First, I stopped in to visit Brittany McLaney, AoP’11, (left) who is now assistant manager of the bookstore, chapel, and museum of Upper Room Ministries, a place I had never been. One of their world-renown publications, Weavings, is a Partner with the Academy of Preachers. While at The Upper Room I visited with Kentucky friend Johnny Sears, now Director of the Academy of Spiritual Formation, also a part of Upper Room Ministries. “I need to write you a letter of Partnership with the Academy of Preachers,” he said, and we talked about hosting a workshop at the National Festival on the spiritual formation of the preacher.
Second, I met with the public relations team at Vanderbilt Divinity School. The occasion was the presentation to VDS senior student Adam Graham AoP ’10 with a hardback copy of the new book of sermons Uncommon Sense: Jesus and the Renewal of the World (Chalice 2012). It is a collection of sermons from the 2012 National Festival of Young Preachers. Graham’s sermon title was chosen as the title of the book, and VDS is doing a story about this on their web site and in their newsletter (and to his hometown newspaper). The book is dedicated to VDS alum, David Emery, pastor of Middletown Christian Church.
Third, I attend the Trevecca Festival of Young Preachers at Trevecca Nazarene University. Trevecca, like Vanderbilt, is a Founding Partner with the Academy of Preachers. This was their third campus festival; I attended the one in 2011 and AoP Director of Programs Wyndee Holbrook attended the festival last year. Professor Michael Jackson managed the event which featured 14 young preachers. “I am planning to bring at least four of these young preachers to the festival in Indianapolis,” he said to me after the event. Trevecca president Dan Boone was a featured preacher at the 2013 National Festival in Atlanta. Three other AoP Partners have hosted at least three campus festivals: University of Evansville, Morehouse College, and Truett Seminary.
Fourth, I had lunch with another Kentucky minister friend, Bret Robbe, now a senior manager with Lifeway, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. After catching up on personal and professional stuff over lunch, he introduced to me their new web-based teaching platform called the Ministry Grid. While designed for congregational use, I saw immediately its easy adaption to the needs of the Academy of Preachers, and he promised to explore how it might be marketed to a national organization like the Academy of Preachers.
Fifth, I talked with the vice president of academy affairs at American Baptist College in Nashville, Renita Weems (whom I had known through our mutual work in the programs of the Lilly Endowment). It was one of her young ministerial students T D Birdsong (who, I suspect, will become an AoP ’14 preacher!) who brought us together for this conversation; and before it was over Dr. Weems was saying things like, “I am very, very interested in us becoming a partner with you and more than that, I personally am interested in attending the festival.” I said Amen to that!
Sixth, I stopped on my way home in Springfield, Tennessee (where I had preached during an interim period at the First Baptist Church some years ago) to visit with AoP board member Julie Roe. We talked about her professional specialty and my great need: fund-raising. Per her suggestion, I have already re-written the text on our SUPPORT page on this web site; and together we planned a major donor feature for our 2014 National Festival of Young Preachers next January in Indianapolis. “We can raise $100,000,” she said,, “if we get the right people there.” Her confidence is born of her own experience at the 2013 National Festival in Atlanta.
It is hard to image a better return on investment (ROI, as it is known in the business world) for the $445 in expenses it cost me to drive those three hours to and from Nashville this week. It was wonderful in every way, and I plan to return soon: to help imagine and design the Nashville Regional Festival of Young Preachers (perhaps as early as 2014—if we can find a donor: see the SUPPORT page!)