Rev. Sam Burton, II is pastor of the Southaven First United Methodist Church, located at 723 Star Landing Road East; an active and vibrant church with a community focus of service to their fellow man.
The majority of the membership is older citizens, the younger families have moved on a couple of years ago, taking with them their children which virtually ended the church’s youth program.
But despite going through that event, Rev. Burton saw the opportunity to re-establish the basic foundation of why Southaven First United Methodist exists; to present the gospel of Jesus Christ and teach the Word of God. To that end, he is succeeding, holding firm to the members who faithfully attend each week.
Having begun his ministry in south-central Mississippi, after having realized one night when he was with his friends – all church members – that as the conversation turned to what life was about and where the then-teenagers were headed in life, Burton realized that there was something different about his friends, something that he knew he needed. And that night, in the back of the room where they were talking, 17-year-old Burton gave his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. That was the pivotal point in his life, a direction that would lead him eventually into the pulpit.
He began learning and studying. And at a small rural church, he was asked to serve, first in a youth ministry capacity. That was instrumental in preparing Burton for further service to God, and opportunities presented themselves.
By his late 20s, Burton married his sweetheart and they had a son. Family life was rewarding, but his first calling was to serve, and that continued to be his focus as he matured. Eventually, he moved to Kentucky but it was only for a short time. Then Burton and his family returned to Mississippi.
Being in the Methodist faith, and making progress in his Christian life, Burton was appointed to the Southaven First United Methodist Church two years ago, just as difficulties within the membership were dividing the church over certain issues. But Burton held his ground as a pastor and attempted to mediate problems and heal wounds. However, four families left, taking with them their children which had been core to the youth ministry of the church. Stripped of youngsters, the church stepped back to consider the future, and Burton seized the opportunity to re-establish the church’s mission – that of service, of preaching the gospel and planning for future growth.
“I always preach an invitational service,” according to Rev. Burton. “I feel it's imperative to present God's plan of salvation, of eternal life, and I want to make sure that no one leaves this church without having heard it from the Word of God.” That zeal for soul winning and for sharing God's word is what drives Burton as a minister. He takes his position as being a direct calling from the Lord and daily spends his time in the church building in his office where he feels he needs to be. “I don't work from home, but I feel it's my duty to be in the church where I am available to anyone who needs me,” he related.
Church members are community-focused, forming ongoing food drives for the needy and reaching out to older citizens, the majority of current membership. Sunday services are held at 9 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. There is also a Wednesday service at 6:30 p.m. and then on Thursday morning, it is repeated for older members who can't come to the evening service.
The church is looking ahead to what God has in store, especially as DeSoto County continues its accelerated growth. “I'm praying that God will lead a young family with children to join us and, hopefully, be instrumental in revitalizing our youth ministry. We're ready to reach out to the younger generation in the years to come,” Rev. Burton smiled.