By Joseph T. Howard, AoP'12
What began as a dream after seeing a video on YouTube has blossomed into one of the most important things in my life. The Academy of Preachers is without a doubt one of the best things that has ever happened to me, as both a Christian and a preacher. Through this organization, I’ve learned so many valuable lessons that no classroom or even church could have offered, and for that I’ll always be grateful. It’s amazing to me the things that God has brought into my life as a result of the Academy. It is truly an Academy like no other.
Let’s start at the beginning. It was in late 2010 when I was first made aware of an event known as the National Festival of Young Preachers. On Facebook I saw pictures and status updates about the wonderful time that was being had at the inaugural installment of this event, and I instantly knew I wanted to be part of it. I had never heard of any sort of space in which young preachers came together to fellowship and learn from each other, especially since I only knew a few young preachers. Since becoming affiliated with the Academy, I’ve been blessed to connect with hundreds of young preachers from all over the country, and some life-long friendships have been established as well. (Four fellow AOP members served as groomsmen in my wedding this past August!) Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to attend the 2011 festival, but I made it a personal goal to attend in 2012. Thanks be to God, this dream came to pass, and I have attended every National Festival ever since.
There are many essential things to preaching that I now know as a result of the Academy. This Academy is not a school with classes, a bell, recess, and report cards, but it is definitely a learning experience nonetheless. The mentorship and feedback aspect is in my opinion one of the beneficial aspects, because it encourages us to continue to improve, while discouraging complacency. There are many young preachers who feel as if they have no need to improve, or they are surrounded by people who give them little to no feedback, so therefore the preachers don’t know what steps they can take to improve their preaching. The Academy provides that and then some, which is what I attribute a lot of my growth and maturity to. Additionally, we are provided an opportunity to hear a text from various interpretations, which is a very unique opportunity to consider a side of a story that we didn’t even know existed in the first place. Since each of us share the same goal of leading people to Christ, these dialogues are always excellent, even if there are disagreements along the way.
To say this space is needed would be the understatement of the century…but I’ll say it anyway; this space is needed. From the fellowship, to the instruction, to the mentorship, to the worship, to the partnership between all of us, this is a necessary entity that will only get better with time. I am honored and humbled to be able to be a part of it, and I’m grateful to God for the amazing things that have happened as a result. To anyone who is considering partnering with us, take it from me, you will not regret it. Not only is this an Academy like no other, but it is truly an experience like no other.