2013 reflections: ‘As close to heaven as any of us would ever be this side of eternity’

Writer David Hersey

Writer David Hersey

GRANBY, Mo. (BNc) by David Hersey — At the 2013 Annual Preachers Files Lectureship hosted by the Rogers Springs church in Middleton, Tenn., an event happened during an afternoon break between lessons which had a profound impact on me.

A handful of us had stayed at the building during the break, and we were enjoying some one-on-one fellowship with a few of the members who were in and out. About an hour or so before the next scheduled lesson, someone picked up a songbook from a pew and started singing the first hymn in the book. Those of us who were present in the auditorium picked up a book and joined in. Continue reading

Preacher recommits to evangelism, takes ‘risks in relationships’

Willow Ave. preacher Jeremiah Tatum

Willow Ave. preacher Jeremiah Tatum

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (BNc) by Jeremiah Tatum — Please do not think  I believe that I know more than other people just because I have been out of the country. Please do not think I am prejudiced against any person in this part of the country. Please understand that this is being written out of a pure heart and sincere love for God and his people. With these things in mind, I would like to address some problems that exist in the minds and hearts of many Christians.

1. Unfortunately, many Christians do not have a global view of the church. They may not even have a respect for the needs to establish the church on a national level. Sometimes we limit our focus to the local congregation. Although God has organized the local church and has commanded us to be a part of it, we are supposed to have the best interest of the souls of all people in every country in the world in our hearts. Continue reading

Former MSOP student pays tribute to Curtis Cates

curtis-catesMEMPHIS, Tenn. (BNc) by Chad Dollahite — The Lord’s church lost a saint from this life Friday, Oct. 25, the Memphis School of Preaching lost her Director Emeritus, many across this country and world lost a friend and a brother, sister Annette Cates lost her husband, Dan and Andy Cates lost their father, other members of the family lost a man about whom they cared deeply, and I lost a hero in the faith (as well as a dear friend and Christian mentor). Continue reading

Man converted after Adventist friend points him to the church


Doyle Farris, who worked with Stephen

Doyle Farris, who worked with Stephen

GALLATIN, Tenn. (BNc) by Ken Thomas — A South Sudanese man in Tennessee learned the gospel because an Adventist friend in Minnesota encouraged him to seek out a church of Christ.

This interesting case of conversion was reported by Doyle Farris, outreach minister with the Hartsville Pike congregation.

Recently, Stephen, a local man with South Sudanese background, went to Hartsville Pike’s Sunday assembly and asked for information about the churches of Christ. An elder gave him a study booklet which teaches first principles of the gospel. By Monday he had studied and filled out the questions in a good portion of the study. He asked for a personal study with Doyle.

Later in the week, he returned for another study, and eventually he carried the information he had learned to his wife and four children. They attended worship together, and this past Friday the man was baptized into Christ.

Stephen had been a member of a Sudanese Presbyterian church but felt he was not growing spiritually as he should. He contacted a friend in Minnesota and asked for advice as to where to turn spiritually.

The friend, a Seventh-Day Adventist, had been convinced that he, himself, needed to make a change spiritually, and he advised his Gallatin friend to find a church of Christ to receive accurate instruction in the scriptures. It was on the advice of a South Sudanese man who had migrated to Minnesota that a Tennessee resident learned about the churches of Christ.

Two men who escaped the horrors of South Sudanese violence in the past have now found the peace and security that is in Christ. Santino Haar was able to get acquainted with his new brother in Christ this week. Having met in the past, they now have a common bond that is much more important than their human origins in two tribes of Sudan.

Who knows but what the advice of Santino to those who gathered in Omaha in May (to discuss plans to build a clinic in Unity State, South Sudan) helped cause what happened this past week. He told the Panaruu conference that when they went home they needed to find a church of Christ and learn the Bible. And that was before he, himself, had been baptized.

In Gallatin there is now a family of six which has begun to learn about the Lord’s church.

