October is Pastor Appreciation month. This has me thinking about the pastors in my life who have me into the pastor I am (and strive to be) today. Through October, I am posting a tribute to each them as a way of saying “thank you” for the way they invested themselves in my life.
Sam Vernon was Melanie’s pastor long before I had the opportunity to get to know him. Sam was serving as the campus minister of the Wesley Foundation at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia. I believe he was also pastoring a small United Methodist church at the same time. Melanie would share often about how she was growing through the ministry of the Wesley Foundation.
Fast forward to 2006, as Melanie and I are in our first year of wedded bliss and living in Valdosta. We were looking for a church, and heard that Sam was sent to pastor Lake Park UMC. We connected quickly at the church, and made it our home.
I credit Sam for getting me to Asbury Seminary and teaching me first hand about discipleship and accountability. Pastors often find their weeks consumed with all kinds of fun stuff like; committee meetings, endless email, and administration. All that is important, but not why pastors get into this line of work. Sam made time to disciple those in his church. We would meet together often, over breakfast or lunch, usually at Denny’s. We would talk about what God was doing in my life, challenges I was experiencing, and the call to pastoral ministry I was feeling. Sam has a way of asking the tough questions and pushing me to trust Jesus with all my heart and life. Sam took seriously (as serious as Sam can be) his pastoral call to make disciples, and he took time for a 24 year old newlywed and his wife.
After a lot of prayer and leading by the Spirit, Melanie and I decided our next step was to go to seminary. I had two schools on the table, both Southern Baptist. My theology the was not a good fit for an SBC school, and I knew it. I recognized a call to be a pastor the emphasized accountability and person-to-person discipleship. I decided to look at Asbury Seminary, because that is where Sam went. I want to be a pastor who preached, led, and discipled like he did. He learned it at Asbury, and Asbury quickly rose to the top of my list. As it turned out, Asbury was exactly the right place for us. I found that my theology, my understanding of God, was best articulated in the Wesleyan tradition, and eventually found my way back to the United Methodist Church.
Thank you Sam for modeling to me person-to-person discipleship, the importance of accountability, and sharing with me the richness of the United Methodist tradition. Sam is currently the Senior Pastor at Douglas First UMC in Douglas, Georgia.
Other Posts in the Series “Pastor Appreciation”