Don Finto Honored for 60 Years in Ministry

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Adrienne S. Gaines


Charismatic pastor Don Finto is being honored this week for
his legacy through 60 years of ministry as he marks his 80th birthday.

Messianic worship leader Marty Goetz and contemporary
Christian musician Michael W. Smith will be among those paying tribute Thursday
to the former pastor of Belmont Church in Nashville, Tenn., who turned 80 on Sunday. Musician
Ricky Skaggs, and prophetic leaders James Goll and Heidi Baker will be among
those honoring Finto by video during the service being held at Belmont Church.

“I think honoring spiritual fathers and
mothers properly actually opens heaven over us,” said Tod McDowell,
co-organizer of Thursday’s tribute service and associate director of the Caleb
Company, a ministry Finto launched in the mid-1990s to mentor young leaders.

that his generation often has had hurtful relationships with fathers and
mothers, McDowell, 40, said he wants the event to “help cultivate a culture of
honor, which … attracts heaven and attracts God’s glory.”  

Known as “Papa Don,” Finto became pastor of Belmont Church
during the Jesus Movement of the 1970s and led the congregation to embrace
charismatic renewal. “It was a revival like never before, but
we didn’t even realize how big the revival was because we were living in it,”
Finto said. “And it was hard. There were times when it was very hard.”

Once part of the Churches of Christ, which prohibits the
use of musical instruments, Belmont eventually left the denomination and became
a hub for contemporary
Christian music. Amy Grant was one of the first musicians to play a guitar in
the church, and Smith, who attended Belmont for several years, has called Finto his “daddy in the Lord.”

call him Papa Don for a reason,” Smith said. “He’s been a father to so many,
and I am one of them. We’ve walked together for nearly 30 years now, and I’m
convinced I’d not be the man I am today if it weren’t for him. It’s an honor to
have him as one of my dearest friends.”

he stepped down as pastor in 1996, Finto has refused to retire. He founded the
Caleb Company to “empower” the next generation and encourage older Christians to “keep
taking their mountains.”

people who are still involved in the hearts and lives of younger people are
very, very needed,” Finto said. “We will not win the battle today with just
young people. We will not win the battle with just old people. We will only win
the battle when young and old are together.”

the last 13 years, Finto has traveled the world to speak about personal
integrity and the themes in his books, Your People Shall Be My People and
God’s Promise and the Future of Israel. He says now is the prophetic
time for Jewish people to come to faith in their own Messiah. “We’re seeing
that by the hundreds of thousands,” Finto said.

He says that revival is fueling
Christian conversions worldwide. “The reason we are having such success in
world evangelism is because it’s prophetically connected to the return of Jews
to the Lord and to the land,” Finto said.

“I mention this in both books; 450
years ago there were people reading those passages [in Romans 11] and saying
when Jewish people start coming back to the land it will be the greatest
revival the world has ever known. That’s happening today, and the missions
agencies of the world don’t yet understand why.”

heart surgery 10 years ago and a knee replacement surgery more recently, Finto
says he is in the best years of his life. He
believes the greatest legacy he can leave is to raise up a new generation of leaders.

The Caleb Company hosts six-week
training schools during the summer, where students spend time in Nashville and Israel
learning about the role of the Jewish nation in the end-time harvest as well as
integrity and godly leadership. McDowell said that is the kind of leadership
Finto has provided through the years.

“I believe that God sent me here
to encourage the body through an elder statesman that is still running
passionately for the Lord and has not messed up in over 60 years in ministry,”
said McDowell, who was on staff with Youth With a Mission for 15 years. “He has not … gotten lukewarm or gotten greedy or even become
lazy. He is still diligent.

“I think examples are what’s so
missing in all the communication we give and we preach and we teach. But if you
just see someone living it, you don’t need all the sermons. You don’t need all
the books. And I want the world to see that it’s possible to be passionate and
to be godly. … By the grace of God and the Holy Spirit, we can finish strong.”

The tribute service will be broadcast live beginning
at 6:30 p.m. Central at Belmont Church’s Web site.

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