Sometime this past January the Living Faith Baptist Church began a pastoral search process that is sure to commend itself to many congregations. They went online to the Academy site on YouTube and watched a series of videos taken at the inaugural Festival of Young Preachers in January of 2010.
There are 92 of these videos on YouTube and I have watched every one of them. Some are very good; most are good; a few are mediocre. Some of the young preachers prepared better than others!
After watching a series of the sermon videos, a member of the church search committee called me and said, "We have found one of these young preachers we like. Can you give us a recommendation?"
Indeed, I could, and did; and the church interviewed him, and went to hear him preach in person, and invited him to their church to preach in view of a call; which he did; and two weeks later they voted to call him as pastor. I rejoice with him and am grateful our festival videos played a small role in the successful search of this congregation.
I predict this will become the norm. Already, many churches request a video from an aspiring preacher or pastor. But at the Academy site a committee can view many of these videos easily, quickly, and without complications. Perhaps other churches have already done this because the festival sermon videos have been viewed more than 10,200 times!! This is 17 times as many people as registered for the festival!
Young preachers seeking a place to serve would do well to register for the 2011 festival, scheduled for January 6-8, in Louisville, Kentucky. You will get a wide hearing and you never know who will see your sermon video and give you a call.
Church and denominations seeking to recruit and call young ministers would do well to attend the festival in January; but if that is not possible, log on to this web site and watch all of it streamed live; and if that is not possible, go to our YouTube site and sit for an hour or two watching sermon videos. You just might see the young man or woman that is perfect for your congregation! It is the wave of the future.
Oh, by the way, his name: Roger Jasper!
Written by Adam Quine
St. Francis of Assisi has been accredited with the quote that goes something like this, "Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words."
Although these words offer a profound, gentle reminder of the call to live our lives as followers of Jesus, I think the too-often-quoted saint would have made an exception for the 92 young preachers who made our way to a snowy Louisville, Kentucky for the first Festival of Young Preachers, hosted by the Academy of Preachers, an event whose sole function is to encourage and empower young people desiring to follow God's call into preaching.
Sometime late in 2009, my colleague and friend, Dr. Jonathan E. Carroll, came to me with some exciting news about this idea for a 'preaching festival' where young people could come, be together, and preach. It was definitely easy to see his excitement about this concept, but I, who don't have the same way with words as he does, responded with hesitation. Now I've seen what words can do and how preaching, especially if it is done well, can inspire many people in to be the change they wish to see in the world. But, the idea of 91 of my peers dissecting and cross examining my preaching really didn't sound like a fun way to spend three days. However my fear was quickly put to rest when it was made clear the Festival would offer only constructive criticism for my benefit.
Intrigued and inspired, we headed east, hoping my fears wouldn't overcome my six page sermon. When the day finally arrived for me to preach, what little anxiety I had diminished when I was warmly greeted by the Festival's hospitable staff. There was little confusion in regards to where or when I might preach; it was all laid out and explained perfectly clear. Because of the great organization and because of the friendly volunteers, I had all morning to focus clearly on my sermon; after all I was the second one up on the first day of the event. I was ecstatic to 'get it out of the way early,' and I hope to get that good deal next year as well!
Once I preached, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the Festival. I found myself closely studying each person in the program. By using their "I preach..." statements, I mapped out who I wanted to scope out. Yet, after hearing the first sermon, then the second, and then seeing the different texts being used, I wasn't sure who I wanted to see; so I began wandering around and was able to listen to many great sermons. This is what made the festival so enjoyable: being able to go at your own pace to listen to others preach, to see the different styles of preaching, to encounter Scripture with those who view the world differently, and to see preaching for what it really is, an art.
We received a couple good lessons from the worship leaders and preachers who led us, too. Each of the preachers selected to speak during the evening worship services had their own style, came from different traditions, and brought a unique perspective on the art of the sermon. Again, this is yet another way the Festival set itself apart as the only event of its kind. No matter where you came from, no matter what you were preaching, no matter how much or how little schooling you may have received, you were welcomed to come and preach-and we learned from one another. Personally the process of preparing and writing the sermon, then delivering it, and then hearing how other experienced it reminded me of just how transforming a sermon can be.
