It is not easy to preach the gospel of God under such circumstances.
There are others who seek to address such crises in community life: mayors, governors, and presidents are public representatives who articulate the convictions of many. So do poets, artists, and musicians. Writers take up pen for newspapers, television, and all sorts of social media.
But none of these, as timely and helpful as they are, displaces the preacher who opens the Bible, mines the tradition, searches her heart, and weaves these various strands of gospel into that ancient-modern fabric that we call faith.
Such occasions bring into the preacher's sphere of influence many people who have never opened a Bible and knelt in prayer. They come to support, to grieve, to search, and yes, to pray. Often they come with open minds and open hearts. Sometimes something the preacher says sticks. I think of the vagabond photographer Peter Jenkins and his walk across American in 1973, described in two articles in National Geographic magazine. "I was looking for myself and my country," he said, "and I found both." He also found something else when he stumbled into a tent revival meeting in Mobile, Alabama, and was converted.
Trauma is tragedy, but it is often also a turning point: into despair and death or into hope and life. And often at the intersection of these futures stands the preacher, with the newspaper (or smart phone) in one hand and the Bible in the other, connecting the sorrow of God with the pain of the world, reading the stories of redemption that run throughout the Bible, voicing for saint and sinner alike the purposes of God for life on planet earth.
This is the social significance of preaching: not all of it, but one slice of that large vocational pie. Preachers also gather communities, mobilize volunteers, teach the Bible, agitate for justice, lead the people in prayer and praise, and keep alive the stories of Jesus, crucified, risen, and alive. All of these shape the people who listen into citizens of this world and also of the next.
It is a great calling, even when it comes embedded in such agony. "We have this treasure," wrote a preacher long ago, "in common clay pots to show that the surpassing power belongs to God" (2 Corinthians 4:7, paraphrased).
Dwight A Moody
October 7, 2015
It all started seven years ago, June 23, 2008.
I was unemployed, 58 years old, and a Baptist preacher. Those are not the cards you want to hold in your hand.
"How are things at Georgetown College," he asked; and I responded, "I am not there any more."
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. I am like a man going fishing. I have five fishing poles to put in the water and see what happens."
And when he said, "Tell me about these fishing poles" I began with pastoring a church, then mentioned a business as a coach for ministers. But when I came to the third idea for work, an academy for young preachers, he got interested. And after 40 minutes of spontaneous question-and-answer, he said, "What can we do to make this happen?"
He was the number one philanthropist of religion in the country, and I said, "I don't know."
I was caught off guard, but he knew what to say: "We will give you the money and let you do this."
I am still amazed at the details of that conversation at the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis. And now, seven years later, he is retired, I am thinking about retirement, and the Academy of Preachers is flourishing like never before.
Which is why June 23 is AoP Day. Which is why we celebrate on this day. Which is why we ask all friends of AoP to do something special on this day.
Register for an AoP festival.
Call a friend and tell them about AoP.
Make a donation, on line or in the mail, to AoP.
Write your AoP story of inspiration, impact, and influence; and send it to us.
Post some Festival picture or sermon video on your FB page. Or use the green AoP Day banner.
Buy something: a book or two, a hat or shirt, a sponsorship at one of our four regional festivals this year or the 2016 National Festival of Young Preachers in January of 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Or think of something else, something wonderful, inspirational, helpful. Something gospelesque. (I just made up that word, but I like it.) Something full of gospelosity. (I made up that word also, and it also is very versatile.)
Mark June 23 on your calendar and celebrate with us!!!
Dwight A. Moody
Festivals for Young Preachers are springing up all over the country this summer, and they are hosted by national denominational gatherings.
The first is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. At their General Assembly in Dallas (June17-20), 16 Young Preachers are registered to preach on the year-long AoP theme, HEAVEN & EARTH. This tradition started 4 years ago with only 4 Young Preachers.
The second is the North American Christian Convention. They will gather in Cincinnati (June 22-25) and witness the final stage of an innovative Next Generation Preacher Search. Managed from Peperdine University, this competition induced scores of Young Preachers to submit sermon videos last fall; some were invited to one of two national events, and from these 4 were selected to preach on Wednesday morning June 24.
The Mission Summit of American Baptist Churches USA gathers in Kansas City (June 25-29). Central Baptist Theological Seminary has coordinated their first Festival of Young Preachers and more than 20 are expected to stand and deliver a message from the 20 biblical texts associated with the HEAVEN & EARTH theme.
