Sam E. Stone, 84, passed away unexpectedly of heart failure Jan. 25.
He is survived by two sons, Jeff (Johnnie) and Dave (Beth), former senior pastor of Southeast Christian Church, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
His influence for the Kingdom reached all corners of the world where he was known as a preacher, academic dean, leader, author, editor and champion for those with special needs.
At home, he was best known as dad, “dado” to his grandchildren and as a faithful friend to countless people.
His accolades are many, but his greatest desire in life was simply to serve the Lord and be a good example to his family. He was well-loved and will be greatly missed. His grandson, Sam Stone, is named after him. So is his great-grandson, Samuel Rhodes Stone, now 2 months old.
Dave Stone said his dad was the same in the pulpit as at home.
“The world knew him as a leader. We knew him as a servant,” he said. “Dad preached on six continents, interviewed Billy Graham when he was 15, met President Eisenhower at 16 and modeled Christ until the day he died. We praise God that Dad is in heaven with Jesus and reunited with his wife of 57 years. His last words to me Sunday on our normal nightly conversation were, ‘I love you, and I’m praying for you.’”
Southeast Senior Pastor Kyle Idleman is one of hundreds of young preachers impacted by Sam Stone.
“When I was in seminary, I was preparing to do my first funeral,” Idleman said. “Of course, a funeral is something you don’t get to really prepare for. But I was reading a book for one of my classes called, ‘The Christian Minister.’ It basically explained how to be a pastor. As a 20-year-old, reading that book not only gave me confidence for that funeral, but it painted a picture of what life would be like for me as a pastor. The author of that book was Sam Stone. I am one of thousands of ministers and Christian leaders who have been encouraged and taught by Sam Stone. His Kingdom impact is felt around the world. He was the definition of a faithful servant. Throughout his life, he modeled what he wrote about and is the picture of what a Christian minister should be.”
Retired Southeast Senior Pastor Bob Russell also knew Sam Stone well.
“Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart.’ Sam Stone personified a man who had a pure heart,” Russell said. “Somehow when you were with him, you knew that his life was above reproach. The fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5 were demonstrated in his life. His two sons and their families are a positive testimony to Sam’s legacy.”
The two preachers appreciated each other.
“Years ago, Sam preached a sermon on Christian unity at the North American Christian Convention that was one of the best I’ve ever heard,” Russell added. “I remember hanging on every word. It was powerful. Sam was so gracious and diplomatic. His words were always full of grace and seasoned with salt. Always.
“He loved his preacher sons and was proud of them without boasting. But he loved his wife more. He put Gwen on a pedestal and made it obvious she was special to him. When she died, it was like half of Sam died. All who knew him are rejoicing that he and Gwen are reunited in Christ.”
Ken Idleman, Kyle Idleman’s father, also knew Sam Stone well.
“It was said of Barnabas in Acts 11:24, ‘He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.’ I cannot think of a more concise and appropriate tribute than this for my friend Sam Stone,” Idleman said. “I observed him as an exemplary Christian leader while serving on the executive committee of the North American Christian Convention the year Sam was president. There were some difficult decisions that had to be navigated that particular year. Sam navigated and communicated those decisions with rare wisdom and humility.”
One memorable weekend, both Sam Stone and Ken Idleman were given honorary doctorate degrees by Milligan College.
“To be recognized with such a servant leader as Sam Stone made it even more meaningful to me. And, of course, it has been a joy to share with Sam the pleasure of watching our sons (Dave and Kyle) serve side-by-side as close friends and coworkers in ministry leadership at Southeast Christian Church for 18 years. The grace that consistently flowed from Sam Stone’s life and leadership is well-known and commended by all who have known him.”
In light of the pandemic and current restrictions, the family will hold a private graveside service. A celebration of life service will be held in the spring at Bright Christian Church in Bright, Indiana, where Sam was a member.
Memorial gifts may be given to the Stone Worship Center under construction at The Christian Village at Mason, Ohio. Cards may be sent to Dave and Beth Stone, P.O. Box 43416, Louisville, KY 40253.