Bulletin Articles

Pray for Your (Current and Future) Shepherds

If you've ever served on any kind of committee (church or otherwise), you know how easy it is for folks to disagree. And Satan LOVES disunity and disharmony in the church.

That's what I love about serving with Kenny and Greg as your shepherds. We work together extremely well. We don't always agree on everything, but we work out our differences with discussion, prayer, and fist fights. Just kidding on the latter, of course. My two fellow shepherds are, as Ephesians 4 puts it, "humble and gentle" and wonderful to work with. As I'm sure any possible future shepherds will be.

However, we're just human. We have jobs. We have family responsi- bilities. We have church-related meetings. And meetings. And more meetings. So I ask that you keep us in your prayers that we may have the following:

Wisdom. Solomon asked for it in 1 Kings. Greg, Kenny, and I are no Solomons, but pray that we may have as much wisdom as possible.

Holiness. "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." - Hebrews 12:14

Endurance. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9

Humility. "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. " - 1 Peter 5:2-4

And pray for unity for all of our church family. "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." - Ephesians 4:1-3

Thanks again for your support, prayers, and the ability to serve as your shepherd.

—Dennis

Adam Braseel Is Free

Many of you at Northside have been praying for Adam Braseel’s freedom for five years.I first met Adam in 2010, as Churches of Christ began a new ministry at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.  Adam was 27 years old.  He was 24 when convicted of murdering Malcolm Burrows and assaulting Burrows’ sister.  Adam asked me to serve as his mentor at Riverbend and I quickly agreed.  From the beginning, Adam maintained his innocence and urged me to read his case, which I did.  We prayed a lot.

After the murder of Malcolm Burrows and the terrible beating of his sister, the person who then served as Sheriff in Grundy County went looking for a suspect.  Two  witnesses said that the perpetrator had red hair and drove a gold car. Adam was red headed and drove his mother’s gold car, so he was questioned by the officers.  Knowing that he had nothing to hide, Adam readily offered his clothing and his car for examination.  Even though officers found no blood evidence, and even though none of the fingerprints at the crime scene matched, Adam Braseel was indicted, tried, and given a life   sentence of 51 years. 

In 2015, a Knoxville attorney appealed Adam’s conviction based on a faulty photograph I.D. and testimony of witnesses not called in the first trial.  The Honorable Justin Angel, newly elected District Court Judge for the county, awarded Adam a new trial and set him free until he could be tried again.  Freedom was short lived, however.  The     Criminal Court of Appeals overturned Judge Angel’s decision.  

James Kelley, Adam’s new mentor, and the Northside church continued to pray.

By 2017, Adam had a new attorney.  Alex Little, convinced of Adam’s innocence, has been relentless.  Having discovered multiple new evidence, he asked Judge Angel for another hearing.  Having read the discovery evidence, the District Attorney of Grundy County offered Adam a plea deal before the hearing even began:  take an Alford plea  admitting to murder, spend four more years in prison, and go free.  Adam refused.  

In the new hearings, held in July and August of this year, the new evidence was presented by Adam’s attorney.  1) A deputy sheriff testified that Malcom Burrows wallet and money (the supposed motive in Adam’s conviction) was still on the body when      discovered. 2) A witness from the Tennessee Bureau of investigation testified that at the time of the murder, fingerprints were found in the car of the deceased but could not be matched to anyone.  In 2017, the fingerprints were run through the TBI system again.  They perfectly matched a known felon named Kermit Bryson, who had red hair and     resembled Adam Braseel.  This man was known to Malcolm Burrows.  He had later killed a deputy sheriff and then killed himself. 3) a third witness testified that the car Kermit Bryson drove was gold.  4) A fourth witness testified that she had done drugs with Kermit Bryson and that he had admitted to killing Malcolm Burrows.

A recess was called in the hearing.  We were told that negotiations were being held.  Eventually, Adam and his attorney appeared before Judge Angel.  A deal had been reached.  Adam took an Alford plea (allowing him to remain silent when asked if he had done anything wrong) holding him accountable for the beating of Burrows’ sister but not for the murder.  It was not a perfect day, but here is the result.  1) Adam Braseel is free.  2). He will not have to endure another trial which could possibly return him to prison. 3) Adam will be able to appeal his guilt of any charge relating to the crime and have the charges expunged.  4) He can never again be in prison for anything relating to these crimes.

