February 23, 2021
James “Jim” Barnette, a longtime professor at Samford University and pastor of Brookwood Baptist Church, Mountain Brook, died Monday (Feb. 22). He was 59.
Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Barnette earned his undergraduate degree at Samford in 1983. He later earned his master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 1994, Barnette returned to Samford as Minister to the University. This work included teaching responsibilities in the department of biblical and religious studies, which he joined as a full-time professor beginning in 2005. He taught several courses, including biblical perspectives, preaching, formation for Christian ministry and missiology. Barnette also directed Samford’s Preministerial Scholars program and the Samford Sunday preaching program, which matches Alabama Baptist churches with ministerial students to preach sermons in their pulpits.
Barnette concentrated his research in the areas of preaching, Christian worship, ministerial formation and ministerial ethics, and he contributed to several journals, including Review and Expositor, Preaching and Journal of the American Academy of Ministry.
Barnette retired from Samford earlier this year. Last year, he was diagnosed with Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, an untreatable degenerative brain disorder. He had recently been in hospice care.
Roy E. Ciampa, chair of the department of biblical and religious studies at Samford, described Barnette as “an amazing person who I think exudes, like few other people, that combination of faith, hope and love.”
“Just to be in his presence is to realize that he cares, that he loves Jesus, he loves you and he’s there for you. When the word came of his diagnosis, there was an outpouring of messages from across the country.”
“People over decades have been mentored by Jim and had their lives transformed. Because of Jim, they had wavered and struggled with their faith, but because of Jim and his impact, their faith was saved. In other ways as well, people would go on about how Jim was there for them in their time of need, their time of struggle, and he made all the difference in their lives. He’s been doing that year after year. He has left this indelible impact on the lives of students and colleagues,” Ciampa said.
In addition to his work at Samford, Barnette had served as senior pastor at Brookwood Baptist Church in Mountain Brook since 2016. Prior to that, he served as the church’s teaching pastor for eight years.
With his father, Henlee Barnette, a longtime professor at Southern Seminary, he co-authored a collection of prayers and poems called “Homely Joys.”
He was a frequent speaker at ministerial conferences and preached for Day 1 (formerly The Protestant Hour), a weekly radio broadcast to over 200 stations in America and overseas. He also was a member on the Advisory Board of Day 1.
For many years, he wrote quarterly Sunday School commentary for The Alabama Baptist.
‘Death has lost the battle’
Shortly after his diagnosis last year, Barnette sent out a letter to his fellow Samford faculty.
“While we are heartbroken by this diagnosis, we realize that God is always with us,” he wrote. “And because of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we have not been defeated. Actually, just the contrary … death has lost the battle. As I always declare on Easter Sunday morning from Brookwood’s pulpit, ‘Tomb’s Empty!’ and it still is today.”
In a CaringBridge post announcing her father’s death, Barnette’s daughter, Hannah Asters, wrote:
“The most fitting and hopeful words I can think to leave you with are that of my Dad’s benediction: ‘Depart now in the fellowship of God the Father and as you go, remember: By the goodness of God, you were born into this world. And by the grace of God, you have been kept all the day long, even until this very hour. And by the love of God, fully revealed in the face of Jesus, you have been redeemed and you are being redeemed. So go in peace.’”
Barnette is survived by his wife, Deanna; son Nicholas; daughter Hannah Asters; and one grandchild.