August 23 2013 by
NASHVILLE – While not all churchgoers are particularly transparent or open about their faith, mature Christians are consistent in character and identity around non-believers, LifeWay research reveals.
The survey of Protestant churchgoers identifies “unashamed” as one of eight attributes of discipleship that consistently show up in the lives of maturing Christians. Being unashamed connotes a boldness to stand for one’s beliefs in conversation and lifestyle, LifeWay Research director Scott McConnell said.
“There are two elements to this discipleship attribute: being unashamed of Jesus Christ around nonbelievers and showing transparency among other Christians,” McConnell said. “This transparency is seen when a mature disciple is open to spiritual accountability and willing to share about challenges with other believers.”
Churchgoers also seem to think they live out their faith in a manner that is evident to others. Just 14 percent of churchgoers agree with the statement: “Many people who know me are not aware I am a Christian,” while 72 percent disagree with the statement.
Churchgoers often leave important elements of faith unspoken, the survey shows. Nearly a third (29 percent) agree that “spiritual matters do not tend to come up as a normal part of my daily conversations with other Christians,” while 50 percent disagree.
According to the survey, 66 percent of American churchgoers believe Christians should seek out honest feedback about their spiritual life from other Christians. Similarly, 57 percent of churchgoers say they openly discuss their difficulties with Christian friends. Only 1 in 4 does not, according to the survey.
“It is easy for Christians to put their ‘church’ face on at church and pretend everything is fine,” McConnell said. “But without transparent interaction among followers of Christ, blind spots are left unattended and opportunities for change are unsupported.”
“The other temptation for Christians is to pretend to be ‘not-too-religious’ when they are around neighbors and co-workers,” he said. “Yet, Scripture calls believers to not be ashamed of the gospel and its work in our lives.”
“This research aligns with the biblical accounts of Peter’s three denials of Christ with the ever-present struggle and temptation believers face to hide their relationship with Christ,” he said.
The research uncovers several characteristics that best predict being unashamed, including reading the Bible frequently, spreading the gospel, being discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian, confessing sins to God and praying for fellow Christians, McConnell said.
Only 34 percent of churchgoers surveyed indicate they pray for fellow Christians they know every day. Ten percent say they do this “once a month” or “rarely/never.”
The survey of 2,930 American adults who attend a Protestant church once a month or more was conducted Oct. 14-22, 2011.
To help pastors, churches and individuals measure spiritual development, LifeWay Research used the study’s data to develop a questionnaire for believers, called the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). The online evaluation delivers both individual and group reports on spiritual maturity using the eight attributes of biblical discipleship, and gives helpful and practical suggestions on appropriate next steps for spiritual development.
To learn more about the transformational discipleship research visit LifeWayResearch.com
. The TDA is available at tda.lifeway.com
8/23/2013 12:30:27 PM
March 11 2013 by
Baptist Press | with 1 comments
According to recent Barna research, many religious activities are at their lowest levels in a decade among 13-17 year olds in the United States, and although 1 in 4 teenagers still participate in organized religious activities, spiritual activities such as praying and evangelism are declining.
“We want to reverse these statistics, and we want to train our students in the tenants of their faith so that they will grow up as spiritually mature Christians,” said Merrie Johnson, senior consultant for student evangelism and ministries at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “We want to equip students to not only make their lives count for Jesus Christ, but to stand up for what they believe.”
Johnson is leading the effort to launch a new outreach called “Tag! You’re It
” that will focus on training students to be leaders and gospel witnesses among their friends, family and neighbors.
Students will learn how to: pray for their friends who do not know Christ, share Jesus without fear, defend their faith, and lead gender-specific Bible studies and small groups.
“Students can be the game changer; they can be the ones to set the example and to stand up for what is right,” Johnson said.
“Tag” kicks off April 19-20 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Other “Tag” conferences this year will be held June 30-July 3 and July 3-6 at Ground Zero Auditorium in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Oct. 25-27 at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell.
Cost to attend the Myrtle Beach conferences is $240 per person, which includes program fee, meals and lodging at Sea Palms Summer Outreach. Cost to attend the Caswell conference is $127.
Registration deadline for the Myrtle Beach events is April 1.
Guest speaker for the conferences is Jack Easterby, campus director of the University of South Carolina’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes and founder of The Greatest Champion Foundation.
For more information, visit www.tagevent.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5566.
