Elders at Red River Church are overseers, based upon 1 Peter 5:1-5 and Hebrews 13:17. They are to be examples to the members. Elders function in a group, bringing diversity, but committed to seeking unity. In the New Testament churches, elders were appointed to oversee the members (Acts 14:23 & Titus 1:5.)

Qualifications of elders (based upon 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Title 1:5-9):

  • Above reproach, husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled
  • Respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunk
  • Not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, manages his family well
  • Has obedient children, not a recent convert, good reputation with outsiders, not overbearing
  • Not quick-tempered, loves what is good, upright, holy
  • Disciplined, holds firmly to the trustworthy message of the gospel

Jeff Bennighof

Jeff Bennighof--married to Linda, who coordinates children's ministries at RRC, for 30+ years, with daughters Natalie and Caroline, who have both graduated college. I've been an engineering professor at UT for more than 25 years.

A big passion of mine is for each of us to understand what our walk with the Lord can be like, and to realize that potential in our day-to-day experience. I'm currently teaching an adult class called "Jesus in the Gospels" which looks at the life and ministry of Jesus in the four gospels. 

Keith Atkinson

Keith family

I am a native Austinite (one of the few) who was apprehended by Jesus Christ in 1973 and I have never been the same since. I was in bi-vocational ministry for most of my adult life when in 2000 I was offered a full-time pastoral position at Red River Church. In the preceding years I made a living as a high school teacher. Most of those years were spent teaching a college level government class. I value the experience this afforded me. I still often see and stay in touch with students from that era of my life. Some of them have come to faith in Christ.

I have four wonderful children: Luke, Alexandria,Sam, and Isaac. They fill my life with excitement and challenge. On October 3, 2009 I wed Melinda Peinado. Life with Melinda is a glorious adventure.

One of the key callings in my life is to teach people how to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I love the Psalms and believe as the early church Fathers taught, that these ancient songs teach us how to pray. The recording, Dwelling Place, is primarily a journey through some of the Psalms which probes our longing for God. My hunger for God is also satiated through the process of spiritual formation. I also love being a pastor. Experiencing fellowship with each other as we experience the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is a wonderful way to make a living.

My hobbies include guitar, song writing, jazz, reading, tennis and independent films. I also love the process of crafting a sermon. It is a labor of love filled at times with labor pains.

Wes Birdwell


Like many Red Riverites, my wife Cynthia and I have been worshipping God here since the early 1970's. We began at a Christian coffeehouse called "The Well" just off the "Drag" on the UT campus. I have served on the Worship Team much of that time. I appreciate our corporate worship and believe it is central to our life together. I have enjoyed serving as an elder a few years and on the Teaching Team. Cynthia and I also meet with many of the young families in our home and serve as marriage facilitators.


Jim Clingan


I was raised in the Methodist Church but had no real spiritual experience there. I became a professing atheist in college which continued through two years working as an engineer in Dallas and my first year of law school at UT here in Austin. I realized then though that I was not on the right path and began going to a Methodist Church where I met Cynthia (then Warrington) Birdwell and her twin sister Sylvia who after some time introduced me to the Well, a Christian coffee house serving UT.

At this time I was what is sometimes called a “seeker.” I attended regularly both the Well and the Methodist Church while reading through the new testament using the J.B. Philips translation. I never really got much out of the King James version. Eventually I came to really believe in God, specifically that Jesus was who he said he was. It was a shaky start, but through some experiences, I really got on the path of following Jesus.

Instrumental in those times were Dale Jackson, Dick Pickens, and John Cogdell. As I continued in development, I became active in the overnight ministry to the homeless and a home group headed up by Mike Roh who eventually became the administrator of the Well and the follow on church, The People of Prayer. I met with him regularly in addition to the home group. I met Becky in this time frame and we were married in December of 1975 which is also when I graduated from law school. Becky and I began leading a home group soon after we were married. In a variety of forms we had a home group until the end of 2000. From 1979 until about 1998 we were active in nursery care, children’s ministry, and youth ministry (notably Jon Riley was a long time student during that time). For 9 years from about 1982 to 1991 I headed up the children’s ministry.

The People of Prayer merged with New Life Fellowship which brought in new spiritual leaders which included Bob Rowan, Frank Akins, and Mark Long. Bob Amundsen had established himself as an outstanding teacher prior to the merger and with the addition of Mark Long we had an excellent tandem. Influential in this whole process was Keith Lamb; a truly riveting speaker. The one thing that stood out in particular was his ability to motivate people, I am certainly one, to study the Bible. Wes Birdwell and I go back to the days at the Well and have been at the same church continuously since then.

Jon Riley


I was born at a very early age to my parents. Raised and lived in Austin for all but a couple of years accidentally in Oklahoma.

I studied Mechanical Engineering at UT but graduated from Concordia University in Business Management and currently a supervisor at LCRA.

I am happily married to Denise for 11+ years and we have several marvelous kids. I am very glad to have the strength of the spiritual heritage of both our parents here at Red River. I love missions. I have been drawn to walk in what God is doing in other countries since I was a teenager and have been able go on numerous short term missions trips - Russia, Mexico, South America, east Asia. Dear friends of ours are in countries all over the world and it has been an honor to support them from this church.

Another passion of mine has been working with youth, both here and in other ministries for over 15 years. There is not much else in this world stronger than a young man or woman realizing that they can do anything through Christ giving them his strength. I grew up in this church and believe firmly that God has placed me here on purpose, to serve him and bring him glory.

My heart is in encouraging people to love God and each other and to see the world as His creation full of broken people that need Him. I love this fellowship of believers and I thoroughly enjoy walking with these other five guys, seeking God's will for this body. I am learning about healing and blessing. I want to learn more about discernment. I see God as more than merely able to defeat an enemy, but constantly restoring what was defeated, bringing life back and lifting up.