Frederick Buechner says in his great little sermon titled The Gospel as Fairy Tale, "Let the preacher stretch our imagination and strain our thinking and make our jaws drop." That is what a preacher is called to do, and this happened at the Festival of Young Preachers. By participating in it, my call to proclaim God's good news had been rekindled, and yet, discovered anew. I'm grateful for the work and time put in to this festival by Dr. Moody, the Academy's Board of Advisers, and other consultants. Through their hard work, the Festival became a great stepping stone for young preachers like me, and good steps have been made in restoring the value of preaching and the power words can have on society.
As for next year: I'm looking forward to trying a different style at what will be the second Festival of Young Preachers.
(Adam is a student at Greenville College and was sponsored at the 2010 Festival of Young Preachers by First Presbyterian Church in Owensboro. During the 2010 Festival of Young Preachers, Adam preached from Mark 1:1-8. To watch Adam's sermon on YouTube, click here.)
Beginning this summer, the Academy of Preachers will expand the target area of its pilot project to a 300 miles radius around Louisville. For the first 18 months, the area of focus was half that: 150 miles from Louisville in all directions.
That original area included Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Lexington, Nashville, Evansville, and Bloomington. Most of the Founding Partners came from this area, such as Christian Theological Seminary, Cincinnati Christian University, Georgetown College, Lindsey Wilson College, Fisk University, Trevecca Nazarene University, Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church, and Central District Baptist Association.
Not that this imaginary line kept others from hearing about the Academy: Truett Seminary in Texas, Morehouse College in Georgia, Beeson Divinity School in Alabama, Harvard Divinity School in Boston, and Southwest Baptist University in Missouri are a few of those who signed on early. Fully one third of the young preachers who came to Louisville to preach at the Festival of Young Preachers attend school outside this original target area.
The expanded region (stretching the 300 miles just a bit!) reaches north to Milwaukee and south to Birmingham, west past St. Louis and east into Virginia. Within this enlarged area are such centers of Christian leadership as Chicago, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Memphis. The Academy will seek to introduce ourselves to Christian schools in these areas: Bible colleges, liberal arts colleges, universities, and seminaries.
We are making a renewed effort to attract National Partners (see elsewhere on this web site) and assist institutions in scheduling campus festivals and designing preaching courses to include the festival. And of course, the big thing: encouraging young preachers to register for the second national festival of young preachers (January 6-8, 2011) in Louisville, Kentucky.
While the intent of the Academy is to create a national network of young preachers, we are being careful to expand within our means and according to a plan. Of course, these plans do not prevent us from talking to individuals, organizations, and institutions at the far corners of the country. In fact, within the past seven days, I have had conversations with people in Boston, Portland, Mobile, and New York. We welcome your calls.
The Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis has been the initial and primary partner with the Academy of Preachers. It was the approval and endorsement of Vice President Craig Dykstra and Program Director Chris Coble
That secured the launch of the Academy in January of 2009. They approved an 18-month grant with promises of an extension.
Now, Chris Coble, writing for the Endowment, has expressed their satisfaction with the progress. After reading the first official report, submitted February 1, 2010, he wrote:
"The response to the Academy pilot project is very encouraging. The inaugural Festival of Young Preachers attracted a significant number of talented young people, as well as their mentors, and provided them with an opportunity to interact with others exploring a call to ministry."
Dr. Coble himself attended the festival, held in January of 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky, and met with the Academy Board of Advisors. His letter continues:
"The number of founding partners is noteworthy and indicates a broad base of support for the Academy."
Coble is right about this: there are 50 Founding Partners, listed elsewhere on this web site. We are now soliciting what we call National Partners, and are expecting letters of such partnership to arrive any day.
"Although much hard work remains," Coble continues, "I hope you are pleased what you have accomplished thus far. I look forward to following your progress as you prepare to move into the second phase of the pilot project."
The second phase of our pilot project is an 18-month extension, beginning July 1, 2010. We are expected any day now notice of a second grant from the Endowment to underwrite much of the cost of this work. During this second 18 months we will have two more festivals of young preachers and at least two more preaching camps.
In addition, we are extending our pilot project target area by 150 miles. This means we will reach out specifically to institutions, organizations, and congregations within a 300 mile radius of Louisville Kentucky. This, of course, does not limit our reach; in fact, any person or organization within the United States is welcome to join us in their remarkable initiative.
Stay tuned for more good news!!
The national Festival of Young Preachers is still more than 8 months away but already people are signing up to attend. This week the Academy received the first paid registration from a young preacher
And last week we received the first payment for an ad and an exhibit.
