Though I have never been a huge sports fan, I have always enjoyed supporting my high school sports teams, even since I have graduated. During spring break, my high school’s boys’ basketball team played in the sectional championship game against a local rival team. Unfortunately, our team lost, but one thing sticks out greater than the loss itself… the cheer section. Whether it was the wave, roller coaster, or a rendition of the Harlem Shake, the cheer section had so much energy and was there to encourage the team even when they weren’t doing so well.
As preachers, we may wish that a cheer section would randomly appear as we are preparing for our next sermon so that we feel encouraged to write down what we feel the Holy Spirit has led us to preach. During delivery of that same sermon, we often rely on those in the congregation to give us nonverbal or verbal cues during the sermon so that we can be encouraged and know that everyone is paying attention. Many times we also frequently rely on the encouragement and advice of our advisor as we head into a different season of our lives.
One great source of encouragement for me as a young preacher has been the network of fellow young preachers that I have connected with through both National Festivals I have attended in the past two years. This network of people provides an instant connection with people who have gone through similar experiences that I may be going through. It also allows one the opportunity to encourage preachers that they would have never met if it weren’t for the National Festival of Young Preachers.
How have these networks been established? Beyond intentional conversation, a great source of networking in my experience was the preaching circles. Preaching circles are one of the most unique features of the National Festival of Young Preachers. Young preachers who have never met people their age with the same call to preach are astounded by stories they hear and the encouragement they receive from this group. My most recent preaching circle experience is one that I can vividly remember. It still encourages me today and gives me hope for my future in ministry. Molly Shoulta, Alejandra Herreras, Corey Holmes, Dane Jones, Mitchell Monroe, Robert Woods, and Kathryn Garelli, along with our leader, Charmaine Webster, made up one of the most inspiring groups of people I have met thus far. We lifted each other up in prayer, we were a presence during each other’s preaching sessions, we encouraged each other after each of us preached, and we took the time to become acquainted.
This group reminded me of all the people that the Holy Spirit has used to encourage me in my call to Gospel preaching – my family, close friends, church family at Pfrimmer’s Chapel and the United Methodist Church, and the staff and faculty at University of Evansville. Without this “cheer section” of encouragers, I may have honestly jumped off the preaching boat long ago. I can now add the Academy of Preachers to this list of inspiring encouragers in my life. God has used the National Festival of Young Preachers to rejuvenate me and realign my focus to what I am called to do through all the incredible people that attend the event.
I challenge you to find young preachers that have potential and give them the encouragement they need to become confident in what God has called them to do. Begin encouraging others that have not experienced a flood of encouragement to attend the National Festival of Young Preachers in Indianapolis! Connect them with a “cheer section” of people they can relate to and an event that is sure to give them encouragement for their future in ministry. Allow God to use you in this way!
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NRSV)
It’s been over a month since we all gathered in Atlanta, and I have to confess that I’m having a hard time reflecting on my experiences at that grace-filled gathering. At first, I thought the haze of time was keeping my thoughts from cohering into anything resembling an article. Or else it was surely the bustle of a new semester – new class, new professors, new obligations – that prevented my sitting down with my thoughts. But I think the reason I have been unable to reflect on the 2013 National Festival of Young Preachers runs deeper than any of these cursory reasons.
Largely, I think I have been unable to really reflect on this past festival for issues of geography. Allow me to explain. I moved to Atlanta in July, and unlike a number of “Atlantans,” I have an actual Atlanta address and I’m developing an abiding love for the things that happen inside the I-285 perimeter. The neighborhoods, parishes, restaurants, thrift stores, pubs, community centers, and coffee shops of Intown, Downtown, and Midtown mean more to me than they ever did when I was a suburbanite who only ventured into the big city for shows at the Fox or a Falcons game. Atlanta is rapidly becoming my city.
I know I’m not the only person in the world who loves this city, nor was I the only one at the Festival who loves this city, but I have a confession to make: I don’t think Buckhead is really a part of this city. Historically, the neighborhood was always a vacation spot for wealthy Atlantans. The few black areas that managed to spring up were razed in the 1940s. Nowadays, Buckhead is America’s ninth-wealthiest zip-code and houses the priciest real estate in the city, including the Georgia governor’s mansion. Its retail industry grosses over $1 billion annually – more than the GDP of a number of developing nations. Buckhead boasts not one but two Mobil 5-star restaurants. And its citizens are currently trying to secede from the city, ensuring that their tax revenue would continue to benefit only the wealthiest of Georgians.
And there we were, in the middle of all of it, living large in the Grand Hyatt and rubbing elbows with Tim Tebow (yup, he was staying with us while attending Passion). We preached from texts like Jeremiah 7, which proclaims that God will only dwell in Israel if Israel does not “oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow.” Or Isaiah 6, a declaration of “good news to the oppressed…liberty to the captives.” Or Luke 19, wherein Zacchaeus promises to sell half of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, and to pay back four-fold those he has defrauded. Or Nehemiah 2, the story of Nehemiah’s construction of the walls of Jerusalem for the common good of the whole city.
