Published May 30, 2013
DALTON — Brian Branam was enjoying his tenth year as pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Birmingham when he was first contacted by the pastor search team of Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton. Branam had led the Birmingham church to relocate their new site ten miles from the old facility in the eastern section of Alabama’s largest city.
Ridgecrest had just called two staff members and the church was beginning to enjoy some significant growth. Plans were being launched to create a new children’s wing for the church and there was little reason from a human perspective for Branam to even consider accepting a call from another church.
However, during this time the Holy Spirit impressed upon Branam the words, “Seek me in this,” but was unable to interpret the meaning of the words.
One night a power failure caused the Branams to lose the electricity in their home. Since there was no illumination in their home Brian and his wife, Shannon, went to bed early that night and had a long talk. Brian told Shannon, “God has been telling me, ‘Seek Me in this.’”
In the back of their minds
Shortly after the Branam’s pillow talk Tim Ausmus, the chairman of the Liberty pastor search team, called Brian and this time Branam said, “I’ll pray about it, but I’m not ready to move.”
The Branams put the idea of a call to Liberty in the back of their minds. Brian led a team from his Birmingham church to Montreal, Canada to assist in a church start. While on that missions trip he began to say to himself, “Am I the right pastor for Ridgecrest at this time? Maybe I am afraid to make a big decision. Maybe God will move us in the future, but not now.”
“Tim Ausmus called and asked, ‘Would you reconsider coming to Liberty?’ In fact, he called just about every Tuesday,” Brian remembers. “He would ask me ‘What are you praying about today?’
“When I heard about the percentage of lost people in Dalton I learned that it was almost as high as the percentage of lost people in Montreal where we were helping to start a church. I eventually told Tim that I would really pray about the pastorate at Liberty, but that we really needed to have some prayers answered first.
“The next time Tim called I told him that I would have to have the blessings of the new staff members before I could feel the freedom to accept a call to Liberty.”
A few days after Brian’s conversation with Ausmus, he was having lunch with Tom Watson, the new minister of music at Ridgecrest, and all of a sudden Watson lowered his menu and said to Branam, “I don’t want you to leave Ridgecrest, but if He did, I would bless it.”
Branam considered Watson’s comment a sign of providential confirmation to proceed with the Liberty pastor search team. He accepted the search team’s call to visit the church and was called to be the church’s pastor in February of 2012.
After assuming the pastoral duties at Liberty, Branam has had to replenish his staff, including Chris Rainey as student pastor and Chris McDaniel as minister of music. McDaniel’s story is particularly interesting.
McDaniel was formerly with the award-winning, multi-platinum-selling country group Confederate Railroad. He spent 16 years with the group until 2000, where he found himself in the middle of a $70,000-a-year cocaine addiction.
He went into rehab where he admitted he had a problem and was in need of a Higher power. He got out of rehab and found himself at Bayside Baptist Church in Harrison, TN, where he heard a message on Jeremiah 29:11-13. Convicted by the word of God, he was led to the altar by an 87-year-old saint, where he totally surrendered to Christ.
After serving as pianist at a local church for two years, McDaniel stepped out to share his testimony and music on Jan. 19, 2003 in Atlanta. After that date he knew his life would never be the same.
McDaniel came to Liberty from being the staff evangelist at Oakwood Baptist Church in Chickamauga, where he also helped launch a new campus as the worship leader. He also helped them launch their Celebrate Recovery program over six years ago and has seen many people set free from addictions. He will also be leading a Celebrate Recovery program at Liberty.
Last October Liberty had a revival with evangelist Ronnie Hill. Hill was permitted to speak in the public schools of Murray County on the subject of “Bullying and Drinking.” Large numbers of students also attended the revival services and God worked mightily during the meetings, resulting in many salvations and 54 baptisms.
The pastor had led the church to pray that there would be some long-term consequences as a result of the revival. One of the long-term benefits of the revival was the beginning of a Hispanic church, which now has a weekly attendance of more than 30 people. Zekius Martinez is the pastor.
The Holy Spirit’s mighty movement has marked many of the worship experiences at Liberty before and since the scheduled revival last October.
One Sunday, March 17, 60-year-old George “Pudgy” Albertson came to the altar in the early worship service to kneel down and pray as the choir sang the special music. As Albertson returned to his seat he fell, hit his head on one of the pews, and landed unconsciously in the aisle. The church’s medical response team quickly responded to the situation and found that the fallen man had no pulse. Branam and others concluded that Albertson was dead.
A miracle to inspire
The church was asked to leave the church auditorium and go next door to the gym/family life center. A 911 call was made. Albertson received CPR and chest compressions. His shirt was torn away and the church’s defibrillator was used to shock him, but nothing happened. Within five minutes the Murray County Emergency Medical Team arrived on the scene.
Suddenly, Albertson sat up and expressed concern that his Sunday shirt had been torn. Branam had the presence of mind to tweet: “Preaching about miracles today. Just had a man pray n the altar, fall dead 4 5 minutes, then come back to life. U may want to be here at 11!”
Albertson was taken to the hospital and examined thoroughly over a period of four days. The examinations revealed no particular problem and he was sent home.
Branam commented, “I was preaching on ‘Miracles’ because we live in a society that doesn’t look for miracles anymore.
Maybe God gave us a miracle to inspire greater faith and remind us He still has miracle- working power.”
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