Our Purpose

Grace Community Bible Church exists to help Saints learn the Gospel of Christ and live the Gospel of Christ. We are here to help you deepen your roots in the Christian faith and reach out to our community in need. 


LEARN the gospel


Through sermons, Bible studies, challenging instruction, and daily Bible reading plans - Grace BIBLE is here to help you learn the Word of God and the Gospel of our salvation.

LIVE the gospel


Through our food pantry, Grace card evangelism, hospitality and children's ministry - GRACE Bible gives you many opportunities to take the grace Christ has given to you and share Him with the world.

Our Leadership

Shawn Willson

Senior Pastor and Elder

Pastor Shawn is always looking for a few good men for a game of horseshoes.

Pastor Shawn is always looking for a few good men for a game of horseshoes.

Shawn Willson was born and raised in Upstate New York. He has gladly traded several feet of snow each winter for the stifling heat of New Orleans. Shawn is married to Jen, born and raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and they are parents to four energetic children: Olivia, Naomi, Isaac, and Elias.

Shawn holds a Master of Divinity degree from Capital Bible Seminary in Washington D.C. and he was ordained to the ministry of the Gospel at Wye Bible Church in Grasonville, MD. Before his call to pastor at Grace Community Bible Church, Shawn served on numerous missions trips, as a counselor at Path of Life Camp in Port Crane, New York, and most recently served as the pastor of West Groton Bible Church for over 7 years.

The Lord has placed in Shawn a burning desire to proclaim His Word through expository preaching and to shepherd a local body of believers. Shawn’s passion for the Word of God and his church family comes forth boldly and lovingly in his sermons each week. It would be Shawn’s greatest pleasure to introduce you to his Savior, Jesus Christ, or help you to grow in a deeper friendship with Him.

Shawn currently serves as the chaplain of the Third District Volunteer Fire Department.

For those in our community who may not have a church family, Pastor Shawn is available to officiate weddings and funerals. Please fill out the form on the Contact Us page to request more information.

Chris Thibodaux

Elder Chair

Chris was born and raised on the bayou in Southern Lafourche Parish and now resides in Metairie with his wife Melissa. They are the proud owners of two dachshunds “Stella” and “Stanley”. Chris received a bachelor’s degree with a major in microbiology from LSU and then attended the University of Louisiana at Monroe where he completed a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. He is currently the Pharmacist manager at Total Life Care Specialty pharmacy in Harvey, LA.

Chris came to know Christ at a young age through the AWANA program. Since he was saved at a young age, the importance of giving a strong foundation in Christ to children holds a special place in his heart. He and his wife currently serve as co-teachers with the junior high and high school Sunday school class and are active with VBS (Vacation Bible School).

Don Penter


Don was born and raised in New Orleans and now resides in Metairie, Louisiana with his wife of 40 years. Don and Barbara have two adult daughters that live on their own and a “Grand” dog named Sadie.

In 1972 Don graduated from the University of Southwest Louisiana (now The University of Louisiana at Lafayette) with a degree in business. After college, he returned home to New Orleans and began his career with a local commercial plumbing and HVAC contracting company; and is still working there after 42 (and counting) years.

Don placed his faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ in 1988. The Holy Spirit convicted Don of his need for a personal Savior during a series of one-on-one Bible reading sessions with a friend from work.

The Lord found Don a church family with a discipleship and a teaching pastor at Grace Community Bible Church in 1992. Since then, he has grown in the grace and knowledge of his Savior. Don has led home Bible studies, been involved in club ministries for kids and nursing home ministries for the disabled and elderly. He also has previously served the church as a deacon.


Jamie Badilla


Jaime was born in San Jose, Costa Rica and immigrated to the US in 1964. He went into the US Army in 1965 and served in Viet Nam.

Since 1980, Jaime has been an independent insurance agent and resides in Metairie with his wife Karen and two Dobermans.

Jaime placed his faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ in 1991 and has been active in The Gideons International since 1993 where he currently serves as Vice President of the Metairie Camp. Jaime was blessed to have the opportunity to participate recently in a Gideons’ Scripture Blitz in Spain and also serve on a missions work trip to Honduras.

Ben Rivera


Native of New Orleans, Irish Channel area, presently residing in Metairie with his wife Gayle. They met during the era of “Happy Days” a time not as ungodly as the present, but nevertheless when one was less conscious of an eternal heavenly Father God.

