Open Arms and Bridgebuilding Sets Apart Pastor at Gateway

Gary Newman

The Ashland Beacon


   After three years on the job and many changes within the church, including a complete change of location, Gateway Church Pastor, JW Dunbar is leading a church ready to dig in, grow strong, and reach out. “He truly loves and cares for everyone,” Shelby Petitt, who works with children at Gateway Church remarked. “He always makes it a point to make sure everyone feels welcome not just in the church building everywhere he’s at,”

   Dunbar is no stranger to growing through challenges. Even with a degree in Pastoral Ministry from Lee College in Cleveland, Tennessee, his first position was to help a struggling church in Charleston, WV that he felt led to assist. Afterward, he found himself working in Huntington, which sparked a move, where over the next six years, he labored in youth, where Catlettsburg Church of God grew from 7 to over 100 students.

   He left to be a part of a new church started, and over nine years later, he was named Senior Pastor. “We were always talking about how contemporary we were, he said you’ve had the church for, at that point, two years and you’ve taken them from an auditorium to pews and stained glass and a steeple,” Dunbar recalls of a conversation with the Director. “I am contemporary, but God has brought me back toward the middle,” he continues.

   “It’s my desire to bridge denominations. There’s only going to be one heaven, so we try to live by the Bible and not by the bylaws.”

   Consistent outreach is something that Dunbar is fiercely in favor of. “We’re going to the community with our hand out, not to get, but to give,” the Pastor explained, “when we reach out to help others, I see very appreciative people and a group of church people who started thinking they were being the blessing and they end up in tears because they get to experience what it’s like to love like Jesus did.”

   As important as the job of Pastor is, he is very careful not to let the job get in the way of his walk with God or his time with family. “Gateway has some very talented people who step in and take on things to ease my burden,” Dunbar said. The Reds and Mountaineers would find it challenging to find a bigger fan, and he uses trips to ball games as a time to get alone with God and pray and listen to music and reflect.

   For more information on Gateway Church visit their website: or visit their Facebook.