the Family Life Center. God was preparing both Kevin and Leanda for the divine calling He would place upon their lives.

Kevin, an unashamed and avid Georgia Bulldog football fan, and his family were invited to the home of their pastor to watch the Georgia/Florida football game on an autumn Saturday. During half-time some of the guests decided to play football in the pastor’s backyard, resulting in Kevin breaking his big toe, making it very difficult for him to walk. The next morning, he was in such pain that he asked Leanda to teach the Sunday School lesson.

She hesitatingly agreed, but asked, “What am I supposed to teach?”

Keven responded, “Just share your testimony.”

During the 20-minute drive to church, Leanda began to contemplate what she could say to the class and asked God, “What is my testimony?”

She felt God respond, “You don’t have one.”

At that moment she surrendered her life to Christ while driving to church, just as Kevin had done years before while driving to the hospital.

When Leanda arrived at the church, she met her pastor with tears in her eyes and explained to him that she had just gotten saved. Pastor Vaughn told her to go to the Sunday School class and tell them what she had just shared with him. As a result of her sharing her testimony, six people in the class surrendered their lives to Christ. She was then asked to share her testimony in the morning worship service and four more precious souls were saved.

In 2016, in accordance with the providence of God, Kevin Vaughn was called to become the pastor of Rock Branch Baptist Church. Kevin says, “After meeting with the church’s search team in August we placed our 12-house broiler (poultry) farm on the market, and within two weeks had a contract.” The Vaughns prayed for God to work out all the details if Kevin was supposed to become the church’s pastor.

On October 30, 2016, the church elected Kevin as pastor at Rock Branch, and their first Sunday at the church was on November 13th. The Vaughns closed their farm on November 18th  and Kevin left Midsouth Cage on December 31st, to become pastor full-time in January 2017.  

“I love being a pastor,” asserts Kevin. He describes himself as an extrovert “to the fullest degree”who loves people. “God has continued to give me a love for our church family and the community around us. I love to see people excited about serving, giving, and going.” Kevin seeks to encourage others in their walk with Christ, and says, “There is no feeling like leading someone to know Jesus.”

Most of the children at church call him “PK,” short for Pastor Kevin, and thagt has become one of his favorite names.

Serving as pastor of a church is never easy and “PK” certainly has his challenges. Among them, he says, is “trying to lead those who don’t want to be led.” Pouring love into the lives of some who then walk away or continue in their own wills can make him feel like he is “on an island holding the burdens of those under our care close to our hearts, hoping they will find the way to the abundant life Jesus provides.”

Pastor Vaughn’s enthusiasm and passion for his calling has not gone unrewarded. When he began pastoring at Rock Branch, the average Sunday morning worship attendance was approximately 100. By the end of the first year, the congregation was out of space in their existing building. By Easter Sunday 2018, the worship service was moved to the Family Life Center, and they have continued to worship there for six years.

On Easter 2023, the church went to two worship services on Sunday morning and currently has approximately 320 in worship and 70 children in a worship experience especially designed for them. The church has seen substantial growth with more than 100 new members received by profession of faith and baptism.

A taste of glory

The Rock Branch Baptist Church is now looking forward to beginning the construction of a new worship center, hopefully this year, which will be built in the place of the old church building.

That decision to demolish the old building and build a new one was a difficult one, Vaughn recalls, as the congregation navigated accommodating the needs of the church with the emotional connection some of the longtime members had to the old building. At the end of lengthy discussion at one church meeting, Vaughn relates, “Mrs. Linda Cannon, a foundational member of the church, stood up and said, ‘My parents were raised here. I was raised here. My kids were raised and saved in this church. I will always cherish the memories that I have had in that old church building, but it has served its purpose. And when something has served its purpose and is no longer useful, it is time to move it aside and build something that is. Let’s tear it down and build the new building.’”

After that, he says, he asked for more comments and there were none. The congregation subsequently voted unanimously to move forward with the expansion.

However, Vaughn says, “I tell our people almost every Sunday that the building is not the end goal, but a tool to reach people for Christ.” The mission and desire of the church are to see people “come to know Jesus as their personal and loving Savior and to be discipled and raised up to lead others to know Him.”

Vaughn has seen the Lord do great things in his time at Rock Branch, and expects to see many more, “Our greatest days are not behind us, but ahead of us,” he declares, “as we live out our lives for Christ with a desire to finish the race that is set before us. Our mission is to reach people for Christ, spread the gospel, make disciples, and repeat the mission!”