3/11/2013 4:29:52 PM
February 7 2013 by
BSC Communications | with 0 comments
January 11 2013 by
Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press
Rubbing shoulders with professional athletes and various sports figures has been part of life for Roman Gabriel III, the president of Sold Out Ministries and radio host. For the Biblical Recorder
, Gabriel has interviewed a variety of personalities – from the NFL’s Tony Dungy to NASCAR’s Blake Koch. Each of his interviews focus on faith, family and how athletes use their sports platform to share Jesus and present a positive message to others. For the past 19 years Gabriel, who is the son of a former NFL star quarterback, – and a former pro QB himself – has covered Super Bowl week for both secular and faith-based media outlets. This year, the Biblical Recorder
– along with American Family Radio
and a few other supporters – partnered with Gabriel while he was in New Orleans for seven interview packed days. For this article, we turned the tables on Gabriel, who usually asks the questions. Gabriel shares his take on the week, the players and why the Super Bowl is similar to an annual Baptist meeting. Below are excerpts from the interview, which was edited for clarity, brevity and length.
Q: For those of us who have never been to the Super Bowl, give us a glimpse of what it’s like through your eyes. How did it go?
For me, I measure the week on our impact for the Lord. It went great. You have two teams – the Ravens and the 49ers. There were so many story lines. And many of those story lines were faith and family based. So that’s right up our team’s alley.
It is a spectacular thing. Sometimes you have a tendency to take it for granted if you’ve been there. But I can remember the first year I was there. If you’ve ever taken your kids to Disney Land or Disney World for the first time … [and] they’ve only seen Mickey Mouse on TV … it’s that kind of excitement when you go the first time. When you’ve grown up with football since you were one-year-old like me, and you knew players that have played from my Dad’s era and then I played in 80s era, … you’re absolutely blown away by the royalty of the NFL coming together. … It would be like going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a week and having everyone that’s ever been inducted and you being a music person. … This is like the Hall of Fame on steroids.
Q: What does a typical week look like for you at the Super Bowl?
Special to the BR
Roman Gabriel III, left, interviews Sean Considine of the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans.
We come in on Monday night. We get our credentials, and we get checked in the media center. We have a team of five – myself, producer, cameraman, another onsite cameraman and then a full-time photographer. … It is kind of like the Baptist convention getting people together. [It’s] where you can see players who you played with. [It’s] where people are able to reminisce about great Super Bowls of [the] past and players that have played in the game. [It’s] where radio stations can talk to them about the game and about the things they want to talk about. It’s beautiful for us because we’re able to target guys that are faith and family oriented, that are character oriented. [We] talk to them a lot about how they use their platform for what they do. So it really is a 24-hour, seven-day … coming-out party for the NFL. Everybody comes down to celebrate a great year in the NFL and to cap it off Sunday with a Super Bowl game.
Q: How many people did you interview while you were in New Orleans?
Probably over 100. … You can only imagine how difficult it would be to get a hold of premier NFL players through their agents throughout the year, to try to set up radio opportunities or film opportunities or Internet opportunities. I’ll get a year’s worth of material [at the Super Bowl]. … You have entertainers. You have movie actors. You have musicians. … Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medalist, was in the locker room with the Ravens. We interviewed him. He’s friends with a lot of the Ravens because he’s from Baltimore. You’ll see a lot of movie stars there because they’ll … come in to promote movies or a book that they’ve written. … I talk to a lot of people who cover sports that are there. … Very few people know that the Super Bowl is just the end of a very long week of promotion, a long week of having the opportunity to gather and have fellowship. … The average ticket price for a game like this is about $4,000 dollars, so this is definitely a corporate event. This is not something mom and dad can bring their kids to. It’s corporations and sports mixing for the benefit of making money. ... Our goal all week long is to get these [athletes and others] to open up about their faith, about their families and about how their career – and the career that they had – has turned into allowing them to have a platform that’s even greater today after … playing.
Q: What were some of the highlights of the week for you?
A: I had a chance to chat with [John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens,] for a moment. … As he was leaving [after the Super Bowl], he stopped and put his arm around me. … He said … “[I] just wanted to let you know we appreciate what you guys [in Christian media] do.” And I thought that was really special. … The other story was Michael Oher, [whose story is captured in] the movie The Blind Side.