Also, in far-away Kenya, Santino’s wife and four children and other relatives Santino supports will soon have opportunity to study the Word more carefully. Personal contact has already been made by Christians who have visited their home. Pray that the seed sown will bear more fruit for the kingdom of Christ.

I believe that the kindness and warmth shown to Santino during his visits at the Beech Grove congregation near Murfreesboro had a part in his conversion. Without doubt, if no conversation had been made with him about the church, he would not have been a Christian now.

Let us all understand that when the seed of the kingdom, the Word of God (Lk 8:11), is planted in honest hearts by teaching, and when it is watered by others who provide encouragement to the seeking soul, God gives the increase (1Co 3.5-10).

Use every open door you can find to share the gospel, and use every opportunity to help encourage both students and teachers of the Word of God. The gospel is for all, so let us be busy getting the message out (Rm 1.14-16).

Getting kicked out leads to conversion

Preacher Jeff Archey with Tom Leffler

Preacher Jeff Archey with Tom Leffler

CLEVELAND, Tenn. (BNc) — Getting kicked out of the house of a woman he met over the Internet was the best thing that had ever happened to Tom Leffler.

From there he went to the Cleveland Emergency Shelter.

While at the shelter, he received food and an invitation from a local congregation’s ministry.

“This one gentleman named Sam Carico invited me to East Side Church of Christ,” Tom said. “I started attending and felt this was where I needed to be and on July 17, I was baptized. It has been going great ever since.”

Every other Monday night, the East Side congregation prepares supper for the residents of the shelter, located just down the street from the church building.

The Cleveland Daily Banner ran Tom’s story Sept. 15 and highlighted the work of the shelter.

BNc asked Jeff Archey, preacher with the East Side congregation, about Tom.

“I met Tom the first time at our mid-week Bible Study,” Jeff said. “He was very gracious and friendly and began attending faithfully. After his obedience to the gospel, he has always been a willing servant.”

“He refreshed our tract racks and keeps them refilled. His vision of helping others less fortunate is exceptional. When he was staying at the Economy Inn, he would share food with others and invite them to worship. He used our House to House/Heart to Heart publication by leaving them in the lobby and at the laundromat where he washed his clothes. This Laundromat is in a Hispanic area which prompted Tom to ask about the House to House Hispanic version. He seeks out good works and is willing to help any way possible. He is well loved, appreciated and is a blessing to our work and family at East Side,” Jeff said.

The newspaper article noted that Tom now works as a custodian at the local high school and lives in a nice apartment.

‘Amazing thing’: Preacher’s Files Lectureship goes to Tennessee church


Some speakers and participants of the lectureship. Photo: Tabitha Lancaster

MIDDLETON, Tenn. (BNc) — The lectureship that sprung from a website went to the Rogers Springs congregation Sept. 6-8.

“It was an amazing thing for this congregation,” Trent Childers, Rogers Springs preacher, said.

Since all the speakers “come for free,” the Preacher’s Files Lectureship allows smaller congregations “to host a weekend lectureship, which they likely could not do otherwise,” Trent wrote in the congregational bulletin.

“We here at Rogers Springs were able to host an event with 14 speakers,” he wrote.

The speakers came from Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri, as well as India and Brazil. They were either teachers on the site forum, teachers from the Memphis School of Preaching, or former students of MSOP, due to Trent’s association with the school.

Dick Sztanyo shows the errors of evolution

Dick Sztanyo shows the errors of evolution

The Preacher’s Files website hosts sermon outlines and Bible lessons, as well as an active forum providing space for studies, fellowship, poetry, and other special interests.

Some participants of the 2013 event stayed in motels and campgrounds, while others were hosted in homes of the Rogers Springs saints.

Each year a different congregation hosts the event. It is planned through discussion on the site forum.

The lectureship was the eighth annual event, which has been held in a number of different states. Discussion has already been opened as to the location for 2014.

The Preacher’s Files website was begun Sept. 2001, by Eddie Watkins. With hundreds of outlines and studies, it gets millions of page views annually.