Through the time of raising a family, a son and two daughters, were not fully aware that the Spirit of God was beginning to press their spirits regarding meaning and purpose.

Once the Lord found them, while coming from different religious backgrounds, they put their trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation, receiving complete payment for all their sins and God’s eternal forgiveness.

For over forty years since their belief in Christ they have attended Bible Churches, nearly twenty years at GCBC. Over such time the Lord has given them the desire and need to know His Word to grow in their relationship with the Lord and stride to His likeness, a work in progress.

Our Faith

The Triune God

We believe God is holy, eternal, loving, all-wise, sovereign and immutable. He is worthy of worship, obedience and service. We believe in the tri-unity of God, expressed in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each co-equal and co-eternal with the other. (Deut. 4:35, Isa. 45:5, Psa. 145:5, Lev. 11:45, Deut. 6:4, Mal.3:6, II Cor. 13:4, I Tim. 2:5, Heb. 9:14, John 5:23; 17:3Jude 25.)

The Holy Scripture

We believe in the plenary verbal inspiration and authority of the Holy Scriptures. The scriptures are defined as the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament and are infallible and inerrant. We believe that God has providentially preserved His Holy Scriptures. (Psa. 12:6, 19:7, II Tim.3:16-17, II Peter 1:20-21, II Samuel 23:2, Deut.6:6-9, Isa. 8:20, Matt. 5:18, 24:35, John 5:46-47, Proverbs 13:13.)

The Creation

We believe in the Genesis account of a creation with man and woman created in God’s image. God’s image in man was marred by Adam’s fall resulting in sin and death passed upon all mankind. (Genesis Chapters 1-3, Matt. 19:4-6, Romans 5:12-19, 3:9-10, 3:22-23, Ecclesiastes 7:20, and Psa. 8:3-8)

Jesus the Christ

We believe in the undiminished deity and true humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ; He was God manifest in the flesh, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and He suffered and died for sinners on the cross as a substitutionary blood sacrifice for the sins of mankind. (John 1:1-3, 14, 5:14, 8:35, 58, 17:5, Luke 2:7, 40, 52, I Timothy 3:16, Romans 5:6-8, I Cor. 15:3-4, I Peter 2:22-24, Hebrews 2:9-14, I John 2:2, 4:14, Ephesians 1:7.)

We believe that Christ bodily rose from the dead on the third day and ascended into Heaven where He now sits at the exalted right hand of God, the Father, as Intercessor and Advocate. (I Cor. 15:3-4, 20, Acts 1:2-10, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Hebrews 7:25, 13:20, I John 2:1.)

The Holy Spirit

We believe in the ministry of God, the Holy Spirit; He convicts of sin, baptizes the believer into the Body of Christ, indwells and sanctifies each believer. (Romans 8:9, I Cor. 12:3-5, John 16:8, I Cor. 12:12-14John 14:16-17, Ephesians 1:13-14, I Thess. 4:3-8, II Thess. 2:13, Ephesians 5:18.)

Our Fall

We believe all men and women are lost through Adam and condemned to separation from God apart from the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:19-25, 4:23-25, 5:1, II Corinthians 5:12-21, Philippians 3:9Titus 3:7).

Our Salvation

We believe sinners are saved by the grace of God through faith in the Person and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. At salvation, each person who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ is eternally secure in that salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Hebrews 10:10-12, Romans 10:4, 8:9, I Cor. 12:13, John 14:16-17Colossians 2:9-10, Titus 3:5, Jude 24, John 10:28, II Timothy 2:13, Ephesians 1:7, John 19:30).


We believe in the everlasting conscious blessedness of the saved and the everlasting conscious torment of the lost. (Rev. 7:14-17, 14:13, 21:4-8, Matt. 25:41, Luke 16:19-21, Rev. 20:10, 14:10-11, II Thessalonians 1:9)

The Church

We believe the Church is the Body of Jesus Christ, made up of all who believe in Him. The Body of Christ is to gather together as local churches according to the pattern of New Testament and doctrine and practice. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will receive His Church unto Himself before the Tribulation Period. (I Cor. 1:2, Eph. 3:5-7, Romans 16:16, I Cor. 12:27, 14:33, 37, II Thess.2:15, I Thess. 4:16-18, Titus 2:13, I Thess. 1:10, Daniel 9:24-27).