Michael plays right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. [He] comes from a foster situation, had no parents … and of course the Tuohy’s … took him in. [They] provided that strong parental acknowledgement and encouragement to him. I just asked him, “What would you tell other kids that are in your situation?” And he said, “… Sometimes you have to decide for yourself that you’re going to make good decisions, even if you don’t have good people around you to help you in that. I just decided that I wanted to do the right thing. And I also know that God has blessed me greatly with my foster parents, [and] to be drafted in the NFL after everything I have been through and to be sitting here.” …
That’s what makes football and sports such a great thing. It teaches so many biblical lessons, and for me, those were never separated. The biblical lessons and the life lessons came together for me, and that’s why sports and God fit together so well. That’s why I have to thank God for introducing me to football and sports because I met God through that and through some very caring teammates [who] loved God.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel III hosts Sold Out Sports Saturday nights at 8 p.m. EST on American Family Radio. He is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Contact him at (910) 431-6483 or email email@example.com. His website is www.soldouttv.com.)
NASHVILLE – Only a few weeks before the 2012 Olympics gymnastics trials, Gabrielle Douglas was ready to walk away from the sport that had been her passion for a decade.
She had moved to Iowa from her home in Virginia for training, and she was homesick. She announced to her mother her intentions to quit gymnastics, move back home and work at Chick-fil-A
. Though her mom tried to convince her not to, it was a conversation Douglas had with her brother John that ultimately strengthened her resolve.
“We’ve always been two peas in a pod,” Douglas told Baptist Press (BP
) about her brother. “He just told me to keep fighting. He would tell me motivational quotes. It really clicked in my head.”
Douglas tells that story and many others in her new book, Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith
, published by Zondervan
. Months after resolving that conflict with gymnastics, Douglas went on to win two gold medals in the London Olympics, where she became the first African American to win the all-around competition.
Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/GettyImages
Gold medalist Gabby Douglas told Baptist Press that she wrote a book because she “... wanted everyone to know that though you may be going through hardships, you can still achieve your dreams.”
“That conversation was my turning point – the wake-up call that pulled me back from my foolish reckoning,” Douglas writes in the book. “John has always been my best friend. On that evening, he also became one of the heroes of my Olympic journey.”
“I’m so glad I made that decision to stick with it,” Douglas told Baptist Press. “I would have so much regret.”
Douglas, who just turned 17, spent most of her childhood in a single-parent home. Her mother, Natalie Hawkins, helped to instill a strong work ethic in Douglas and a love for the Lord and for scripture.
“By now, you’ve probably caught on to something: my mother is always standing by with just the right scripture or inspirational saying to get me through any tough situation,” Douglas writes.
Douglas said she became a Christian when she was about 10 years old. She prays at every competition before she competes, and said that after returning home from the Olympics she watched a recording of her events. She noticed her lips moving and said she knew that’s when she was praying.
Her gymnastics career began when she was 6. At age 14, she moved to Iowa to train with famed gymnastics coach Liang Chow, staying with a host family – Travis and Missy Parton and their four daughters. She’s been at home in Virginia Beach since the Olympics but plans to return to Iowa this spring to resume her training.
Though that move away from her mother and siblings was difficult, Douglas said it served to make her stronger and more mature.
Along her path to the Olympics, Douglas also had to deal with injuries in 2011 that threatened to derail her career. One night, Douglas sat in her bed and asked God why she was going through the ordeal.
“In the space of a response, there was deafening silence,” Douglas writes. “Until one Sunday morning when I went to church with the Partons. That’s when I heard a sermon that seemed directed at me.”
The pastor preached from Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a home and a future.’“
“In other words, God already knew how this would turn out – and that thought really touched me,” Douglas writes. “As Mom had reminded me so many times, I just had to trust Him.”
Douglas said the book, written with Michelle Burford, was designed to be inspirational in nature – for young girls, boys and anyone who might be interested in her story.
“I wanted everyone to know that though you may be going through hardships, you can still achieve your dreams,” she told BP.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports and director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)
1/11/2013 2:22:16 PM
January 10 2013 by
Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land has joined a diverse group of religious leaders in a prayer initiative calling for increased civility among government officials.
Conservative and liberal faith representatives began praying daily for civility among politicians when the new Congress was sworn in Jan. 3 and have pledged to pray until President Obama is inaugurated for a second term Jan. 21.
“We need to heed [President] Lincoln’s admonition to listen to ‘the better angels of our nature,’” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
. “We are in a time of crisis in this country. We need first of all to quit questioning people’s motives and intent, and agree to disagree without being disagreeable, and seek areas of common ground where we can work together on issues that are important to the country.”
Among the initiative’s recommended prayer requests for Obama, members of Congress and other public officials are for them to:
Show patience with and respect for other politicians;
Avoid inflammatory language, as well as attacks on character and motives;
Demonstrate humility and admit their limited understanding;
Pray for political opponents.
