Three Denman Winners Range in Age From 18 to 80, But All Are Evangelists To Young People


The Harry Denman Evangelism Awards are sponsored by The Foundation for Evangelism and began being given out in 1981. They honor United Methodist clergy, lay, and youth persons in each annual conference who exhibit unusual and outstanding efforts for the work on Christian evangelism. The awards help to draw attention to evangelism at the local church level and honor those persons who, in their daily lives, are effective in helping others to experience the transforming love of God through Jesus Christ. The late Harry Denman, for whom the award is named, was himself a lay person whose passion was helping others to know Jesus.

At Annual Conference every year, the North Georgia Conference honors clergy and lay persons who exhibit unusual and outstanding efforts for the work on Christian Evangelism with this award. Neither the size of the local church with which the person is affiliated, the age or gender of the person, nor the length of their service limits a person’s eligibility. What is important are the persons whose lives have been changed by the life and ministry of the nominee.  (Note: the youth award is limited to individuals who would be considered students - college age or younger.)

At the first of every year, the North Georgia Conference begins receiving nomination forms for clergy, laity and youth throughout the conference. The application deadline is usually the third or fourth Friday in March. Out of all the applications the conference receives, the Evangelism sub-committee of the Worship Team then has the tough responsibility of selecting the three individuals that will be receive the conference award.

As in the years past, we received many nominations this year for some great witnesses for Christ.  This year the conference recipients are:

Youth – Brandon Leo

Brandon Leo is 18 years old and has been an active member of Concord United Methodist Church his whole life.  This May, he will be graduating from Carrollton City High School with honors and has been accepted to the University of West Georgia.

At Concord UMC, Brandon has performed important jobs from running the sound board to organizing youth activities.  He is involved in the Outreach Program and went with a group to a local subdivision in the church’s community to invite them to church and share his passion for his faith.  He is the youth representative on the church committees of Special Events and Worship.  On any day of the week, you could find him at church assisting with church needs.

Brandon assists with Concord’s Kidsfest activities on Wednesday nights and has led the youth message several times.  He has influenced the children, especially our young boys, by showing them that living for Christ really is cool.  Brandon was one of the key individuals who helped Concord’s youth ministry grow from just a few to around 25 on Wednesday nights.

For many years, Brandon had wanted to begin a live nativity at Concord.  When he was finally able to begin this dream of his, he gathered up our youth and children, planned out the nativity scene, designed the structure, helped to build it, brought in live animals, and helped children get prepared for their role in the nativity.  This transformed Concord’s youth program by bringing the children, youth and young adults together.  The live nativity has had a huge impact in the community as well and brought in new members to our church.

Outside of the church Brandon exemplifies his Christian beliefs thru his business, Hickory Level Farms, where he plants and grows produce which he sells at the local farmers markets.  He also participates in the West Georgia Junior Rodeo where he won All Around Grand Champion for 2013.

“Brandon is a young adult that lets Jesus Christ shine in his life every day. He has absolutely transformed those around him by his kind acts and profession of his love for Jesus. It doesn’t matter what age you are, Brandon will help you in whatever you need.” 
Mary Crider, Concord’s Lay Delegate and Outreach Committee Chair.

Laity – John Upchurch

John Upchurch was raised in the Methodist Church in Alabama and joined his now home church of Skyland UMC in 1965.  Even as he is now in his mid-80s, he continues to find ways of reaching out and sharing the Word with his friends, neighbors and complete strangers.

At Skyland, John has taught Sunday School and served as the Lay Leader.  He has been the head of the lay witness team, Skyland’s evangelism team, for many years which makes home visits to the church’s neighbors, sharing the good news of the Gospel and inviting them to church.  Recently he took an active role in developing a plan for a fall revival at the church.  He is active in and leads Skyland’s bread and food ministry, which collects food donated by local grocery stores and sorts and delivers it to other ministries and families in need.  He has also hosted special prayer meetings in his home in which several members of the church come and study the Word of God and pray for the sick and the needy.