Videos of the sessions are being posted to youtube.


Polishing the Pulpit breaks records in its mission to ‘refresh, renew, recharge’


BNc Editor J. Randal Matheny with PTP speaker David Kenney

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (BNc) by J. Randal Matheny — The final count is not yet in, but over 3,200 saints converged on the Sevierville Events Center for a record-breaking Polishing the Pulpit Aug. 23-29.

Thanks to a generous missionary discount from the organizers and to the kindness of friends whose plans for PTP fell through, my wife and I attended the entire week. This was our first time at the event.

Our daughter, who has spent a year in the US after leaving home, asked us to pay her weekend to PTP, the Spiritual Renewal Weekend, as a birthday present, which we were happy to do.

The organization of the event, provided by the leadership of the Jacksonville, Ala., congregation, was superb. Tracks for youth, women, elders, missionaries, preachers, deacons, homeschoolers, to name only a few, provided something of interest for most everyone. The Missionary Rendevous track was added this year to the evangelism sessions.

Classes for children left parents free to attend sessions. Exhibits by booksellers, ministries and others served the participants well.

On Tuesday night, James Meadows was honored with a lifetime service award.

Polishing-the-PulpitFor those who couldn’t load the PTP 2013 app on their iPhones, iPads, and Androids, a full-color schedule was provided on registration, and in PDF format on the website.

For the first time, thumb drives with audio of the classes were distributed to those who stayed for the entire week. The organizers will likely evaluate whether this offering kept more people for the entirety of the event or caused them to miss more sessions, since they could listen later.

Why do people attend PTP? Hannah Giselbach’s post is not untypical of many:

I came to PTP feeling somewhat alone and disheartened. I left feeling uplifted and revitalized. I left with a fire within me after spending time and fellowshipping with over 3,000 Christians who I know I can count on, wherever they are in the world throughout the year, to be fighting the good faith. I can depend on them to walk alongside me in faith, even if I can’t physically be with them.

A first-time atendee, Vicky Yocum, shared her perspective on the PTP Facebook page:

I can say that I have a renewed hope for the brotherhood, stronger bonds to share, many amazing messages to ponder, and uplifting lessons to benefit every area of my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all those who plan and support PTP. It did not disappoint! It was so refreshing to be among over 3,000 saints, block out the world for a week, be surrounded by encouraging people who truly care about souls, and listen at the feet of such wise teachers. I could go on and on. If you have not attended—plan, budget, and make the trip!


Eric Owens speaks at PTP. Photo: Amy Clevenger

The call to “refresh, renew, recharge” was fulfilled in many ways through the PTP offerings.

My wife and I noted a few of the blessings we received at PTP:

  • We were able to connect with old friends and make new ones.
  • We were given a break in the demanding schedule of our missionary furlough.
  • We were challenged by practical studies of the biblical text.
  • We were motivated by the powerful charges of speakers to faithfulness and service.
  • We had time to enjoy together as a couple far from the pressures of home and work.
  • We were encouraged by seeing many faithful saints who labor under similar conditions as ours.
  • We were stimulated by practical ideas being used in a wide variety of ministries both in the US and abroad.
  • We were encouraged by the positive atmosphere and spirit of rejoicing established by the PTP organizers.

Since its beginning in 1995, PTP has grown into a mature brotherhood event for edification, instruction, and evangelism. May God use it powerfully for many years to come.

Church discipline called ‘extreme case’ of homophobia


Ridgedale minister Ken Willis

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (BNc) — After following the biblical command of discipline, the Ridgedale congregation has been accused of demonstrating an “extreme case” of “homophobic” attitudes.

After a high-profile case in which a Christian mother showed support to a lesbian daughter, the congregation confronted the mother in private with the choice of repenting from her open support of sin or leaving the church.

Family members portrayed the mother as being “distraught” over the church’s action.

The Times-Free Press quoted Matt Nevels, a former Baptist minister who now leads a homosexual support group, as saying, “I’ve never heard it extended to other family members like that. That is definitely an extreme case.”

