GREENBRIER — Kevin L. Lyon is Pastor of Greenbrier First United Methodist Church (GFUMC), the very first church on the right as you enter the city and the oldest in town, established in Greenbrier in 1877. Lyon came to this church in June, 2011, from Henderson Church in Little Rock. Although he had huge shoes to fill upon the retirement of Pastor John Farthing, church membership has grown, a new building was dedicated, and the youth program has exploded.
Lyon is considered one of the best preachers in the area by some.
"His Sunday sermons are just like a Sunday School lesson and full of things I can use in my everyday life," said one member.
Another said, "I love how he always uses humor to make a point and ties it in with the Bible." Lyon says, "I know God has a sense of humor. God teaches me new things every day."
Lyon is convinced that God kept tugging at him to become a Minister even though he resisted for many years. He is quite shy and was afraid of public speaking. "I knew I was called to the ministry my senior year of high school; but I had no confidence," he said. "I would actually become terribly nauseated and awkward when I knew I had to speak. So I put it off and took different miserable paths in my life for quite a few years."
He grew up between West Virginia, where his parents live, and Texas, where he went to Baylor University (a Baptist school). He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. Still resisting God’s call, he decided that dental school at West Virginia University, where his brother had gone, would be fun. "Those were two of the most miserable years of my life — just drilling and screwing," he laughingly said. Finally, a southern Baptist Preacher in Texas gave him good advice: "It’s not whether you’re raised capable; but, when you’re called, God will equip you."
Lyon left dental school in 1981 and received his Master’s degree in Hospital Administration in 1983 from UALR and worked as a graduate assistant there in statistics and epidemiology. Still miserable, but still feeling the call to serve God, he attended Asbury Methodist Church in Little Rock where he became a Youth Director. He had a knack with teens and the Pastor and congregation encouraged him to use his gifts and graces. He went on to Pine Bluff First Methodist Church and then to West Memphis First Methodist Church working with youth while studying at Memphis Theological Seminary. He earned his Master’s in Divinity in 1991. Although he says he still gets nervous with "those butterflies in (his) stomach" and still feels inadequate every time he steps into the pulpit, he remembers those words, "God will equip me."
The transition from Baptist to Methodist was a huge change in his thinking and he is very happy to be in a church that is known in the area as a real mission-minded church. He likes the idea that communion is for everyone — an "open communion" and offers it every Sunday. He recognizes that baptism means going on in God’s grace all of your life, continuing to grow even more in your faith as you meet life. The Methodist way of life is Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.
Lyon and GFUMC certainly try to answer this community’s needs. They have one of the largest food pantries in the area and are the only one open five days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. They never turn anyone away and have already served 25 percent more families with bags of groceries this year over last.
The church’s twice yearly blood drive is being held in their fellowship hall today 3-7 p.m. There is a blood shortage this summer so just show up if you can give. Sept. 14 is a day GFUMC will give away gently used and new jeans and coats collected for the needy in all sizes. The church just places them on tables in their parking lot and people come. Last year 800 pairs of jeans were given away. If you would like to donate, just drop them at the church.
Each year they regularly donate school supplies to the elementary schools in Greenbrier and Guy. The men of the church clean-up a mile stretch of Highway 65 three times a year. They have traveled to Joplin and Clinton to help with tornado relief and even helped the Redbird Mission in Oklahoma do home repairs for elderly and low income families. Greenbrier loves their community-wide events of an Easter egg hunt, July 4 fireworks and ice-cream social, and Trunk-or-Treat at Halloween.
GFUMC’s Vacation Bible School had 100 kids this summer. Their Parents’ Day Out program operates 2 days a week during the school year for pre-school children to give parents a free day. Operation Christmas Child is in place this year to fill Christmas wrapped shoe boxes with small gifts to send to kids in third world countries. Last year they sent 70 boxes. An Angel Tree is filled with presents for low-income families in Greenbrier every year. The GFUMC youth are a quite active group collecting shoes and school supplies to give away.
Lyon lives in Greenbrier with his wife, Donna. He has four children, two in college and two older grown children now married. This Pastor has a heart for service and community work and is the perfect leader for GFUMC. Lyon says, "I want people to feel better every time they leave here." He sees the goal for GFUMC to grow in numbers and a deeper spiritual life — to do much more hands-on ministry." The congregation is perfectly happy with the mission work in this community and the world. Obviously, by the numbers who are fed and clothed in Greenbrier, so is Greenbrier.
GFUMC has two services — Sundays at 9 a.m. and contemporary at 11 a.m. at the corner of Tyler Street and Highway 65.
Sunday school is at 10 a.m. Youth grades 7 through 12 meet Sundays at 5 p.m. Both adults and youth meet Wednesdays at 6 p.m. for study and fellowship. The church office is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, go to their web site at www.greenbrierfumc.org or call 501-679-2452.