To Dr. Kelley’s surprise, as he began to speak and looked out into the audience, he saw many newhope church staff members who he believed to be back at the church in Durham. The growing suspicion was explained after his presentation when Dr. Spittle, President of Southern Wesleyan University, and Mary Mitchell, widow to Dr. Virgil A. Mitchell, entered the stage and presented Dr. Kelley with the V.A. Mitchell Excellence in Pastoral Ministry Award.
The V.A. Mitchell Excellence in Pastoral Ministry Award was established in 1994 by Dr. and Mrs. Virgil A. Mitchell to encourage excellence in ministry, enhance the importance of pastoral ministry, to recognize service to the church and support of Southern Wesleyan University, to emphasize the value of ministerial training offered at Southern Wesleyan University and most of all to exalt the greatest preacher of them all -- Jesus Christ!
Dr. Mitchell, now graduated to heaven, was an alumnus of the Southern Wesleyan University and a longtime supporter of the institution. He served as General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church, as local pastor and as a recognized denominational leader. His ministry and influence spans the world and was based upon his commitment to his Lord, the word of God and his passion for ministry. Throughout his life he served as a mentor and advisor to many pastors who look to his life as an example of the criteria for the award he established.
The Mitchell Award is presented to ordained ministers who are serving in the Wesleyan Church specifically in the Southern Region. The criteria for the award includes evidence of a strong commitment to Jesus Christ, biblically based preaching, demonstrated high standards of ethical and moral conduct, outstanding communication skills and a passion for evangelism, outreach and church development.
In addition the award is intended to provide a model of ministry that can be emulated by others who seek to serve in a pastoral role. The criteria recognizes those in pastoral roles who demonstrate gifts in leadership, church development, finance and actively demonstrate their commitment to the Wesleyan Church, its ministries and its institutions at the local, district and national levels. An emphasis on outreach and discipleship ministries to all ages, cultures and ethnic groups is integral to the requirements of this award.
The award includes a presentation plaque presented by Dr. Spittle, a monetary gift and first consideration for eligibility for the Virgil and Mary Mitchell Scholarship to a ministerial student attending Southern Wesleyan and attending the recipient’s church.
The award was initially presented in 1995. Dr. Kelley is the seventeenth recipient of the award, which salutes pastors who have made a significant impact in the development of their churches and communities. Dr. Kelley and his wife Amy Lynn had a vision for a church that would reach out to the community and encourage every person of the community to come as they are. Since its founding nine years ago, newhope church has grown into what one could consider a church movement, why it’s leader could be considered the poster child for this award.
Dr. Benji W. Kelley is a native of Sumter, SC. and graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1994. He then studied at Duke University’s Divinity School where he received dual Masters Degrees in Divinity (1997) and The Theology and Practice of Christian Preaching (2000). The Kelley family then traveled to Kentucky where Pastor Benji received his Doctoral Degree in Christian Leadership and Preaching from the prestigious Beeson Pastor Program at Asbury Theological Seminary (2005).
Upon graduation, Dr. Kelley returned to North Carolina and started newhope church with his wife and children. Benji is married to Amy Lynn and together they have 5 children. (Anna Grace, Benjamin Cole, Wesley Jacob, Caleb Timothy, and Joshua Hunter) They live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Founded in 2002, newhope currently averages over 2,000 people a Sunday. With an emphasis on leadership development and creating an environment where reverence meets relevance, newhope is a thriving multi-site community of faith spreading throughout central North Carolina and beyond. In 2010, newhope was honored with being named the 10th Fastest Growing Church in America by Outreach Magazine (Special Edition 2010), 1st in Percentage Growth. newhope church continues to actively reach the community and its growth and ministry incorporates the birthing of multisite campuses, an Internet Campus and a Sunday television broadcast that continues to expand its regional ministry.
“It’s a God thing” says Dr. Benji Kelley. “At the end of the day, all the glory be to God who has worked miraculously through this church.” While God receives all the credit for the accomplishments that have awarded Dr. Kelley, it all started with a man’s dream, encouragement that one should never under estimate the power of a dream.
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Contemporary Christian Church with 9-year-old congregation and 2 campuses, in Durham and Garner, NC, named 10th fastest growing church in America by recent survey published in Outreach Magazine. Attendance around 2,500. Pastored by Dr. Benji Kelley.