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Man of Faith Surrounded by Cloud of Doubt
About 100 people showed up to hear Larry
Davis preach his first Sunday service 18 years ago at the
then-struggling First Baptist Church.
The former General Motors plant foreman – a proud man, a former
Marine – was not yet out of seminary. Yet even then, his powerful
preaching and charisma reached out to them, hinted of the God-centered
leadership he could provide.
On Feb. 1, Davis again was standing before his congregation, now
1,800 strong and ensconced in a multi-million dollar sanctuary with a
wrap-around balcony and flat-screen TVs. Yet only several hundred were
here to hear the embattled Davis preach his last Sunday sermon to date,
a parable about driving on the wrong side of the road without realizing
When the sermon ended, church members sat quietly, their faces blank.
"There are some people who don’t want me on the pulpit, and it’s
tough standing up there knowing those people are there," Davis said last
week. "I’m watching my back now."
His future – and the future of his church – are threatened by
allegations of one of the very behaviors the Southern Baptist Convention
vehemently campaigns against: gambling.
Kentucky State Police are investigating what church officials say
were hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable transactions from
a church bank account. Authorities have said that transactions were made
via an ATM card at horse race tracks and spent at online casinos.
Davis has not been charged, and his attorney says Davis has never
stolen any church funds. But some church members say he controlled the
account in question.
While the story of Larry Davis is interwoven with the story of First
Baptist Church of Cold Spring, the tale always winds back to a man with
a powerful personality, who built a needy church into community
prominence, made a name for himself across Kentucky and then helped draw
a national spotlight here with a successful Billy Graham Crusade aimed
at healing a city’s wounds.
"Davis has been the main reason the church has grown over the last 18
years," explained church deacon Larry Everman, 61. "We have grown about
10 percent annually. It is fair to say he is the finest preacher
I have ever known."
In an interview Wednesday at his attorney’s offices, Davis spoke
freely and frankly about how the allegations have torn apart his
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