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Dedicated Sunday school teacher receives BSSB award posthumously

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A Sunday school teacher whose ministry is still making an impact a decade after his death was one of four people honored by the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board for their contributions to Bible teaching-reaching ministry.
The late Earl Rayburn received posthumously The Washburn-Piland-Taylor Directors Award for “his faithfulness as a Bible study teacher and Christian role model” in his local congregation, First Baptist Church of Venus, Texas.
Also receiving the award were Thom Rainer, associate professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.; Bob Franklin, director of the associational strategy team at the North American Mission Board, Alpharetta, Ga.; and Cindy Sampley, a part-time worker for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.
Given annually in four categories — Southern Baptist Convention, state, association and local church work — the awards are named after the last three men who have provided leadership for Bible teaching-reaching ministry across the Southern Baptist Convention — A.V. Washburn, Harry Piland and Bill Taylor, current director of the BSSB’s Bible teaching-reaching division. This year’s awards were given Dec. 9 during an annual meeting of state Sunday school directors and associates in Nashville, Tenn.
In a moving tribute to his late father, Darrell Rayburn of Fort Worth, Texas, accepted the award for local church work on behalf of his father, Earl, who died in 1987 after losing a battle with cancer. Reading from a letter he wrote to Taylor about his father, Rayburn said:
“Earl taught Sunday school class all of his adult life. … He was such a good teacher that everyone in church wanted to attend his class. And the fact that he was such a good teacher was no accident because all my life I remember my Dad getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning, making coffee and studying his Sunday school lesson for an hour or two. He did that seven days a week. He did that 365 days a year. He did it year after year. He never missed. He did it until the day he died.”
Although his father was a layman with only a 10th-grade education, Rayburn said “he knew the Bible probably as well as any scholar at Southwestern Seminary (in Fort Worth, Texas). But the best thing about him was he lived a life that made God proud and he wanted to tell other people so they could be as happy as he was.”
In another letter written to Taylor, Vicki Storm, a fellow church member of the late Sunday school teacher, said she had worried what would happen to her church when a prominent leader like Rayburn passed away. “Fortunately,” she wrote, “Earl did exactly what Jesus instructed him to do by making disciples and teaching them in his Sunday school class. There were men and women with wisdom to help lead our church after he passed away in 1987.”
In presenting the award to Rayburn, Taylor said he was “an excellent example of commitment and Christian service. There are a lot of Earl Rayburns out there teaching Sunday school classes week after week. We need to honor them.”
Rainer, who also is dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Seminary, received the Washburn-Piland-Taylor Award for promoting Bible teaching-reaching ministry on a convention-wide level. In addition to his teaching and administrative responsibilities, Rainer is featured columnist for Growing Churches magazine and author of several books, including “Giant Awakenings: Making the Most of Nine Surprising Trends That Can Benefit Your Church” and “Effective Evangelistic Churches.”
“Through his writings and research, Dr. Rainer has impacted the evangelical world with the knowledge that Sunday school is still a vital, 21st-century model for church growth,” Taylor said. “We are blessed to have someone of his calibre as a full-fledged proponent of Sunday school.”
Sampley received the award for Bible teaching-reaching ministry on the state convention level for coordinating Vacation Bible School work in Ohio in 1997. She supervised eight regional VBS clinics in her state, training almost three times the number of workers as the previous year. The state reported its best-ever VBS last summer with 26,371 children enrolled — a 44 percent increase over 1996. Of those, 1,004 made decisions to accept Christ.
Franklin was honored for his work in promoting Bible teaching-reaching ministry on the associational level. He served as director of missions for the Noonday Baptist Association in Marietta, Ga., from 1985 until earlier this year when he joined the staff of the North American Mission Board.
Two Sunday School Board employees also were recognized during the Dec. 9 awards banquet.
Jeff Holder, multimedia specialist in the Bible teaching-reaching division, received the Hight C Moore Award for outstanding contributions to biblical studies publishing.
“Jeff’s creative skills were vital to the success of the ‘Follow Christ’s Example’ Sunday school leadership series and other projects during the year,” Louis Hanks, director of the BSSB’s biblical studies department, said. “He is a valued member of our team.”
The award is named after Moore, who served as supervisor of the editorial department at the Sunday School Board from 1907 to 1943.
Beth Taylor, children’s lead consultant in the Bible teaching-reaching division, received the Elsie Rives Award for outstanding field service work during the year.
“Beth has been a children’s consultant for 13 years and she is respected across the convention as an enthusiastic, hard worker and a knowledgeable expert in children’s Sunday school work,” Steve Cretin, director of BSSB’s leadership and evangelism department, said.
The award is named after the late Rives, manager of the children’s program section at the board from 1963-87.

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  • Chip Alford