Dr. Robert Koch, the pastor at St. John’s, was born in Columbia, Illinois and educated in the public school system there. After graduating in 1974, he attended McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, where he received his Bachelor’s degree, double majoring in English and Religion. Bob received a full tuition scholarship and teaching assistantship at Northwestern University, where he majored in the History and Literature of Religions, focusing on comparative studies in Theravada Buddhism and Christianity. After completing his Master’s degree at Northwestern, Bob attended Garrett Evangelical Seminary, earning his Master of Theological Studies degree.
While at his first yoked parish of Zion (New Design) and St. John (Fults) in the Illinois South Conference of the United Church, Bob completed his doctoral dissertation and was awarded a Ph.D. from Northwestern in 1988.
Bob has been the pastor at St. John’s since 1989. Under his leadership, our congregation has grown both in overall membership and attendance. Bob helped initiate televised worship services to the New Athens Home for Aged, brought our congregation into the Family Care Ministry, and brought student pastors from Eden Seminary into our family of faith. He was instrumental in the founding of New Beginnings Daycare, and worked hard to introduce contemporary worship to our congregation.
Bob has been active in the community life of New Athens as well, chairing the local Parents’ Club for many years, founding and chairing our school district’s After Prom event, organizing community wide dances for Junior High age young people, and chairing CESNA (Church Emergency Services of New Athens).
While at St. John’s, Bob also encouraged the construction of a new addition, and most recently worked with the Church Council as well as a special committee to redecorate our sanctuary and carry out a host of other building improvement projects.
Asked about his philosophy of ministry, Bob said: “I remember a professor at Northwestern who said all of our education as graduate students was useless if we couldn’t explain our studies to a kindergartener. The same applies to me at St. John’s. I’m worthless as a pastor if I can’t share the good news of Jesus Christ in ways people can understand. Jesus reached out using everyday language and met people where they lived. We Christians today have to do the same.