Finally, more than 100 Young Preachers are expected at the Young Preachers Festival and Conference also in Kansas City (July 16-18). This event, hosted by Church of the Resurrection and directed by AoP Gospel Catalyst Tyler Best AoP'11), builds off of the momentum of festivals at University of Evansville, Pfrimmers Chapel UMM, and the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. (Note especially the video of Tyler on this INUMC website.)
This attention to Young Preachers has, in large measure, grown out of the mission and programs of the Academy of Preachers. Our mission is to "identify, network, support, and inspire young people in the call to gospel preaching." Augmenting attention given to other avenues of ministry (social justice, worship, youth ministry, etc), the AoP has brought fresh focus to the role of preaching, both parish preaching and public preaching.
We have given our energy to regional and national festivals but the real opportunity lies with these denominational networks. Every regional and national meeting of a denomination needs to include a Festival for Young Preachers. Such an initiative will bring younger leaders into what is generally a gray gathering; and the preaching of this millennial generation will become a wellspring of hope within denominational structures that are struggling to remain solvent, relevant, and vital.
The Academy of Preachers is ready to help any association, conference, synod, or assembly empower their Young Preachers through a Festival. We have a FESTIVAL IN A BOX that is designed and available for this very purpose. We even have professional staff and trained Young Preachers (we call them Gospel Catalysts) ready to assist in any such effort.
Throughout this summer, AoP team members Dwight A. Moody and Wyndee Holbrook will be attending, leading, recording, and reporting on these Festivals highlighted above. Tap us on the shoulder and ask how we can help you.
I have been to many ordinations in my day, including my own back in 1977 at the First Baptist Church of Murray. I have participated in some, led some, and observed some. But none like the one I attended last Saturday, with my back up against the sanctuary wall on Fifth Street in Louisville, Kentucky.
I arrived just as the clergy were lining up to enter the church. All the clergy of the archdiocese of Louisville: priests, deacons, professors, and candidates. Among them Shayne Duvall, AoP'14, just graduated from St. Meinrad Seminary. Shayne preached at the 2014 National Festival of Young Preachers in Indianapolis, Indiana. His sermon from James chapter 4, "Who Are You to Judge Your Neighbor?" can be watched here.
Fr. Shayne has been appointed to serve with Fr. Martin Linebach at St. Joseph Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Martin is my friend. He is the ecumenical officer of the archdiocese and in that capacity introduced himself to me at a meeting in the summer of 2008. Since then he has been to all six National Festivals and now serves as a Director on our board. I love and admire him.
Martin played a central role in the ordination, selected by the candidate to be the person to robe him: to remove the deacon's sash and replace it with the priest's stole and chasuble.
That came about half way through the two hour service, and I was standing the whole time because there were no empty seats in the Cathedral.
"Who are all these people?" I asked my friend Sharon Schulmann who is a devout Catholic, completing her doctorate in preaching at Aquinas Institute in St. Louis. "They are family and friends," of course, "but also people from the various churches these three men have served. And of course, all the priests and deacons of the diocese."
Who knew? And because I didn't, I ended up standing on the periphery observing the entire two-hour service: procession, music, prayers, scripture, vows, sermon, and such.
Some of it was very familiar: the laying on of hands, the giving of gifts, and the reception that followed. Just like a Protestant service of ordination.
Some of it was strange: the pledging of obedience to the bishop (or in this case, the archbishop), the lying prostrate on the floor in front of the altar, and the anointing of hands with the "oil of chrism."
Throughout, the music was wonderful: a fabulous soprano cantor, the cathedral choir above me in the loft, and the use of both organ and piano. And the people sang. Wow, did they sing, and it was beautiful, especially the repetition of "veni Sancte Spiritus" during the lengthy laying on of hands. I liked especially the communion song: "If you love me, feed my lambs; be my heart, my voice, my hands. If you love me, feed my sheep, and for my part, I give you the heart of a shepherd."
And the closing hymn is one I wish were sung in more Protestant and Evangelical churches:
To be your presence is our mission here, to show compassion's face and list'ning ear, to be your heart of mercy every near.
To be your presence is our mission bold, to feed the poor and shelter homeless cold, to be your hands, your justice to uphold.
To be your presence is our mission blest, to speak for all the broken and oppressed, to be your voice of hope, your love expressed.
We are your heart, O Christ, your hands and voice, to serve your people is our call and choice, and in this mission we, the church, rejoice.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz led the service with his winsome, humorous, and deeply spiritual way. His homily quoted Nicholas of Cusa (and I'm guessing not many of his listeners or my readers know anything of this 15th century intellectual) and Paul the Apostle, and Pope John Paul II. He also is my friend and will be a keynote preacher at the 2016 National Festival of Young Preachers. He laid his hands upon me when I came forward in the Eucharistic celebration and blessed me. And I received it.
