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Pensacola Priority

Vernell Adams returns to his hometown to launch Rhythm Church.

Rhythm: a steady, continuous pattern of movement or sound.

Movement, tempo, and sound are the core principles behind the January 2022 launch of Rhythm Church in Pensacola, Florida. Through the new congregation, pastor Vernell Adams seeks to modify the tempo of his hometown to better reflect the heartbeat of Jesus.

Rhythm Church’s mission is to bridge gaps between the community and the church, partnering with the city to enhance neighborhoods.

Adams, 40, brings a unique background of military and police service to ministry, incorporating years of leadership experience into his faith. He spent five years in the U.S. Army stationed in Vicenza, Italy; Hanau, Germany; and Fort Eustis, Virginia, as transportation management coordinator.

“I’m a man in authority under authority,” says Adams, who has been married to his wife Aisha for 18 years, and is father to Javier, 16; Zier, 15; Zariah, 13; Zion, 11; and A’merie, 3. “I have followed the orders of commanders and sergeants, and the greatest Commander, our Father in heaven, has spoken to me and said to come back.”

As a young boy living in a broken home in the projects in Pensacola, Adams endured a verbally and physically abusive stepfather. One day, the hurting 11-year-old boy encountered a local church outreach in a neighborhood park. There, Adams first heard about Jesus. He accepted a church invitation to youth summer camp — where he made Jesus his Savior and sensed a call to become a pastor.

Many years later, in 2015, Adams returned to his hometown for a visit, and he stopped by the same park in the projects where he once lived. He witnessed a pair of young boys using a large trash receptacle to play basketball in an area strewn with debris and used drug needles. His heart broke as he surveyed the devastation of a park he once loved. He says the Lord placed a burden on him to bring back hope.

Adams, who is pursuing a doctorate, expects to draw on his bivocational ministry roles from the past 16 years of youth leader, small group facilitator, and teaching pastor. For most of that time, he served on the Newport News Police Department. Initially, as a patrol officer, Adams assisted the gang unit and fugitive apprehension unit. Then he became a school resource officer, during which time he established a mentoring program helping students turn their grades around, stop engaging in criminal activity, break addictions, and become productive citizens. Many of the youths in the program went into the military, trade school, or college.

In 2019, Adams became a licensed Assemblies of God minister and connected with the AG’s Church Multiplication Network to make the transition back to Pensacola with Aisha and their children.

“With a great heart for God, and for people, the Adamses are a tremendous gift to the community where they’ll serve, as well as to our entire AG Fellowship,” says Phil F. Edwards, pastor of First Assembly of God in Panama City “I’ve never met a more genuine couple so dedicated to the Lord of the harvest.”

With many aspirations to impact the city, Adams says revival first comes when people become the tangible expression of Jesus.

“There are broken families, broken homes, high levels of drug addiction, and homelessness in this city,” Adams says. “But people won’t believe until they see that we care.”

Adams believes the best way to understand the needs of residents is to engage them in conversation, serve them, and cultivate the gifts God placed inside them.

Every third Sunday, Rhythm Church, a CMN Matching Fund church, will go beyond its four walls to “talk less and do more” by providing resources to people in need. The church will partner with local organizations to provide food and toiletries for the homeless, work with the city to beautify and maintain parks, and cooperate with nonprofits holding forums to educate families about available counseling and mental health resources. The church also will operate a food and clothing ministry, while sharing the gospel.

“Jesus commanded us to go into the world, not wait for the world to come to us,” Adams says. “People won’t believe us until they first see that we care. Going to them builds an invisible bridge that points them to the Cross.”

Althea Thompson Streater

Althea Thompson Streater is a doctoral student at Liberty University and has previously earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University. Thompson has over a decade of experience in journalism and public relations, including working for the Christian Broadcasting Network and Charisma Media. She resides in Orlando, Florida.