Preachers have many talents. Some have an uncanny ability to touch the heart with their message; some have the ability to make a sermon relevant; some have a passion for an outside interest that drives a point home.
Bill King has humor.
However, he never planned to use his gift in any way other than as an integral part of his sermons — until a Valentine Banquet in 2002.
His church was ready, having invited a humorist to be the highlight of the evening. Then about a week before, the guest speaker canceled.
“He called and said something had happened,” King recalled. “That close to Valentine’s we couldn’t find anybody. So I kind of by default agreed to do the program in a staff meeting after one staff member said, ‘You should do something funny.’”
Thus, “Billy Bob the Baptist Bohannon” (later known as Bro. Billy Bob) was born.
King performed at the banquet and though it went well, he assumed he would never do it again.
‘The rest is history’
“I started getting phone calls at other churches and other groups,” King remembered. “The rest is history — 20 years later I’m still doing Billy Bob programs and have appeared as Billy Bob over 1,000 times. I never would have imagined doing that.”
Through the years King has seen a lot of changes. When he first started as Bro. Billy Bob, humor often wasn’t accepted within the church or church groups.
“One of the funnier things that I remember — there was a man sitting in the congregation in the second pew from the front right in front of me,” King recalled. “He sat through my entire program and he never laughed; he never cracked a smile. He just sat there staring straight at me.
“It affected my program a little bit. I kept thinking he does not like what I’m doing. He does not appreciate this. I’m ticking him off.”
Afterward, the man went straight to the book table and had his arms folded. When King got there the man didn’t say anything; he just stared.
“Boy, I’m about to get a tongue-lashing,” King thought. Then the man said, “I want to tell you something, Bro. Billy Bob.”
‘Funniest thing ever’
King was braced when the man said, “That was the funniest thing I ever heard in my life.”
“What?! If that’s true, you need to notify your face,” King said he thought to himself, actually saying, “Sir, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
“You never know what’s going through the minds of people,” King said. “You can’t always read what they’re thinking by the expression on the face, especially in church.”
Another time King performed at a senior adult rally, and afterward a woman told him her son had been killed in an auto accident several years before and she hadn’t been able to laugh since.
She told King she laughed that night for the first time she could remember — and laughed until she cried.
“Thank you so much for bringing me some joy back,” she said.
King’s ministry has involved many roles through the years. He started preaching at age 17 and became a pastor at 21. He was a director of missions for 15 years and serves interim pastorates after retiring in 2021.
He also is a musician, including music in the Billy Bob act, and a writer.
“My writing work kind of flowed out of Billy Bob. People kept saying when I did a Billy Bob concert, ‘You need to write a book and have these stories you tell in it.’ My first book was Billy Bob stories. In fact, I’ve written three of those.”
King also has written novels and a weekly newspaper column, publishing a compilation of some of the columns in, “I’m Fixin’ to Show Out for Y’all.”
He was one of the speakers at the Southern Christian Writers Conference in June.
“I enjoy the fellowship — meeting with other writers. I mean, not that I’ve learned everything about writing — I have not. I still always learn something when I go to the conference,” King said.
“The networking is always good. Most of the time good things come out of networking with people who do the same things you do.”
Bro. Billy Bob holds an invitation at the close of his performances and has seen people come to Christ.
“That says to me that God can speak to people’s hearts even through humor.
“God is good, and God loves us. But God wants us to laugh. God wants us to enjoy life … life in and through Him. There are a lot of people who are out there hurting, and I need to bring joy, smiles and laughter.”
Bro. Billy Bob is available anytime except Sunday mornings. Visit BroBillyBob.com for more information.