For 38 years, he taught and coached at high schools in Florida and Georgia. While at Shamrock High School in Decatur, he was the leader of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which touched the lives of many high school aged youth.

Outside the church, John has been involved with the Atlanta Union Mission shelter, where he helps feed and lead a worship service for the homeless men there. Each week he goes to the Youth Detention Center to witness to and share with the youth who are incarcerated there. He works with Full Gospel Businessmen operating their “God-Mobile” which goes around to fairs and events across Georgia for the sole purpose of witnessing and sharing the Gospel with any who will stop for a few minutes.  He is also a Gideon and has been active in his local chapter.

“He is truly a Spirit filled man of God, loves the Lord and works diligently to reach the lost, telling them about Jesus; and his Love, Mercy and Saving Grace.”  Mildred J. Bryson, member of Skyland UMC

Clergy – Ronny Brannen

Rev. Ronny Brannen has been a pastor in the United Methodist Church for 34 years. He has been serving as senior pastor of Prospect UMC in Covington for the last 13.  Before his current appointment he served he served at Mount Carmel in Newnan (1980-82) and Old Camp UMC in Carrollton (1982-2001).

In his current appointment, Ronny help Prospect UMC revamp their children’s and youth ministries and began a church-wide effort to “train up the children in the way they should go.”  His church participates in the Upward Program having hundreds of children who participate in basketball, soccer and cheerleading.  Each year the church holds two large community outreach events, the Easter Egg Hunt and the Hallelujah Hoopla (a fall festival), in which invite the community to their church.  And they sponsored a local park’s opening three years ago, where over 600 people attended.  The church goes out into the community by participating in Adopt-A-Road and holding a free gift wrap at Christmas at a local Wal-Mart.

Ronny’s commitment to saving the lost and to helping children has been seen in every part of his life throughout his ministry.  Ronny served as the head of all recreation for Global Servants youth camp, Youth Advance, for 20 years.  His volunteer service for this amazing youth camp helped lead thousands of kids to Christ and gave them a safe Christian environment to spend their summers.  When Youth Advance ended, he continued to travel for Global Servants around the world offering day camps in Thailand and helping to open a girl’s home in West Africa.  Through his work with this organization, he has had the privilege of baptizing about 65 girls in northern Thailand.

Ronny also serves on the Newton County Recreation Commission in where he works with the members in providing the local community with a positive environment for children to experience recreation and good sportsmanship.

In 2014, Ronny won the “I Have A Dream Award” for Newton County.  “The award is given to outstanding individuals or organizations whose service to the community embodies the tenets of King’s philosophy on social justice and community empowerment.”  One of the criteria for the award is: the nominee must “be one who fosters and supports education on all levels.”
Ronny is constantly thinking outside the box for ways to include children and youth in the daily life of our community and church.
“Pastor Brannen embodies [the Harry Denman Evangelism Award] with his sacrificial love for children and his lifetime dedication to helping children find healing, restoration, and a personal relationship with Christ.”  Dr. Mark Rutland, President of Global Servants

District Recipients

Each year every district also selects someone to receive the Harry Denman Award for the district.  This year’s recipients include:

Athens Elberton District

Anna Marie Lawrence, lay person at Bethlehem FUMC

Atlanta College Park District

Debie Marshal, lay person at Impact UMC   

Atlanta Decatur Oxford District

Robert Ward, clergy at Clifton UMC

Atlanta Emory District

Lisa Enberg, lay person at McKendree UMC           

Atlanta Marietta District

Gigi Warren, clergy at Leland UMC 
Tom Davis, clergy at Due West UMC

Atlanta Roswell District

Stacey Hanson, clergy at Midway UMC in Alpharetta

Augusta District

Mark Maund, clergy at Riverview UMC

Gainesville District

Mark Burgess, clergy at First UMC of Union County

Griffin District

Kevin Barnes, clergy at Griffin FUMC

LaGrange District

Janey Allen, lay person at Cornerstone UMC

Northwest District

Angela Gilreath-Rivers, clergy at Douglas Street UMC

Rome Carrollton District

David Campbell, clergy at Trinity UMC in Rome