"It was all educational and inspirational," I told him afterwards. He was gracious and made me feel at home. I hope some of the spirit I felt in that service of ordination stays with me for a long time. I need it.
Dwight A. Moody
"Every regional and national denominational gathering," I have said from the very first, "needs to have attached to it a festival for young preachers."
Why? because these denominational gatherings are too often a collection of grey headed men (mostly) with too few young faces; and many of these are long on reports and business and short on preaching. A festival of young preachers addresses both of these concerns and does so with an eye to the future.
My associates and I at the Academy of Preachers have sought to do this in our own network, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship...at both the state (Kentucky) and national levels. For instance, this year when we meet in Dallas for the General Assembly, 16 young preachers will stand and deliver their message inspired by one of the 20 texts associated with our 2015 theme HEAVEN & EARTH.
But now the United Methodists have embraced this vision and have done so in a way that will provide a model for all other groups.
On July 16-17, more than 100 young preachers of the Methodist tradition will gather in Leawood, Kansas (greater Kansas City) for the United Methodist Young Preachers Festival and Conference.
This promising event is the handiwork of Tyler Best, AoP '12, recent graduate of the University of Evansville. Tyler will begin his own seminary work this fall at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky.
Tyler first preached at an AoP-sponsored campus festival at the University of Evansville, then came to his first National Festival of Young Preachers in Louisville, Kentucky, in January of 2012. Inspired, he planned and lead a festival at his home church, Pfrimmer's Chapel UMC in Corydon, Indiana. Then he launched the annual festival of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, which brought him to the attention of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. A written piece from their office caught the attention of Adam Hamilton at the Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, which secured a large grant from the General Board and contracted with Tyler to help them design, promote, and manage their own festival this summer.
Nothing on the web site of this United Methodist event recognizes the Academy of Preachers as the origin and inspiration for their festival. This lack of kingdom sympathies contrasts sharply with our own attitude, which seeks to "identify, network, inspire, and support young people in the call to gospel preaching" regardless of who is doing it and why. In that spirit, the Academy of Preachers plans to attend this UMC Young Preachers Festival and Conference and promote it as a model for other denominations interested in the mission we share with Church of the Resurrection.
In addition, we will give each of the young Methodists preaching at the Kansas City event a copy of my just-published book, Nine Marks of a Good Sermon: A Guide for Young Preachers (Academy of Preachers Books, 2015). One of the nine Young Preachers with a sermon featured in this book is Michelle Rushing, AoP'13, who just graduated from the UMC-affiliated Perkins School of Theology in Dallas.
I encourage all Young Preachers, especially those associated with the Academy of Preachers, to make every effort to participate in this fresh expression of the movement of God that is raising up a new generation of gospel preachers. May the one good and gracious God bless Church of the Resurrection, Tyler Best, and the United Methodist Young Preachers Festival and Conference.
Call us at the Academy of Preachers (859-533-9929) and we will help you do what they (and we) are doing!!
I went to Rome last month (April 2015) and saw the Pope.
No, it was not a papal audience, as they call it, but with at least 50,000 of my closest friends I stood in Vatican Square and listened as Francis delivered his weekly homily. It was all in Italian (I presume) so I did not understand a word of it; neither did many other people standing for an hour under that warm Mediterranean sun.
Francis did not preach for an hour: only 15 minutes, and some of that was a series of greetings to special groups in the vast audience, school or church groups from different parts of the world, and they clapped and waved their brightly-colored banners when Francis named them and pronounced upon them a blessing.
Thousands of people, of course, did understand the sermon and clapped at appropriate times. I like it when people clap during a sermon; it is akin to the older tradition to saying "amen" when the preacher says something important, true, and powerful. Some sermons, including many I myself have preached, are therefore not "clap worthy;" they are predictable, safe, and rather dull. But not Francis. His sermons bloom from the only two seeds that really matter to the Christian preacher: the heart of the gospel and the hope of the people, which is why people pay attention to what he says.
It is amazing, is it not, that week after week, multiple thousands of people from all over the world gather in this Roman square, turn their heads towards the sixth floor window (second from the right), and strain their eyes to see the small figure who stands at the window with a microphone and speaks for a quarter hour. That is all that happens: no choirs, no liturgy, no testimonies, no production, no entertainment--just one man and the spoken word. It reminds us that when preachers have something to say that is rooted in gospel, responsive to what is going on in the world, and unencumbered by ambition, agenda, or anger, people will take notice, especially when the message is consistent with the public ministry of the preacher.