C. J. Childs, a native of Georgia, a student in Tennessee (at Trevecca Nazarene University), and a member of the Young Preachers Leadership Team has submitted her completed registration form, with the $100 registration fee, to become the first person to register for the 2011 festival. The festival will be held at the Seelbach Hotel and the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, Kentucky, January 6-8, 2010.
Childs is a Charter Member of the Academy of Preachers as a result of preaching at the inaugural festival this past January. Her sermon is available for viewing on the Academy YouTube site.
Childs will be one of 104 young preachers to come to the festival next January and preach. It is the only event in the country whose purpose is to present the talent, the passion, and the intellect of young preachers, ages 15-28. Registration forms are elsewhere on this web site.
Taking the lead among exhibitors is Georgetown College, the Baptist-related liberal arts college in central Kentucky. They approached the Academy early this year about buying the advertizing space on the back side of the festival program. Their reservation also gives them prime space in the exhibition hall at the festival in January.
This past January, 26 businesses, institutions, and organizations exhibited at the festival. They come to recruit students, sell products, promote ministries, and hire ministers. Organizers are making plans for that to increase to 40. Registration forms for advertizing and exhibiting will be posted within the next few weeks.
The daytime activities of the festival, including exhibitions, meals, and preaching, will be in the Seelbach Hilton Hotel. The Cathedral of the Assumption, a half block away, will host a reception, a luncheon, a worship service, and the closing ceremonies. All actives of the festival are free and open to the public. Offerings are received during the festival to help underwrite the cost of the Academy programs.
The two prime initiatives of the Academy are the preaching camp and the festival of young preachers. We thought we were the only ones out there doing this sort of thing; but maybe not.
Long-time friend Mike Diduit of Anderson University in South Carolina is hosting the second Boot Camp for Preachers. You can read all about it at www.preachingbootcamp.com. I am happy to give him this small endorsement because he published on his web page 18 months ago a news story about the launch of our Academy.
His camp, though, is different from ours in two respects. First, his boot camp does not target younger preachers, and second, his boot camp does not feature campers preaching. He has a list of well-known specialists and preachers who are coming in to speak and lead. Our camps, of course, register only young preachers, age 16-28 (with some flexibility on both ends), and the stackpole around which our camps are organized is the daily preaching by every camper. So there is a difference.
But in England, one denomination is doing something very much like our festival of young preachers. The United Reform Church of the United Kingdom is launching a Preacher of the Year competition for young preachers between the age of 18 and 30. You can read all about it on their web site.
Here again there is a big difference between their event and ours: no competition in our festival of young preachers. In the beginning, I wanted to pick out the best young preachers and recognize them, but the Young Preachers Leadership Team vetoed that. No competition, they said; and they were right. Our festival was so much the better without the competitive element; and next January, when 104 young preachers gather at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel and the Cathedral of the Assumption, they will come to "network, support, and inspire" one another in their common calling, not to defeat each other is some sort of context.
Even with that big difference, I applaud the focus on young preachers in England. I have written them and suggested we explore ways to collaborate in our common concern for the next generation of gospel preachers. I will keep you posted.
Let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Archdiocese of Louisville becomes the first Roman Catholic institution or organization to become a Founding Partner with the Academy of Preachers. This further solidifies the Academy as one of the most ecumenical initiatives in American Christianity today.
Archishop Joseph Kurtz attended the final session of the inaugural Festival of Young Preachers in Louisville; he brought the greetings to the entire assembly; and in addition, the choir from the Cathedral of the Assumption sang two anthems.
"The work of the Academy of Preachers," Archbishop Kurtz wrote in his letter, "is a noble and needed ecumenical enterprise in today's world. Please accept my prayerful best wishes for the young men and women who will be entrusted with Gospel preaching in a mélange of ministerial settings. May countless men, women and children come to know Christ through the voices of those who will serve in the vocation of preachers."
Father Martin Linebach, associate pastor of the Cathedral in Louisville, has been serving on the board of advisors for a year. Brother Thomas Gricoski of the Order of St. Benedict has served on the Young Preachers Leadership Team. He is now preparing for graduation from St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. Four Roman Catholics were among the 92 young preachers who participated in the Festival of Young Preachers.
On top of all this, I am pleased to announce that the Cathedral of the Assumption will be our official host church for the 2011 Festival of Young Preachers. Current plans call for an open reception at the Cathedral on Thursday evening, January 6, a plenary worship service on Friday evening at the Cathedral, and a final, closing ceremony on Saturday noon also at the Cathedral.
We welcome all the Roman Catholics to the Academy of Preachers just as we do any one who is called by God to proclaim the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Let us all encourage one another in the work we have been commissioned to do.