Among those signing onto the pledge to participate were Pierre Bynum, chaplain, Family Research Council
; Janice Shaw Crouse, director, the Beverly LaHaye Institute
at Concerned Women for America; Richard Cizik, president, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
; Jim Wallis, chief executive officer, Sojourners
, and Liz McCloskey, president, Faith & Politics Institute
Other participants included Peg Chemberlin, president, National Council of Churches
; Julius Scruggs, president, National Baptist Convention
, USA; Roy Medley, general secretary, American Baptist Churches
; Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop, Episcopal Church
; Jim Winkler, general secretary, United Methodist General Board of Church & Society
; Larry Snyder, president, Catholic Charities USA
; James Forbes, professor at Union Theological Seminary
and senior minister emeritus at Riverside Church in New York City, and Eboo Patel, Muslim founder of the Interfaith Youth Core
Two former members of Congress also joined the initiative: Sen. John Danforth, R.-Mo., and Rep. Ronnie Shows, D.-Miss. Danforth also served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations
Land and many of the others involved in the prayer initiative participated in the “Better Angels Summit” sponsored by the Faith & Politics Institute in June. That meeting – and a prayer partnership started by Bynum and Chemberlin – led to the prayer initiative for civility.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
1/10/2013 2:06:28 PM
January 4 2013 by
Laura Fielding, Baptist Press
Baptist Press | with 0 comments
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Offensive lineman Barrett Jones and his University of Alabama
teammates hoisted the gleaming, crystal trophy into the air while thousands in the stadium cheered – the Crimson Tide football team had won the BCS
(Bowl Championship Series) National Championship.
Grueling hours of practice, training and watching films had finally paid off. But in that moment, one thought struck Jones: “This is great, but this is what all that work was for – this crystal trophy – something that will break?”
And break it did.
A few months after the championship, an accident left the trophy, worth thousands of dollars, shattered on the floor.
“What a symbol of things of the world,” Jones said. “Something I worked so hard for and put so much into, someone just knocked it over and it breaks. And that’s exactly how the things of the world are – it’s a great picture of when you invest in other things and you make other things your idol above God, that they’re going to crumble.”
A 22-year-old graduate student at Alabama, Jones has built a slew of achievements during his football career: the Wuerffel Award for combining exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement; the Outland Trophy for the best college football interior lineman; unanimous NCAA All-American; being part of two national championship seasons and graduating with a 4.0 GPA in accounting in three years.
He and his team vie for another national championship title Jan. 7 when the Crimson Tide faces Notre Dame
for the 2012 title.
But for the towering 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound football player, the trophies and achievements are nothing compared to what he is truly passionate about – sharing the gospel.
Photo by Thomas Graham
Beneath the bright lights at the University of Alabama, offensive lineman Barrett Jones kneels in prayer before a game against the Ole Miss Rebels on Sept. 29 – a personal practice before each game. His brother Harrison, who plays tight end, offers an encouraging pat on the back.
“If I’m known as Barrett Jones – he’s a great Alabama football player – then I’m not doing my job. I want to be known as Barrett Jones – he’s a Christian who happens to play football – not a football player who happens to be a Christian.
“My faith is the most important thing to me, it’s not just an important thing to me on a list of things. … I feel like [God’s] called me to go and to tell people about Him, so that’s my main job.”
This past March during spring break, Jones, a member of Bellevue Baptist Church
in Cordova, Tenn., organized and led his third mission trip. Thirty-one of his friends, family and fellow Bellevue members headed to Jinotega, Nicaragua, to share the gospel. He previously led groups to minister in Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
A servant’s heart is something Barrett’s parents, Rex and Leslie, instilled in all their sons at an early age. As a fifth-grader in 2001, Barrett accompanied his parents on a missions trip to Honduras, along with his two younger brothers, Harrison and Walker. The venture helped shape the boys’ worldview.
“I think missions is something that’s extremely important to the Christian community because God is so much bigger than just America – He’s a global God,” Barrett said. “Every time I go on mission trips, I’m reminded how big God is and how big the family and the body of Christ is. … Even though [God] doesn’t need me, He doesn’t need my help, He has called me to do certain things overseas and that’s why I feel blessed to be doing that.”
Jones also looks for “mission fields” at his own back door.
“You can have a variety of mission fields, and I think this [Alabama football] team is a mission field for me,” Jones said. He also sees the city of Tuscaloosa and the many fans he meets while speaking at churches, awards dinners and Boy Scout meetings as opportunities to talk about Christ.
