Jeremy Burrage said he remembers his first thoughts when he heard that Herb Thomas was going to be preaching verse by verse through the minor prophets at Circlewood Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa.
“I remember thinking, ‘He’s trying to kill this church, why’s he preaching verse by verse through the minor prophets?’ But he saw more people come to faith in Christ in that season than any other season,” said Burrage, who at the time was “a 24-year-old student minister that thought he knew more about Church than the guy that had been doing it longer than I had been alive.” “I just saw how He was faithful to preach the gospel from every single page of the Scriptures, faithful to point people to Christ in everything.”
Burrage, who now serves as lead pastor of Capstone Church in Tuscaloosa, said Thomas has supported him, mentored him and set an example for him and so many others over the nearly 45 years as he’s served as Circlewood’s pastor.
Because of that legacy, Thomas was presented with the third annual Fred Wolfe Lifetime Pastoral Ministry Award on Nov. 13 during the evening session of the Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference.
The award is named in honor of Wolfe, a longtime Alabama Baptist pastor and SBC leader who died in 2021. It is given annually to a pastor who has invested through mentoring, discipling and encouraging other men of God.
Rob Cain, Circlewood’s associate pastor, said Thomas took a chance on him when he was a 21-year-old student leader and offered him a job. He shared his thoughts on Thomas’ ministry through a video presentation at the conference along with Burrage and others.
“We’re now beginning our 20th year together in two different stints and I’m so appreciative to him for giving me that opportunity,” said Cain, noting that he’s seen Thomas live a life full of character and love for people.
Winton Patterson, who has served as music minister at Circlewood the entire time Thomas has been there, shared that he remembers a time when revival “just broke out” and 18 were saved. He said Thomas has always used every opportunity, leading people to Christ at many funerals over the years.
Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee, said he was grateful for Thomas’ “legacy of discipleship, your commitment to the gospel and to pastoring and shepherding your church.”
Allen Atkins, pastor of The Fellowship in Albertville, said Thomas’ “faithful ministry” has spanned 58 years total. Before serving at Circlewood, Thomas was pastor of First Baptist Church Sayre and Lookout Valley Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“Bro. Herb, you have been and you are to hundreds of people an encourager, a friend, a counselor, a prayer partner, a mentor and a spiritual father,” Atkins said, noting that Thomas was his pastor when he was a college student. “One of the many things I learned from him that he modeled … in our 40-plus years of friendship, I don’t think there was a single time that I would go by and see him at Circlewood that we didn’t pray.”
He said Thomas would pray on his knees, pouring his heart out to God, and that made an impression on Atkins.
“Your love for God, your love for others, your passion to reach the lost for Christ has never waned over the years,” Atkins said. “Your joyful, positive spirit is infectious to everyone who’s been around you.”
Thomas said he praised the Lord for “all He is doing.”
“He’s been so good to us, to our family and to all of our church people we’ve been with,” he said. “What counts more than anything is that God in His mercy called and saved and is using me, and I praise Him right now in my life … to God be the glory for all He has done.”