Festival of Young Preachers Festival of Young Preachers Festival of Young Preachers
The second national festival of young preachers will convene Thursday morning, J January 6, 2011 and conclude on Saturday, January 8, 2011. At this time, preaching slots are available for 104 young preachers.
Registration forms will soon be available and participation in the festival will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Much of the festival will operate as the inaugural festival this past January: young preachers divided into 8 preaching circles, 4 preaching venues in use simultaneously, plenary sessions for inspiration and recognition, gift bags for all young preachers and, of course, splendid fellowship, wonderful preaching, and unparalleled inspiration.
But some things will be different. Most of the festival will be held in a downtown Louisville hotel (to be announced next week); this will facilitate both the social and spiritual side of the festival. Plenary sessions will be held a half block away in the Cathedral of the Assumption.
Nothing will be scheduled while the young preachers are preaching, so as to allow everyone to hear as many other young preachers as possible. Three outstanding preachers from this first year will be invited back next year to preach for the entire assembly; names will be announced soon.
In addition to video recording all sermons (and posting them on You Tube), the entire festival will be streamed live on the World Wide Web. Of course, DVDs of each and every sermon will be available for purchase during the festival itself.
As many as 10 schools around the country are hosting, in conjunction with the Academy, campus festivals. These events allow schools to invite their students, their alums, and their potential students to participate in a festival, with the school providing scholarships to the top preachers to attend the national festival in Louisville.
In addition, 6 other schools will be offering preaching courses centered on the festival of young preachers. With course work either before or after the festival, all enrolled students will attend the festival and preach.
Even with these improvements, the festival of young preachers will remain a very simple event: young people called by God to preach the gospel of Jesus, gathering from all corners of the nation, to preach, to listen, to pray, to share, to learn, to grow, to inspire and to be inspired. There is nothing like it anywhere.....and it is open to any young preacher, ages 16-28, who has a sponsoring congregation and a preaching coach.
This morning I took the first of what I surmise will be many phone calls. It came from a member of a pastoral search committee in a city within 150 miles of Louisville.
"We watched many of the festival sermons you posted on YouTube," he said. "One young man impressed us as one of the best."
What followed was an inquiry about what I know about this young preacher and how he might fit as a pastor and preacher for their congregation. I was glad to say that I knew the young man personally and was able to give a strong and positive recommendation.
This will not be the last time this conversation happens. Congregations looking for preachers can go to our site on YouTube and view the videos of all 92 young preachers who participated in the inaugural festival of young preachers. This is a wonderful resource for congregations and a terrific opportunity for young preachers.
Next year, I anticipate that more than one pastor search committee will actually come to the Festival of Young Preachers (January 6-8, 2011). One person can hear up to 26 young preachers because we use 4 venues simultaneously; if 4 members of the search committee come they can hear more than 100. It will not take long before we, the organizers of this annual festival, will need to provide a protocol and space for interviews to take place on site.
Already at our first festival, denominations sent exhibitors (shall we say, recruiters?) to try to woo some of these young preachers into ministry opportunities. We expect this to expand next year. Within a few weeks, all the information for registering, exhibiting, and advertizing will be available on this web site.
Planners for the next Festival of Young Preachers are looking for 6 institutions that teach preaching to participate in a pilot project. The Festival is scheduled for January 6-8, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.
This year the festival drew more than 600 people including 92 young preachers from 41 institutions in 21 states. Next year we expect more young preachers, better preaching, and an explosion of inspiration.
The pilot project will involve schools that build the festival into a course. The festival can be either the culmination of a fall 2010 course, the launch of a 2011 course, or the central feature of a short-term January course.
Campbellsville University pioneered this idea for the inaugural festival this past January. Professor Scott Wiggington allowed his fall 2009 undergraduate students to preach in the festival as an extra-credit project. Five of his students did exactly that: Sean Stengl, Micah Spicer, Josh Hardesty, Andre Morton, and Willis Deitz.
We want to expand this idea to include at least 6 schools: bible colleges, liberal arts colleges, universities, and seminaries. Financial considerations are being developed to encourage schools to participate. Among those considering this opportunity are Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, Belmont University, Harvard Divinity School, and Morehouse College.
Schools who wish to participate will be given up to 6 reserved preaching slots at the 2011 festival. We expect registration for the next festival, January 6-8, 2011, to be completed much earlier than this first year, when we were accommodating young preachers through the end of December.