“[God’s] given me a platform to share my faith where people are interested in hearing about it,” he said. “… [It’s] a great opportunity.”
His dad, director of advancement at Evangelical Christian School in Cordova, said he sees Barrett striving to honor Christ in all he does.
“Most people think that fame, fortune and money are really what drives most people, and they don’t with Barrett,” Rex Jones said. “I really believe that most of the awards that he won this year were nothing more than God’s hand preparing the platform for him to be able to share.”
For now, Barrett has put his NFL plans on hold to finish his graduate degree and to spend a year playing for the Crimson Tide with his younger brother, Harrison, a junior tight end.
“As I matured and continued to grow in my faith and read the Bible and prayed, God just showed me His eternal vision,” Jones said. “I’ve just caught that and realized that sports are going to pass away just like everything else – and the only thing that’s going to matter at the end is your relationship with Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is a writer for IMB.)
Mom & Dad nurtured athletic sons for God
1/4/2013 2:45:21 PM
September 11 2012 by
Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column
Laura Fielding, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
The movie, “Last Ounce of Courage,” seeks to awaken Americans in a time of apathy and opens this weekend (Sept. 14) in more than 1,200 theaters nationwide. The movie has been released to coincide with Patriot’s Day and the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. It’s a reminder that freedom is a verb – something we must actively stand for and preserve. And it’s certainly not free.
The movie is about Mayor Bob Revere, who is grieving the loss of his son. As he works through the pain of losing his son, Revere finds his greatest battle is right at his own front door. A decorated war hero, Revere realizes the freedoms he fought for, and that his son died for, are eroding. From the removal of all public expressions of Christmas to the shock of his grandson’s Bible being confiscated at school, Bob is driven to action and ends up inspiring an entire town.
Kevin McAfee is producer and director of “Last Ounce of Courage” and the founder of Veritas Entertainment. McAfee was the executive producer of “End of the Spear” and “Beyond the Gates of Splendor,” which brought missions to the big screen. McAfee shared in an interview about the purpose and vision behind the film.
Q: What inspired the making of this film?
A: The movie began with missionaries Richard and Gina Headricks in Laurel, Miss., who had a dream to put Christ back in Christmas. These bikers were visionary people who’d never made a movie. They connected with Darrel Campbell and wrote a screenplay that touches the heart of America and where our nation is today.
Part of a promotional piece from Veritas Entertainment shows the stand some believers took to keep Christ in Christmas. Director Kevin McAfee hopes “Last Ounce of Courage” inspires poeple to stand for freedom.
Q: What are you hoping viewers will take away from this movie?
A: That one voice and taking a stand can make a difference. It begins with one man, one child, one school, one town who will stand up for the freedoms that are being taken away from us one by one. Hopefully, this movie will inspire people of all ages to stand for freedom and for God and country.
Q: Considering all that’s going on in America right now and the upcoming presidential election, is this movie calling people to political action?
A: Absolutely. It’s calling them to go to standusa.com
and get involved. It’s calling them to believe in what our nation was founded upon. We have to stand up for what we believe in and know we can make a difference. Freedom for religion that allows all faiths to worship, or even the right to not worship, is germane to the dreams of our founding fathers and our Christian heritage. This nation was founded upon God and the Bible, and even President Washington said that without these two areas in our lives, we cannot govern.
Q: What prompted Chuck Norris to get involved in this film?
A: The lead actor Marshall Teague and Chuck Norris have been close friends for many years. Mr. Norris saw the film and wept. He wanted to “do something” so for the first time in his career, he’s promoting a movie that he’s not even in. This is huge.
Q: You’ve got some well-known, award-winning actors in this film. Are most of them Christians, freedom fighters, or both?
A: A combination of all. Marshall Teague, a navy hero and patriot, was a police officer. He took acting in order to catch the bad guys. He is a hero of our nation and a patriot. Jennifer O’Neill believes in the message of this movie and wants to promote it. Hunter Gomez and Jenna Boyd are strong people of faith. Rusty Joiner is involved in a Bible study in LA. He and his wife attend the same church Ronald Reagan attended.
Q: What is the website for the film so people can find a theater near them?
A: To learn more they can go to www.lastouncethemovie.com
. To find out more about Veritas [Entertainment] and why we are standing for truth, go to www.veritasmovies.com
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
A: If this was the last movie I ever had the opportunity to direct and produce, I believe God would have granted me a great gift. In my heart, there is nothing more precious than the freedoms we have, and I believe filmmakers need to take a stand. For years, I’ve been a Christian filmmaker. Now, I’m changing to being a patriot who believes in God and country. Because of my faith, I am choosing to make films that lift up the name of Jesus and stand for truth.
