Tom Cabaniss Class of 1984
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Kannapolis, NC

While traveling on Interstate 40, I have often driven past East Burke High School and enjoyed fond memories of the classmates, faculty and staff that made the school a special place in my life. My love for history was cultivated by Ruth Garner, Sam Wilkinson and Everett Johnson. Little did I know in the 1980s that my fascination with Martin Luther and his ninety-five theses, inspired by Mr. Johnson, would later fuel a lifelong admiration for this catalyst of the Protestant Reformation and his rediscovery of salvation by grace through faith. As a Baptist minister, I speak and write for a living. Almost every Sunday is a debate where I seek to make a case for Christ. I am forever grateful to Martha Wetmore for helping me to learn to speak publicly, think critically and present arguments supported by evidence, persuasion and reason.

After graduating in 1984, I studied at Mars Hill University where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in both history and philosophy. After completing my undergraduate work, I was accepted at Wake Forest University to pursue a Master of Arts in history. During that time of graduate work at Wake Forest, I became convinced that God was indeed calling me to pursue a career in church-based, vocational ministry. My next stop was Duke University where I completed a Master of Divinity degree through the Duke Divinity School. I would finish my formal education by completing a doctorate through Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. My dissertation was written about the ethics of organ transplantation and the role of the church in speaking pastorally and prophetically to those undergoing such experiences. While pursuing my doctorate, I was fortunate to be mentored and advised by the eminent and well-regarded theologian Dr. Harold O.J. Brown.

I have pastored three Baptist churches in North Carolina. I first served the Maple Springs Baptist Church in Louisburg. My next stop was the First Baptist Church of Cramerton . In 1996, I accepted the call to become the senior minister at the First Baptist Church of Kannapolis, where I have served for twenty-six years. My work as a pastor has opened the world to me for travel and exploration. I have had a chance to visit and serve in the Middle East, Africa, Central America, South America, Europe, Canada and Haiti. I count it a special joy to have preached and served in South Africa and in the refugee camps populated by people escaping both war and famine in other places. One of my fondest memories is preaching at a former KGB Listening Station in Ukraine when that country was part of the former Soviet Union. The old KGB outpost was purchased by Ukrainian Baptists and repurposed into a church and ministry center in Western Ukraine.

My job allows me to enter into the lives of people whom I know and love. We navigate through lifes battles and victories. I have the privilege of helping them to see where God may be at work and what He is doing in their lives. I enjoy helping to engage and connect people with opportunities to serve on international and domestic missions experiences and to minister in our local community. Aside from presenting the gospel in the pulpit, much of my work takes place around a lunch table or conversations with people whose lives I have been fortunate to be connected to for twenty-six years. I also enjoying blogging at least four days a week. For those interested in reading my daily devotional messages, they can be accessed here:

Our Sunday worship services are broadcasted each week and archived here:

As an example of how important sports are to me, I met my wife, the former Lara Bryant (also an East Burke graduate) while she was a student at UNC and I was at Duke. Our second date was watching a Duke/UNC basketball game played at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Incidentally, Duke won 74 to 60. My son and I are passionate sports fans and travel far and wide to enjoy basketball and baseball games. One of my bucket-list goals is to see a baseball game in every Major League Stadium. I still have about ten stadiums to go. We also enjoyed attending the 2017 World Series to see our beloved Los Angeles Dodgers play. My daughter and I are passionate about Broadway, musical theatre and plays. We have been to Broadway and the theatre district in Toronto, Ontario, while enjoying and binge-watching as much community theatre as possible. At home in Cabarrus County, I have enjoyed serving with our Habitat for Humanity affiliate, following our high school football teams and coaching youth baseball. My wife and I enjoy catching the occasional 80s bands that visit Charlotte and perform concerts. I can be reached by email at and on Facebook at

My hobbies include reading, attending baseball card shows, binge-watching shows that stream or those found on Netflix. I carry with me each day some of the work lessons I learned from my high school job at the Rock Drug Store. Loy Ray Burris and Buddy Piehl were terrific mentors who helped me learn the importance of work, respect and staying on task to finish the job. Mark Jolley at East Burke fostered a love for space and astronomy that I still enjoy today. One of my prized possessions is an autographed copy of Time magazine signed by all four astronauts who participated in the September 2021 Inspiration Space Mission.

As I look back over fifty-six years of life, I am blessed beyond measure. Many of my present blessings have their roots and beginnings in the people who shared EBHS with me from 1981-1984. One of my favorite quotes comes from the missionary Jim Elliot who was murdered in Ecuador while attempting to take the gospel to an unreached people group. He wrote, not long before his death, He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. I am thankful to know the Lord and to walk with Him and to give my life in surrendered service to His glorious gospel message.

Best regards!

Published April 2022

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