Proclaiming the theme of “Gospel in the City,” we came into the Atlanta neighborhood that perhaps least signifies this city. We held forth at length on topics like “doing justice in the city” and “dwelling in the city,” while doing neither of those things. When 130+ preachers come to the city, the city should be different when they leave, and the only net change should not be an increase in the profits of already wealthy innkeepers. The poor, the widows and orphans, the captive, the oppressed, these should be the recipients of our work.
Of course, the mission of the Academy of Preachers is not the working of justice. Its mission is to “identify, network, encourage, and support young preachers.” This organization is not a social service but a training ground, a kind of laboratory that facilitates good preaching in the people that I am often blessed to call my peers. And I believe in this mission. Otherwise, I wouldn’t invest nearly as much time with the Academy as I do.
But good preaching – the kind of preaching I believe the AoP is called to teach – must facilitate a good and just response. It is not enough to sit in a ballroom and loudly “amen!” a pointed critique of the systemic injustices of our society. It is not enough to whoop at the top of our lungs if we don’t cry for justice with equal measure. It is not enough to spend hours laboring over a rhetorically brilliant manuscript. We must labor for the kingdom in ways that realize the kingdom in the lives of those who live outside the boundaries of Buckhead.
I suppose I wouldn’t feel this way if the Festival hadn’t been in my city this year. I certainly didn’t feel this way after Louisville last year. But it is my city, and it is the city of millions of others, others who desperately need the kind of work that should be inspired (yes, even the lives of the preachers) by the words we were saying. Our actions – including the ways and the places we spend our money – should reflect the moves of our homilies.
Thus, as we reflect on our time in Atlanta and look forward to another (wonderful, inspiring) National Festival in Indianapolis, I have but one simple message: we have to practice what we preach.
Two weeks ago we gathered in Atlanta for the 2013 National Festival of Young Preachers. “Wow” is the word we’ve heard over and over again in response to the tremendous blessing of those three days. 120 Young Preachers lifted their voices from across the spectrum of Christian traditions, they attended workshops led by leaders in the field of homiletics, and everyone made a myriad of connections and friendships.
I am now pleased to announce the 2013 Gospel Catalyst Network: Tyler Best, Aaron Carr, Larry T. Crudup, Jenny Marble, Trayce Stewart and David Telfort. Each is an exemplary servant leader and lives in a region where the Academy will be hosting festivals within the next 12 months.
Tyler Best AoP’12 is a student at University of Evansville in Evansville, IN. Tyler was so inspired by his experience at last year’s National Festival, he purchased a Festival in a Box and created a Festival of Young Preachers in his hometown last June. His school has a Festival scheduled next month and he’s working on a denominational festival for the summer. Now that’s inspiring!
Aaron Carr AoP’12 is a student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. As an FTE Fellow his first AoP experience was participating in a week long preaching camp in 2011. Since then he’s been committed to the ideals of the AoP. Thanks to Aaron for his energy and time spent encouraging Young Preachers and volunteers for the 2013 Fest there in Atlanta. He’ll be a big help for Fests happening in the Southeast this summer.
Larry T. Crudup AoP’10 is a student at SMU Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX. His enthusiastic networking helped Perkins connect to the AoP. The result, in 2013 Perkins’ preaching professor, Dr. Alyce McKenzie, served at the Festival in multiple roles including serving as mentor for the additional 6 Young Preachers from Perkins. Larry will again work with the Texas Regional Festival of Young Preachers.
Jenny Marble AoP’13, a student at Anderson University School of Theology, Anderson, IN, just experienced her first National Festival. She shares, “I want to be challenged, grow, network, and encourage. I believe in AoP.” Jenny will be a Catalyst in her school and denomination as we plan for the 2014 Festival in Indy.
Trayce Stewart AoP’12 is a graduate and now on the admissions staff of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN. Trayce is a dynamic Young Preacher who has already been actively networking for the AoP in Indianapolis. Thanks to Trayce for helping connect Indiana folks who served in multiple roles in Atlanta.
David Telfort AoP ‘12, a Yale Divinity School student in New Haven, CT, was also an FTE Fellow at the 2011 Preaching Camp Aaron attended. As a native New Yorker with a passion for preaching he will be a real asset at the New York Regional Festival this September. David also has a contact list in mind for enriching AoP and Yale’s connection.
With many thanks to the 2012 Gospel Catalyst team we welcome Dominique Robinson, Kadri Webb, Rachel Brocker and Brandon Perkins in the role of Alumni Catalysts. Larry and Aaron also served on the 2012 team and are strategically placed to keep up the good work this year. Brandon has academic commitments that won’t allow him to be with us in Indy, but expect to hear from Dominique, Kadri and Rachel as they determine how to use their best gifts in preparation for 2014 Festival.
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.