I’ve made a commitment to make movies that are PG or G rated because the family has been largely ignored. It’s time to take a stand, and I pray we can impact culture with the visual language of film for family, faith and freedom.
As our film company continues to promote truth, we pray a community will come and join us in our crusade. We are only beginning. To view the movie trailer and pass it on to others go to http://lastouncethemovie.com/trailer.php
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ginny Dent Brant is a writer and speaker. Her book about her spiritual journey with her father, Harry S. Dent Sr., Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was released in 2010. She is a former trustee of the International Mission Board. She and her husband, Alton, live in Clemson/Seneca, S.C. More info at www.ginnybrant.com.)
9/11/2012 2:49:58 PM
August 31 2012 by
Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor
Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column | with 0 comments
Kelly Blanton’s ventilator drones softly in rhythm as she sits motionless in her wheelchair. The 18-year-old misses horseback riding along the road outside her home in Taylorsville, N.C.
But, for now, the days when Blanton’s mother said she “had the world on a string” are gone. Despite her current circumstances, Blanton, a member of nearby Three Forks Baptist Church, does not question God’s plans for her.
“It’s not my place to understand everything,” she said. “When [God] wants me to understand why this happened, [and] what’s going to happen in the future, He’ll let me know in His own time.”
Blanton’s long, dark hair frames her face as she smiles and rolls her eyes while her mother, Geri, brags about how her daughter has handled the accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down. Geri admits she doesn’t know if she could handle paralysis nearly as well. And Kelly, she says, rarely complains.
“As hard as it can be for me to look at my daughter’s life just jerked away from her,” said Geri, “I can’t imagine what it would be like if it was my life jerked away from me. … I just don’t think I would be that way.”
It was during a practice run before the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Okla., that Blanton was thrown from her horse, Bandit.
BR photo by Shawn Hendricks
Kelly Blanton, left, seen here with her mom, Geri, desires to seek God’s plan for her life.
“I remember thinking I’ll just fall off and this will be OK,” she said. “But I landed on my forehead and then my whole body bent back behind me. … I was flipping down the arena, and I just landed in the dirt. I wasn’t really concerned about not being able to move. I was just concerned with not being able to breathe. I thought the wind had just been knocked out of me, but that’s not what it was at all.”
On that day in July 2011, her plans for the future were put on hold.
“I remember the accident fully, but sometimes I wish I didn’t,” said Blanton, who now depends on her mother to scratch an itch on her arm or wipe her nose.
The outgoing, attractive teenager seemed to have everything before the accident. She lived an active lifestyle and planned to attend N.C. State University last fall. She was captain of the high school tennis team, threw the discus on the track team and was involved in more clubs and activities than her youth pastor had time to read at a church event honoring the 2011 graduates.
She also loved to compete in roping and barrel racing at rodeos. And she was good at it. Now, however, she can only watch Bandit and her other horses as they chomp grass behind her home.
After her accident, Blanton was transferred from a hospital in Oklahoma City to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. She spent months there receiving treatment and continues to make routine visits.
Her mother describes her daughter’s condition as a “C4 spinal cord injury that is incomplete.” Translation: Her spinal cord is not severed, and she has some feeling below the neck, but she is unable to move her arms and legs.
“The changes I’ve seen [are] in the strength in my arm … and then strength in my leg and things like that,” she said. “I’ve also seen strength in my diaphragm. I can breathe more and more [on my own] every day.”
“Incomplete is a good thing,” Geri added. “She does have some feeling. There’s always a chance with incomplete that those [nerve] connections can be made again.”
Since the accident, Blanton has been surrounded by friends, family, church members and her community. People throughout the area lined the road she lives on to welcome her back home when she returned from the Shepherd Center.
Volunteers installed a wheelchair ramp in front of her house and helped modify inside so she could navigate more easily. The church and community also have held a variety of fundraisers to help her family with expenses.
Most days find one or more of Blanton’s friends stopping by for a visit while her parents work. Her mother is a supervisor at the local post office and her father, Michael, is a truck driver. She also has two brothers: Michael, 25, and Marcus, 24.
On this day, Lakelyn Elder is relaxing on Blanton’s bed keeping a watchful eye on her friend.
The two young women have known each other since they were “babies,” Elder said.
“If you’re [at her house] you’ll find a gang of students that huddle with her every day,” said Brandon Watson, Blanton’s youth pastor at Three Forks. “There are at least two to 10 kids that are always over there, every day just hanging out with her. It’s been that way since she’s come home.
