Dr. John Brannon finds home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001

at FUMC and in Troy


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Like John the Baptist, Dr. John Brannon spent time as a "voice in the wilderness."

As a young Methodist minister, who had grown up on the beaches of Panama City, Brannon found himself assigned to the small Alabama community of Weoka "way back in the wilderness."

Not knowing what to expect, he and his wife, who is also a native of the silver sands, made the journey north with their two sons, ages 4 and 1.

What they found was a community so loving and caring that it far exceeded their hopes and


"The Methodist church in Weoka had a ministry of raising young preachers," Brannon said. "I learned things there that couldn’t be taught in seminary. It was an idyllic life. I just didn’t know how good life could be. We have so many cherished memories there and Janice and I both will be buried there. It’s a special place for us, so peaceful and so filled with love."

Brannon served the church in Weoka for seven years and he did a lot of growing up during those years. He also sowed the seeds for his life as a minister.

"I learned that if I was going to preach to those people on Sunday and minister to them during the week, I had to know them, really know them," he said. "I hauled hay with them, wormed cows with them, picked corn with them and became part of them. They were my people and I was one of them."

Brannon always refers to his church membership as "my people" and he is always in their membership.

And, that’s the way it has been since his "raising" in Weoka. He served seven years at the Methodist church at Pike Road and four years in Atmore before being appointed to Troy in 2001.

Now, the members of First United Methodist Church of Troy are his people and he is quickly becoming one of them. Brannon arrived June 4 and immediately fell in love with his people, his church and his community.

"I believe everything God had planned for me led me to this place," Brannon said. "So, I’m serving notice. I’m locked down and I’m here to stay. They can’t blow me out with a stick of dynamite."

Brannon brings some heady credentials with him to FUMC, including a doctorate of ministry from Samford University.

"I’m so heavenly cursed, I’m no earthly good," he said, laughing. "But, it’s not about paper on the wall; it’s about tools for ministry. The more I’m engaged with people, the more I realize there are serious problems among them. I have to be prepared, so I need every tool I can have."

Brannon compared a minister to an auto mechanic.

"An auto mechanic has a box full of tools," he said. "If he needs a tool to fix a certain problem, he goes to his tool box and gets it.

A minister is like that. We need different tools at different times and we need a tool box to which we can go and get the ones we need."

Brannon’s "tools" are for use in his ministry, not for show.

"Jesus was not given to impressing people, He was into loving people," Brannon said. "Wise one’s will follow His lead. There’s a saying that people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. Caring, loving and meeting the needs of my people is what I’m all about."

Brannon also follows the lead of Jesus as a pulpit preacher.

"I guess you can say that I’m a narrative preacher," he said. "Jesus told stories and I use many stories as illustrations. I want my sermons to be uplifting. I’m not a hell, fire and damnation preacher. I’d rather love the devil out of my people than scare it out them."

Brannon said he works very hard to prepare his sermons, sometimes 20 hours a week.

"I love to preach and I don’t ever get paid to preach," he said. "I get paid for all the other things preachers do, but I don’t get paid to preach. I do that for free."

The text for Brannon’s sermons come from the needs of his people.

"My grandmother and my great-grandmother taught me to observe," he said. "They said you can learn all you need to know by observing what happens in the lives of others. I want to be a part of what is happening in the lives of my people. When they struggle, I’ll struggle and, when they celebrate, I want to be invited to the party."

And, there is little doubt that a preacher who drives a bright red Mustang convertible would enjoy a good party.

"When I was in Atmore, a few eyebrows were raised when I bought the Mustang," Brannon said, laughing. "They said a preacher ought not to drive a red convertible. But, when I came to Troy, my car didn’t even cause a ripple in the water. I do like this place!"

The new Methodist minister did admit that he might cause a few ripples when people learn that he is

"as crazy as a loon" over Alabama football.

"The only thing worse, would be if I were a Gator or Seminole," he said, laughing. "When we came up from Florida, I learned in a hurry that you could be a Christian if you wanted to, but you’d better be an Alabama or an Auburn fan."

Football is not Brannon’s only "outside" interest. He sails, hunts, reads and writes and enjoys spending time with his family – his wife, Janice, and sons, Michael, 22, and Jeremy, 19.

"It’s important to spend time with your children," he said. "My sons and I have spent many hours sitting in trees together. Get outside and you can learn a lot about each other. About 90 percent of what our children believe is what we, as parents, believe. We hope to get it right and then we hope our children will

pass it along."

What John Brannon learned in the wilderness of Alabama, he has passed along throughout his ministry. Although he came out of the wilderness to pastor urban churches, it is still that voice crying in the wilderness that shows him the way to caring and loving his people.