Ken Willis, minister at Ridgedale congregation, was interviewed for the story. He noted that the church acted consistently in dealing with other sins.

On his Facebook page, Ken identifies himself as the former pulpit minister of the congregation.

BNc has contacted Ken and will update the story with his comments.

Numerous Facebook comments by Christians reflect the opinion that the church will see more pressure from the world and opposition from Christians for taking up positions as the Ridgedale congregation did.

J.J. Hendrix’s Internet radio program, “The Swish,” devoted its Aug. 21 edition to the story. He emphasized that the action taken by the Ridgedale congregation was dealt with in private. The program is part of the Brown Trail congregation’s outreach in Bedford, Tex.

“This is another example of anti-Christian bigotry persecuting the Lord’s church. We must stand strong with each other and with congregations like Ridgedale that are standing for the truth. The liberal media wants to shut us up, we cannot be ashamed of the gospel. Let’s rally around Ridgedale and stand for God’s Word and God’s plan,” J.J. said in comments to BNc.

South Sudanese ‘Lost Boy’ baptized in Tennessee

santinoMT. JULIET, Tenn. (BNc) by Ken Thomas — Santino Anuer Haar is a member of the group of Sudanese refugees who came to the USA under the “Lost Boys” program, an effort to give a new start to young men who had been displaced by the on-going strife in his native country.

Just two years ago, those in the South voted (by a 98+% majority) to become a sovereign nation separate from the nation to the north which is dominated by Muslim forces. It declared itself committed to be governed as a free country where the English language would help unify the many tribes that call the land home.

Santino came to Tennessee and eventually ended up in Ken Thomas’ math class. Eventually, Ken asked about his background and then told Santino about the Sudan Project which the Mt. Juliet church is leading in. They also began a Bible study.

Don Humphrey, from the Mt. Juliet congregation, and Ken traveled to Gallatin to meet Santino in his apartment.

Santino for the past two years has been president of the Panaroo Community, a network of several hundred Sudanese refugees from Unity State, on the border of South Sudan and Sudan (North). They had already developed a plan to raise money to build a clinic to help relieve the health problems of malaria, oil-polluted water, and other maladies.

This community also had groups in Canada, Australia, and England, and Santino has spent many sleepless nights trying to unify this group behind the project.

After Santino saw the presentation Don gave to the Mt. Juliet church a few months ago, he wanted his community to see what the church had done in East Equatoria and invited “Dr. Don” to share that with a convention in Omaha in May.

Don and Richard Stevens traveled to Omaha where the presentation was received by the group and two members of the South Sudanese parliament, with great interest. Santino urged the assembled group to find a church of Christ when they went home.

A member of Parliament made the statement that the church of Christ is welcome in Sudan.

Of more immediate importance is that Santino has asked members of the church to make contact with his family (now living in Nairobi, Kenya) and teach them what he has learned. With his work in Gallatin he supports a wife, a daughter who is in medical school, a son in high school, and two younger children, besides a brother and a nephew who is a war orphan. At the same time he is working on a degree from Vol State.

Before his home was burned down and he was separated from his parents his family was in what he calls “traditional” religion. Later he was converted to the Anglican faith, and then received his name “Santino” from a priest who converted him to Catholicism. He was active as a Catholic, teaching catechism to new or prospective Catholics.

As he studied with Ken he reflected, “When I taught catechism, I didn’t know anything about the Bible, and neither did the people I taught.”

Santino was impressed with the people in the Lord’s church who carried and knew their Bibles.

He wears in his forehead the scars of Dinka tradition which designate him as a trustworthy brave man, but since his baptism into Christ this past Sunday, he will bear the marks of Christ whose own body was scarred and maimed for our sins.

May God bless him as a warrior for Christ in the war against Satan’s power, and may his example of courage inspire many to follow Jesus. He is an American citizen now, but more importantly he is a part of the Kingdom of God under King Jesus.

