Skyline Baptist

The Rev. Ashley Payne introduces himself and takes prayer requests Wednesday evening at Skyline Baptist Church in Killeen.

Rachael Riley

For every plan the Rev. Ashley Payne has had for his life, he acknowledges he believes God’s plans are greater.

Payne will be installed as Skyline Baptist Church’s new senior pastor at the Killeen church’s 10:45 a.m. Sunday service — after serving 9½ years as an Army chaplain.

“You sit, you plan, you think, you pray, you ask God, ‘is this the direction you want to go?’” Payne said. “And God keeps putting me on the path to Skyline Baptist.”

From Dallas-Fort Worth area

Payne grew up the middle child of Eddie and Phyllis Payne in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

At the age of 5, he went down the hall to speak with his father and was led to his faith in Christ.

“And I tried to exemplify a godly life from that point on,” he said.

After graduating from high school, Payne worked in Lancaster as a machinist. A few years later he felt the calling to become a minister.

He graduated from Criswell College, followed by seminary school and obtaining a master’s in divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

While in seminary school, Payne was an associate pastor of youth education at an inner-city church in Dallas. He was later an associate pastor at another Dallas-area church for two years before joining the military.

Decision to join the army

The decision to become a chaplain came after separate conversations with three people in his life, Payne said.

His brother, an Army lieutenant colonel, first told him about the need for military chaplains. A few weeks later, his father brought the matter up, and

one of his Bible college friends later asked him what he thought about military chaplaincy.

“Doors opened up for me. Other doors became closed for me,” Payne said. “I believe God put me into the Army through this process.”

In 2005, Payne reported for training at Fort Jackson, S.C. His first assignment was with the 4th Fires Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Hood, which deployed to Iraq in 2005.

He returned and deployed again with the 41st Field Artillery Brigade in 2008.

“It’s different than being a minister because you go with the soldier and experience it with them,” Payne said.

“You are their minister there. You are taking care of them there in that situation, and you go through all these events with them.”

When he returned, he was sent to Italy for three years. His last military assignment was at Fort Jackson as a basic training chaplain.

Payne completed his time in the Army on Aug. 1 of this year. As he prepared to leave, he let people in his life know of the departure.

His former youth pastor looked at his resume and sent it to Skyline Baptist Church in Killeen.

Jim McGinnis, Skyline Baptist’s chairman of the deacons, said the church will celebrate its 51st anniversary in September.

The Rev. Jack Husung was the church’s pastor for more than 34 years before he retired.

Another pastor who stayed with the church for four years left in August 2013.

During the past year, McGinnis said, two interim pastors served the church. Kevin Thompson led morning services and Jim Fisher, a chaplain for Fort Hood and a church member, led evening services.

A pastoral search committee of seven members formed and studied resumes of 300 applicants.

“We wanted to do things in God’s timing and were finally led to Pastor Ashley Payne,” McGinnis said.

Payne said through the process, he felt a connection with the members and felt it was God’s will for him to be at Skyline.

Payne said he is glad to be back in Texas to have a place for his wife of 10 years, Stephanie, and daughters, Caroline and Kimberly, ages 6 and 7, to “put down their roots.”

“God really opened that door for me to return to not only Texas but back to a community where I have the opportunity to work with soldiers again, but in a different capacity and with families and folks from the community who aren’t military,” he said.

Contact Rachael Riley at or 254-501-7553

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