Adam says he wouldn’t change anything.  He has taught and baptized many whom he met in prison during the past 12 years.  He will no longer endure incarceration for something he did not do.  He is with his family, and he will live his life honorably,    continuing to serve the Lord with a new vision of fighting for others who, like himself, were wrongfully convicted. 

We are thankful for your faithful prayers, and we praise God for his mercy and grace—providing just the right people at just the right time to give Adam freedom.

—Jim Pounders


Letter from the Shepherds: Running the Race

      I’m tired. Are you? I’m a runner and it feels like I’ve been running full blast with church activities lately in addition to my daily workouts. But that’s a good thing!

Heb. 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

      It’s certainly a business summer here at Northside. Vacation Bible School and Church Camp were both major successes. (Thanks to Megan Swanger, Chris Gannon, and everyone who worked so hard on both events).

      We have our preacher search committee chosen. Mikki Perry is chairing it. We’ll introduce the entire committee next Sunday morning, so be here.

      The shepherd selection process starts today with Charlie Hooks heading it up. We need everyone’s participation, so puh-leeze get involved as we look to add new leaders to help guide our church family.

      We’re also getting back on track with our 2020 Vision plans. If you’re not a part of these plans yet, contact Stan Cunningham, Kenny Wyatt, Greg Tolbert, or Yours Truly to get involved.

      I said I was tired, but I’m also excited about all the things going on in our church family. I have no doubt that our best days are ahead. In another running analogy: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31.

      If this were any other church family, I might be nervous about all the changes taking place. But not with the Northside family. The years and months ahead with doubtless see us grow spiritually and in our efforts to reach a broken world.

      Kenny, Greg, and myself look forward to working with our staff and all of you, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to accomplish great things for the glory of God.

“So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” — Rom. 12:5

In Christian love,

Dennis Sellers

(writing for the Northside shepherds)

Letter from the shepherds: Full speed ahead

Despite the challenges we face as the Northside family, there are a lot of exciting things in the works as we look forward to 2020 and beyond. 

For one thing, we’re working with Interim Ministry Partners (IMP), an organization that helps churches fill the position of pulpit minister. The shepherds, staff, and our spouses recently met with a representative of the company — Tim Woodroof, whom you’ll see more of VERY soon — to discuss the hiring process and the results of the survey that our church family recently completed. We discussed the vision of where all of us want our church to go and began the process of filling the pulpit minister position.

On Saturday, June 6, Tim met with those invited to serve on a Northside committee who will work with IMP to fill that position. More on that soon. Meanwhile, David Swanger and Chris Gannon are on tap to preach in the weeks ahead, something we’re excited about.

Second: we’ll be starting a new shepherd selection process soon with Charlie Hooks heading this up. More on this soon, as well.

Third: we took a brief break, but now we’re back-on-track with our 2020 Vision plans. If you’re not a part of these plans yet, contact Stan Cunningham, Dennis Sellers, Kenny Wyatt, or Greg Tolbert to get involved.

Philippians 4:13 tells us that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” And He is certainly providing strength to the Northside family and will continue to do so as we grow individually and as a church family in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

In Christian love,

Dennis, Kenny, and Greg

More From Les - Good-byes

How do you write your final article for the church where you have shared twenty-eight years—almost half of your entire life? How do you say “good bye” when nothing but tears are availa-ble? If I try to begin naming names, the bulletin is simply not big enough. If I try to thank everyone who has shared in and blessed our lives, there are not enough words to express our appreciation. 

As I reflected over the years, my mind went back to the first article I ever wrote for our newsletter. It was dated May 7, 1990 and it was entitled “What A Wonderful Beginning!” June, Robert, Kyle and I had moved (with the help of Charles Bearden and Mike Cox) to Nashville and my first day at Northside was April 15th of that year. 

The article began Words cannot describe the sincere apprecia-tion my family feels for the reception we have received from the Northside family. I was told by several that the Northside congrega-tion was just like family and now I understand why. While moving is always a distressful time, your acts of kindness have made our move very pleasant and, more importantly, encouraging in regards to our hopes, dreams and prayers for what lies ahead.” 