His spiritual progress has been advanced by the Mt. Juliet church, Hartsville Pike congregation in Gallatin, and Beech Grove, near Murfreesboro, as he has visited them. Please pray for him and his family.

Article published originally on the Mt. Juliet congregation’s website. Ken is a member of the body of Christ in Beech Grove.

Gospel Advocate president Kerry Anderson dies


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BNc) — Kerry Anderson, president of the Gospel Advocate company, was found dead at his home the night of Aug. 13, Greg Tidwell, editor of Gospel Advocate magazine, announced yesterday.

He was 52 and died of natural causes, according to Spring Meadows minister Dale Jenkins.

No further details are available at this time.

“Kerry was dedicated Christian, a gifted song leader, and a leader among our brethren. He was bright, funny, and full of wit. He showed much wisdom and was gifted at finding solutions to publishing problems. GA was among the first publishers in America to use the technology of the lightning press, which could produce a few hundred books in a very short period of time. I’m sure Kerry had a lot to do with that,”  Search for Truth speaker Phil Sanders said.

“I will miss Kerry greatly. Our last contact was on a project to produce a wonderful tool that would bless the brotherhood. We were not able to put all the pieces together, but his help and advice were priceless. The day will come when we will pursue this opportunity. I counted Kerry as a great friend and ally,” Phil said.

The GA company’s media statement can be read in this PDF file.

Please keep the Anderson family in your prayers.

Tennessee saints offer physical and spiritual water at fiddler jamboree

Smithville-jamboree-boothSMITHVILLE, Tenn. (BNc) by Eugene Adkins — The Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree and Craft Festival is a community tradition that’s been going on for over 40 years in DeKalb County, during the Fourth of July holiday. It attracts thousands of local and worldwide visitors.

This year the Jamboree Festival committee allowed local organizations to set up information booths. The church in Keltonburg took advantage of the opportunity to present the Gospel in multiple forms.

In spite of the unseasonably wet and cool weather, the church’s booth had a great deal of success in getting out the word on God’s word.

Along with the offer of a free bottle of water, the church offered Bible tracts, scripture reference cards, previous House-to-House issues, and various mail-in Bible correspondence courses, free for the taking.

By the time the tent came down, hundreds of Bible tracts and scripture reference cards were taken, and several Bible study courses were ready to go, one of which is heading all the way down to Texas.

Booth workers also had many conversations with people who were both familiar and unfamiliar with the church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The church also received words of encouragement from other brothers and sisters in Christ from the community, and even out of state, who were glad to see the booth set up.

The church is looking forward to next year’s festival as a continued opportunity to share God’s word with the community.

Christian professor pushes back: ‘Homosexuality is not the only sin I have preached against’

stan-mitchellHENDERSON, Tenn (BNc) — Freed-Hardeman University professor Stan Mitchell took the conversation about homosexuality to the other side today as he claimed to be “professionally and personally hurt” at insinuations by gay-rights advocates that preachers and teachers made a “special case” over the subject.

“Homosexuality is distinctly not the only sin I have preached against. I have been preaching for a long time, and I have addressed many subjects in my messages. I do indeed care about racism, poverty, theft and so on. If you do not believe this is so, you have simply not been listening,” he wrote.

Stan, a professor in the university’s Bible department, also took on a second charge: “In what way is speaking against homosexuality calculated to influence those who are homosexuals to become Christians?”

To point out that homosexuality is sin is also a call to repentance, just as one would take the same approach to “an adulterer, a gossip, or a racist,” he maintained.

Writing in his weekly “Reality Check” column on Forthright Magazine, Stan turned the tables.

“it is not the Christian who makes a “special case” of homosexuality, it is the homosexual advocate. They want this sin to not be considered sinful.”

Stan ended his article with five questions that Christians might ask of homosexual agenda, as they face their faith becoming the “alternative lifestyle.”

The entire article is available at this link.

Forthright Magazine is a free online magazine of biblical and Christian articles, offered by Forthright Press, also the sponsor of BNc.