The Ordinances

We believe in the practice of water baptism of believers and communion of the Lord’s Table. (Matt. 28:19-20, Acts 2:41, 8:37, I Cor. 11:23-33, 10:16)

Spiritual Gifts

We believe in the distribution of spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit to members of the Body of Christ during the Church age. These gifts are to edify and encourage the Body of Christ. ( I Cor. 12-14, Ephesians 4:7-13, II Tim. 3:16-17, II Cor. 12:12, I Cor. 13:8-13)

The End of Days

We believe in the pre-millennial, visible and bodily return of the Lord Jesus Christ and Lord of Lords in conjunction with the conversion and blessing of national Israel. (Jeremiah 33:19-26; Romans 11:25-27; Revelation 1:7; 7:4-8; 19:11-15; Zechariah 12:9-10; 13:1; 14:1-4; Daniel 9:24-27)


We believe in the person of Satan, the opposer of God’s will and plan. His intent is destructive and his method is falsehood. He has enormous influence in this world in seeking to limit the gospel. He will suffer the torment of the Lake of Fire for eternity. (Job 1:6-12; 2:4-5;  Ezekiel 28:12-19; Mark 4:15; John 8:44; 1Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Peter 5:8-9; Revelation 12:9; 20:10)

Spiritual Gifts

We believe in the distribution of spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit to members of the Body of Christ during the Church Age. These gifts are to edify and encourage the Body of Christ. Certain miraculous gifts served their purpose in establishing the church during the ACTS period and have been discontinued with the completion of the New Testament scripture. (1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:7-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Our History

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It all started when...

Rev. Melvin Smith of Andalusia, Alabama followed the call of God and the leading of His people to found an independent, evangelical congregationin 1969. Grace Community Bible Church organized itself as Little Farms Baptist Church as the group first met in a World War II army barracks building which was purchased for a nominal amount and moved to a lot at 10414 Jefferson Highway. Available records from July of 1971 note Rev. Smith teaching an adult class with 31 enrolled. A bus ministry was undertaken during the early years, and many children and young people began attending.

During the early 1970’s, adjoining properties were purchased. The house at 10412 Jefferson Highway served as a parsonage, and a house at 153 Caroline Street was used for classrooms. Rev. David McPherson was called as an associate pastor of Little Farms Baptist Church in 1973 and became pastor following the resignation of Rev. Smith in late 1974; his pastorate became full-time in May of 1976. By 1976, the community of Little Farms had voted to rename itself River Ridge, prompting the congregation to change its name to Maranatha Baptist Church. In May of 1986, the congregation voted to change its name to Maranatha Bible Church in an effort to reach out to the community without a denominational overtone.

A building fund was begun in 1982; within three years, the fund balance was $32,000, and a building committee was formed. A spacious two-story brick building was built and dedicated in November, 1987, on the sites which previously held the barracks and the house on Caroline Street. The mortgage was paid off in November of 1992.

The church constitution was rewritten in 2009 to reflect leadership by plurality of elders along with congregational election in order to bring the church government more in line with other Bible churches. After discussion by the elders, the name “Grace Community Bible Church of River Ridge” was proposed by the elders and approved by the congregation in the fall of 2011.

Rev. McPherson faithfully led Grace for 42 years as pastor. The church was blessed to be led deeper and deeper into the Word of God by a man who devoted to the Savior Jesus Christ, the Gospel of grace, and the local church in River Ridge. Rev. McPherson retired in January of 2016. The entire congregation testified that Brother Dave lived with the same heart and focus as the Apostle Paul. Brother Dave can truthfully proclaim, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

The church welcomed Pastor Shawn Willson in late 2015 to follow in Pastor McPherson’s steps. Shawn, like Dave, holds to the innerancy of the Word of God as He preaches expositional sermons verse by verse through the Scriptures. Throughout these many years, the instruction and correction by the Scriptures has been central to all worship and service. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Our past is founded on the teaching of the Word, and our future is fully dependent on the continued, consistent exposition of the Bible.

God’s blessing has been obvious since the founding of our church. Expectations for His grace and blessing continue as the ministry of Grace Community Bible Church of River Ridge grows each year.