Partners for Arkansas Influence,
Nick (right) with his brother
A "Duck Dynasty" look-alike with his beard, hat and outfit, I called on him to read a Bible passage as I spoke to his youth group two weeks ago. Afterwards I found out that two years ago he was headed down the dark path of drugs. Back then, Nick Peters struggled, as did the 13 kids in the youth group at Second Baptist Church in Jacksonville, AR. Now Nick loves Jesus, the youth group has over 50 kids, and Nick and his friends have a strong desire to influence their friends at school to follow Jesus. All of this has come through the influence of Randy Brantley--their youth pastor.
An Unlikely Choice
The story goes back many years. It came into focus during Reach Out's "Arkansas Eagle Leaders Experience", September 5-6. I asked the seven influential Arkansas youth pastors to tell their stories. Randy Brantley, the last one to share, said, "God calls the most unlikely people. My family members were sharecroppers and Baptist preachers. My grandfather was murdered and he was not a believer. My mom had a 6th grade education, and I was the first one in my family to go to college. My life did not seem to have much potential for influence."
Then Randy described how in his senior year in high school in 1972 in Dry Branch, GA, he heard about a dynamic youth ministry a few miles away at Vineville Baptist Church in Macon. Randy was challenged by what he experienced and by Hank Dunn, the youth pastor. Hank, my good friend, was trying to implement our first version of Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry. The Vineville youth group and Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry influenced Randy through college.
Upon graduating from seminary, Randy's youth pastor told him: "Get two vital resources: 1. Ideas for creative youth group activities and 2. Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry, and go through Reach Out's training." He did both. When he arrived at his church in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Rick Caldwell, one of Reach Out's first trainers, took Randy under his wing and coached him in JFYM. Randy's ministry became the model that other youth leaders emulated. Later Randy led the Arkansas Baptist Convention youth ministry. For 25 years he equipped and empowered over 700 youth leaders and churches to practice JFYM.
Key Arkansas Youth Leaders
A Leader of Leaders
Most fascinatingly, before Randy told his story, each youth leader at our Eagle Leaders Experience--the leaders of leaders--expressed Randy's significant influence on them. Three of their comments...
Mark Simmons: First Randy took me to lunch, and then to Atlanta to introduce me to Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry. I remember saying, "Whatever they are doing, that's what I want to do." And I did.
Dustin Sams: In 2005 Randy helped me implement JFYM. If I had not put it all together then, I would be laying bricks today. I am forever in his debt.
Chris Roller: Immediately I could read Randy's heart for student ministers. For over 10 years I have called on him many times and applied his insights to my ministry. His friendship and mentoring has greatly influenced me.
Each of these youth leaders now has the same kind of inspiring influence Randy had on them.
A Powerful Reality
From my friendship and training with Hank Dunn and Rick Caldwell...
...to Randy Brantley and his influence...
...through Mark Simmons, Dustin Sams, Chris Roller, Bill Newton, Grant
Medford, John Cowling, and 700+ others like them who are influencing...
...1000s of Nick Peters-like students to follow Jesus!
Some of Randy's Youth Group
By God's grace, many more generations of youth leaders who come through Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry will reach and disciple untold numbers of teenagers! That inspires me for the future!
And your prayers and gifts inspire me in the present. Thank you.