“Kelly is a very selfless person. She’s kind of attracted those people around her,” he added.
“I know that her days have challenges, but she handles them well, and she’s been a great testimony to our students and to our church.”
Blanton also has gained new friends since her injury. Morgan Patton, 19, a fellow rodeo competitor, was the first person to reach Blanton after she fell off her horse. She helped stabilize Blanton’s neck. Though the two didn’t know each other before the accident, they have been nearly inseparable since. Patton recently returned to Georgia for college, where she is studying nursing.
Blanton also is pondering her future. She is struggling with whether she should become a veterinarian or commit to some type of ministry. For now she is taking courses at a community college in Hickory, but she plans to eventually transfer to N.C. State. While she is leaning toward being a veterinarian, she also has a strong desire to share her story and faith with others.
“The only easier part now [since the accident] is I do have a doorway into telling people about Christ because people would ask me about what happened,” Blanton said.
“And they see I don’t blame God. Then they see God through me.”
This past July, Blanton returned to Shawnee to attend the rodeo event where she was injured. She thanked the people of Oklahoma for their prayers and support while she was in the hospital. She also shared her testimony at her church – with her new friend, Patton, by her side – and expressed her appreciation for all that her church has done for her.
“I’ve learned how much my church family loves me,” Blanton said. “… People come up and say, ‘I’ve been thinking about you.’ It’s always happened when I’ve needed it the most.”
Blanton, and those who care for her, remain optimistic that she’ll walk again and ride her beloved Bandit. Her pastor, Carson Moseley, believes the Lord has great things in store for the young woman.
“She’s determined,” said Moseley, who said he misses seeing Blanton ride her horse up and down the road outside the church. “If God be willing He’s already put within her the will and desire to walk again. But I think He’s also put within her the acceptance of ‘Whatever … whatever You [God] want to do.’”
“I pray the Lord will use Kelly to touch lives. I pray [the accident] will give her many opportunities … to tell her story, to touch her world in the way that she can.”
She already seems to be off to a great start.
8/31/2012 1:34:50 PM
August 31 2012 by
Roman Gabriel, Sports Q&A
Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 1 comments
Nationwide Driver Blake Koch has created a major fan base in both the NASCAR community and the faith-based market over the past three years. After only three short years, Koch went full time into the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In his first 10 career NASCAR Nationwide Series races, Blake Koch earned five top-25 finishes. Koch finished 18th in points and finished “Runner Up” Rookie of the year.
He has toured the nation sharing his faith and has been a keynote speaker at numerous outreach events including Promise Keepers. Koch’s ambition is to promote the importance of God’s influence in the American family, while also encouraging everyone to rise up and register to vote in this November’s election. You can learn more at riseupandregister.com
I had the opportunity to speak with Koch about this and more. It was a pleasure to talk to a young up-and-coming driver and strong Christian with a heart for the next generation. He is passionate about getting young adults to follow God.
Photo from blakekoch.com
Blake Koch, a NASCAR driver, tries to lap up support for November’s election. His No. 41 car carries the Rise Up and Register logo, encouraging people to register to vote. Koch is also a Christian who wants to inspire a younger generation to aspire to a better future. An injury cut short his dreams of being a champion motocross racer. He didn’t start racing cars until he was 22.
Q: In talking to you I sense a great deal of appreciation for what God has done for you and the great position you are in to compete on the Nationwide NASCAR Series. What can you tell me about that?
A: I feel completely blessed to have the opportunity. I thank God for the opportunity to qualify, and run one lap on one of these tracks in front of these (NASCAR) fans, completely blessed!
Q: You were a champion motocross racer for years, and unlike so many, you started your NASCAR career very late at the age of 22. How did you decide to move out of motocross and get involved in driving cars?
A: Motocross was my life growing up. I wanted to be the best I could be as a pro motocross racer. Everything I lived for was to be the best at motocross, I lived slept, and ate it ... of course injuries like football, as you know, are a big part of the sport.
Injuries can set you back in a physical sport like this for a while. ... I had two ACL knee surgeries which set me back. Then when you came back and these guys you beat are faster and ahead of you, and winning races. ... It really was difficult for me with overcoming the injuries. ... The big key in the sport is staying healthy. That separates [the] good from the best in motocross.
I decided to give it up (motocross) to go to college. ... I then had the opportunity to get in a racecar because my stepdad bought one and offered me the opportunity, and I took it; it was awesome.