Initial impressions are not always accurate, but they do tell us much about ourselves and our relationships with others. While you have been trying to figure out just who and what this young man from Mississippi is all about (and good luck), I have been ‘sizing up’ the Northside church… 

Perhaps more than anything, I have been impressed by the po-tential for good which is evident in the Northside congregation. There is no doubt that God has great things in store for His family here. I just pray that we can pull together to make His dreams and plans for us a reality.” 

Twenty-eight years later, I still believe every word I wrote on May 7, 1990—except the part about a YOUNG man from Mississippi. I’m not quite that young any more. Black hair has been replaced with grey hair and in some places no hair at all. Small children have been replaced with grand-children (and the incredible joy that brings). Eleven years of marriage have been replaced with 39 years of marriage and the depth of love for June that only time and God can bring. A large building has been replaced by an even larger building and families with deep roots at Northside have been replaced with families with brand new roots. 

I have conducted over 210 funerals of Northside members, visited the hospital to welcome countless new babies to our church family, baptized so many into Christ and pronounced many of you as “husband and wife!” And while all of these moments were filled with incredible emotions from great joy to incredible sadness—I was honored to be a part of each one. 

I finished that first article so long ago with these words, I look forward to closer friendships and greater service together as we work side by side at this place to bring glory, honor and praise to Him for whom we live, work and serve.June and I thank God for the wonderful opportunity to do just that. May God bless each of you richly. 

Kids Who Grow Up to Follow Jesus Have Parents Who Do These 7 Things

(The following is a summery of an article entitled “Kids Who Grow Up To Follow Jesus Have Parents Who Do These 7 Things.” Kristen Hooper alerted me to it and I think it’s excellent, especially for our young families. I hope you enjoy it).

No one has more influence in a child's life than his or her parents. Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults normally have parents who influenced them to do so. Throughout Scripture, we see examples of children who were influenced by their par- ents to follow God—Abraham and Isaac, Hannah and Samuel, Eunice and Timothy, etc.

The National Study of Youth and Religion backs this up as well. The study shows that parents are far and away the major influence in kids keeping their faith into their adulthood. Just 1% of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid-to-late 20s. The study compared this to children who were raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations. 82% of these kids grew up to be religiously active as young adults. “No other conceivable causal influence ... comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth. Parents just dominate.” (Christian Smith, Yale University)

What are some of the key things that parents do whose kids grow up to follow Jesus as adults? Let's look at 7 of them.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who prayed with them at home. They prayed with them at meal time. They prayed with them at bed- time. They prayed with them before they left for school. They prayed with them in times of crisis. They prayed with them about important decisions.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who read God's word with them at home. The Bible didn't sit on the dashboard of the car all week collecting dust or it didn't remain an unopened app. It was used during the week. Eunice and Lois, who raised Timothy, infused Scripture into his life. Look what it says about this in the New Testament. “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who take them to church consistently. We live in a day when parents are taking their children to church less frequently. The average family who attends church only shows up once every three to four weeks. Sports, activities, weekend trips and the general busyness of life creeps in and crowds out many families' consistent church attendance. But this is not the case for families whose kids grow up to love Jesus. They make attending church the top priority of their weekend.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who create a place where questions are welcomed and encouraged. One of the strongest factors associated with kids keeping their faith as young adults is having parents who talk about religion and spirituality at home.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who emphasize relationship over rules. This doesn't mean they don't put boundaries and consequences in place. But what it does mean is they focus more on helping their kids fall in love with Jesus and having a personal, growing relationship with Him. As they do this, their kids begin to obey and "keep the rules" not out of fear or duty, but out of a heart of love and surrender to Jesus' will for their life.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who live authentically. Simply put. Their parents are the real deal. They practice what they preach. They live at home just like they live at church. This doesn't mean the parents are perfect. Yes, they make mistakes along the way. But when they do, they humbly admit it and seek forgiveness.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who actively serve and involve their children in serving. Research shows that kids who get involved in serving are much more likely to carry their faith into adulthood. There is some- thing about serving that activates a child's faith and increases their passion for the things of God. When a child understands that God has a purpose for their life and that they can be used of God to impact others for the kingdom, he/she engages wholeheartedly.