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Providence leads Brian Payne through ministry, football and family
May 01, 2006
By David Roach
Brian Payne will begin in the fall as the instructor of expository preaching and pastoral leadership at Boyce College. Photo by David Merrifield
God's providence has been a recurring theme in Brian Payne's life.
Consider his call to ministry.
A former University of Alabama football player, Payne traveled to Chicago in 1998 as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes speaker to address teenagers at a missions conference. Charles Stanley, longtime pastor of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., was the conference's keynote speaker. After the conference's final service, some of the speakers had brunch together at a local country club.
Providentially, Payne encountered Stanley waiting for an omelet.
"Dr. Stanley had an influence in my life because early on in my walk, pointing that Bible at that screen really encouraged me to get into the Word," Payne said of Stanley's popular television program, In Touch.
As the two men struck up a conversation, Payne told Stanley he sensed some form of a call to ministry on his life but was still working to understand the specifics of that call. At that point Stanley moved closer to give some pointed counsel.
"He got about eyeball to eyeball with me," Payne said. "Literally there were two inches between us. And he said, 'Let me ask you a question. If there were anything in the world you could do, what would you do?'"
When Payne said he would preach, Stanley was ready with a response. "He said, 'Son, what is God going to have to do to get you to submit to His call?'" Payne remembered.
"It certainly awakened me from my preaching slumbers," he said.
Following that encounter Payne went back to Nashville, where he was working in the pharmaceutical industry, and enrolled in a Southern Seminary extension class in preparation for ministry.
That's when providence struck again.
Payne's grandmother died in the fall of 1998, and Payne attended the funeral. Standing over her casket, a friend of the family approached him and asked whether his grandmother had told him about a Southern Seminary program in Auburn, Ala.
The woman told Payne that her husband, Al Jackson, was leading a program at Lakeview Baptist Church where he was pastor. In the program students combine seminary classes with local church experience, she said.
"She described the program and it really resonated with me," he said. "It had a very strong emphasis on the local church and accountability in the local church, and Al Jackson would be serving as my pastoral mentor."
On the basis of that conversation, Payne eventually moved his studies to Auburn. He graduated with a master of divinity in 2002 then moved to Louisville where he earned a master of theology in 2003. Currently he is pursuing a Ph.D. in systematic theology to better equip himself for ministry.
In addition to his formal training for ministry at Southern, a rich past of practical Christian service prepared Payne as well. As a linebacker at Alabama he was heavily involved in FCA and lived a Christian life among the culture of college athletics.
The teams on which Payne played enjoyed consistent winning records, claiming the Southeastern Conference championship in 1989 and playing in several bowl games, including the Sugar Bowl his senior year. Payne won the "Jerry Duncan I love to practice" award in 1988 and 1989 for consistency and playing through pain.
"It's kind of an 'all heart' and 'no talent' award," he joked.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree, Payne pursued a master's degree in marketing and became a graduate assistant coach at Alabama. The teams Payne coached continued the winning tradition, appearing in the Fiesta Bowl in 1991.
Along with his coaching, he began traveling the country as an FCA speaker — a course that led to the encounter with Stanley and an education at Southern Seminary.
Family life is another area in which Payne has seen God's providence at work.
While living in the Nashville area, Payne met and married his wife Heather, who is a member of the popular Christian singing group Point of Grace.
But despite Heather's success and rigorous touring schedule, the Paynes have remained committed to their family and their local church.
"It's a conviction that we share that motherhood and being a wife and being a committed member of the local church take priority," Payne said.
At times Heather has come home from the road on a Sunday morning and gone directly from Point of Grace's bus to the church. She also hosted a women's Bible study in her home in Nashville every week. In Auburn, Heather participated in evangelistic visitation every Tuesday night and sang in the church choir.
Since the arrival of the Paynes' two children — Ella, 3, and Nate, 1 — Heather has demonstrated a commitment to make children and church a priority ahead of her music career, he said. They are expecting another son in April.
"She's still trying to come to terms with having infants and what she does in the church," Payne said. "She's working in the nursery now and attends a women's Bible study. But we're still trying to come to grips with balancing family, studies and my service in the local church."
The Paynes love children so much that they even provide financial support for one child who is not a member of their family through the Christian organization Compassion International. Each month they give money to provide a child in El Salvador with food, clothing, education and an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
In January they traveled to El Salvador to meet their child, a four-year-old named Lissbeth who lives with her mother and grandmother in a tin hut in an area of San Salvador ravaged by the gang, MS 13.
On that trip God showed Payne how He is working providentially to change the lives of gang members in El Salvador.
"El Salvador is gang-controlled," he explained. "Many consider MS 13 the most dangerous street gang in the world."
Although these gang members will not attend church themselves, some allow Compassion International to minister to their impoverished children through local churches.
"You've got gang members who allow these churches to do this because these churches are ministering to their children," he said. "So you have a lot of gang members right now getting saved through the ministry of their children. There's a great work of God taking place in El Salvador."
In every facet of Payne's life — his ministry, his education and his family — he says he strives to apply God's truth and teach sound doctrine. Southern Seminary provides key preparation to carry out this mission, he said.
"We have this mandate to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict. That is a very important role for the pastor and the minister. I just felt like pursuing a Ph.D. in theology would better equip me to carry out that mandate."
Brian Payne will serve as the instructor of expository preaching and pastoral leadership beginning in the fall at Boyce College. The biblical and theological studies field at the college is adding two majors to the existing biblical and theological studies major: expository preaching and pastoral leadership, and apologetics, worldview and philosophy.