Q: NASCAR is unique in that it is such a public faith and family sport. What are your thoughts on the influence of Motor Racing Outreach (MRO) on drivers and their families on the NASCAR circuit?
A: MRO is such a big influence on our personal life, our families, to the fans. We are just completely blessed to have such great support from a organization like MRO … prerace meetings, driver Bible studies, family prayer, counseling, etc. available to us. You can learn more about them on the MRO website at go2mro.com, any support is greatly appreciated. …
Even if you’re not a Christian you still want that prayer to make sure someone’s watching over you going that fast and that close to the wall.
Q: You say on your website, “My ambition is to promote God back into the American family and everyone to rise up and register to vote.” What message would you like to deliver to young people when you go in a church?
A: It’s an easy message. Put God first in your life. Pray about the decisions you make. … I start my day off this way: “God take control of my life, my heart, my mind, and my actions. Put me in the situations that you want me in, open the doors you want open, and slam the doors you want shut. That’s pretty simply said. Basically, God take control.”
… As you’re well aware, there’s a battle that we all see and all go through. ...
The more that athletes and others can get out there and be a motivational and spiritual influence and hope, the better. ... Giving kids hope is crucial as they are our next generation of leaders. They will be influential people, many running the country in 30 years. ... We need to get a hold of them now. Let them know that there’s hope in God, and that they can do anything they set their mind to, especially when we put God first in our life.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel III is president of Sold Out Ministries. He hosts Sold Out Sports heard Saturday nights 8 p.m. EST on American Family Radio, and is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is soldouttv.com. Go to blakekoch.com to learn more about Koch, and how you could have him come and speak at your church.)
8/31/2012 1:10:39 PM
August 9 2012 by
Roman Gabriel, Sports Q&A | with 0 comments
LONDON – Gabby Douglas will soon have more money than she ever dreamed.
With a vibrant smile and two gold medals to her credit at the Olympics, the 16-year-old gymnast undoubtedly will cash in with endorsement and marketing deals worth millions of dollars. At the top of her wish list? An Acura NSX.
“I want the one like Iron Man’s off ‘The Avengers,’“ Douglas said. “That was a nice car.”
The fame and fortune that Douglas instantly captured may make some things easier, but they won’t remove the difficulties from her life. When she faces such struggles, she turns to Scripture.
“God has given me this awesome talent to represent Him. Glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on us,” Douglas said Aug. 5 in a press conference at the North Greenwich Arena.
When she’s learning something new that may seem intimidating, she tells herself, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of peace, love and a sound mind,” she said. When she’s having trouble perfecting a skill, she quotes, “All things are possible through Him.”
“You just mentally quote that, and it builds your faith up so much,” Douglas said. “God will never fail you. He’s always on your side.”
Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/GettyImages
Gold medalist Gabby Douglas says she gives all the glory to God for her talent. Her first Tweet after winning the individual all-around read simply, “Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.”
Her first Tweet after winning the individual all-around read simply, “Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.”
Before Douglas left for London, Quintin Stieff, pastor of the Valley Church where she attends in West Des Moines, Iowa, likened her to a light that should shine to draw attention to God. Douglas shared her testimony with the congregation.
“The glory goes all to Him. He’s waking me up every morning and He’s keeping me in the gym every day. That’s very important,” she said, asking her church family to pray for her to “bring home the gold.”
Douglas made history, winning two golds in the first week of the Olympics – one in the women’s individual all-around and one in the women’s team competition. She’s the first African American woman to win gold in the Olympic individual all-around, and the first American woman to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympic Games.
While she couldn’t replicate that success in the second week, finishing eighth in the uneven bars and seventh in the beam, her performances will be remembered as one of the London Olympics’ biggest stories. Her face is already on a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box.
At age 14, Douglas left her family home in Virginia Beach, Va., to stay with a host family, Travis and Missy Parton, in West Des Moines, Iowa, allowing her to train with coach Liang Chow. Douglas’ mother Natalie Hawkins sends Douglas scripture passages twice daily to keep her on track to victory, Douglas said.
“When it was time for me to go to bed I would just put my earphones in and just fall asleep listening to the Bible,” she told the congregation. “It’s been a daily thing. I love reading about the Word. We have to put on the full armor of God, so when Satan tries to come against us, we are ready and prepared.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth, in London covering the Olympics for Baptist Press, is editor of BP Sports and director of news and media relations for Union University in Jackson, Tenn. With reporting by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler.)
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Guest Column: In London, venturing among the unreached
8/9/2012 3:58:26 PM
Baptist Press | with 0 comments