Yes, I stood in Vatican square and saw the Pope and listened to his sermon. But I also scanned the crowd of people, even spoke to those around me: from Spain, Austria, Germany, many Asian and African countries, and of course, the United States. He is a celebrity, all right, this Pope of Rome, and we were all there to attest to that. But he is also a preacher, and his pattern of preaching, both public and parish, is an inspiration for all who aspire to follow the call by which God has directed our lives: to preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ to the people of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight; and all have a right to hear the story of Jesus, whether it comes from a world-class celebrity like Pope Francis of Rome or some ordinary proclaimer like you or me.
I went to Rome last month and saw the Pope, and it has made me a better person and a more thankful preacher of the Christian gospel.
Five Young Preachers ranging in age from 13 to 34 proclaimed the gospel last Saturday during the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship's Spring Gathering in Danville, KY. The Lexington Ave. Baptist Church Chapel provided the perfect setting for preaching, pointers and a Festival of Young Preachers .
Young Preachers came from across the Commonwealth for the opportunity to lift their voices and receive insights. Mitchell Monroe, AoP’13, Campbellsville University, Jonathan Balmer, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, and his brother Eric Balmer, Georgetown College, Jami Benning, AoP’14, University of the Cumberlands alumna, and her son David Benning, Home School 8th grader, all preached outstanding 15 minute sermons on the theme, “Heaven and Earth.”
Many thanks to sermon evaluators from BSK, Dr. Greg Earwood and Dr. Laura Levens who eagerly took notes to share with each Young Preacher. Thanks as well to Roger Jasper, AoP’10 and Derek Cain for graciously serving as Festival conveners.
This year another version of the feedback form was shared among the listeners to offer a “view from the pew.” As Monroe clutched his stack of responses he exclaimed, “This is gold to a Young Preacher.” The Academy of Preachers has learned a lot in the course of facilitating six + years of Festivals, and Monroe reflects the consensus, “the more feedback the better!”
Come join in the excitement at one of the Regional Festivals of Young Preachers and the National Festival of Young Preachers in Lexington on January 2-5, 2016. http://www.academyofpreachers.net/festivals/
(Dr. Moody is currently traveling.
Submitted by, Rev. Wyndee Holbrook, AoP Director of Programs)
Earth Day is coming up--Wednesday, April 23--and the Academy of Preachers is celebrating in a unique way.
AoP is hosting a two-hour launch of our 2015-2016 Festival preaching theme: HEAVEN & EARTH.
The theme will guide the preaching at all seven of the 2015 Festivals of Young Preachers: Wisconsin, Texas (2), Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Kansas (2) as well as the 2016 National Festival next January. Young Preachers are given 20 biblical texts, arranged in four groups: Creating Heaven & Earth, Receiving Heaven & Earth, Surviving Heaven & Earth, and Redeeming Heaven & Earth. The complete list of texts is found elsewhere on this web site.
The Earth Day launch includes a complimentary breakfast at the Lexington Hilton followed by a 50-minute presentation of the 2016 National Festival plans.
These plans include:
Attending are local pastors (focused on downtown Lexington), regional institutional leaders, donors, Young Preachers, musicians, and our AoP team.
One purpose of the event is to describe the different ways that organizations and institutions can invest in the AoP mission, like sponsoring Master Classes, plenary worship, preaching venues, sermon videos, and such. Another purpose is to inspire local pastors to invite an AoP Young Preacher to fill their Sunday morning pulpit on January 3, 2016. (We plan to send all festival participants--more than 200--to local churches that Sunday morning.)
But the overriding intent of our Earth Day launch of the 2016 Festival is to generate enthusiasm for the National Festival and describe ways the Festival can help congregations, denominations, and institutions fulfill their own mission.
Our mission is to "identify, network, support, and inspire young people in the call to gospel preaching." But along the way, old preachers like me (and perhaps you) will find our hearts "strangely warmed" by the substance and spirit of the gospel preaching we hear from these young people.
Put it on your calendar: January 2-5, 2016. Lexington, Kentucky. Heaven & Earth.
I never met the late Gardner C. Taylor. He preached for more than four decades in New York City to wide acclaim and profound effect.
It is a shame, my shame; because in my opportunities to invite pulpit guests (and I had many) he was never on the short list. He never got a call from me.
Furthermore, in none of the scores of pastors' and preachers' gathering I attended through my own 40-plus years of ministry, his name never appeared on the program. I repent of this; and lots of others need to repent.
So my confession even as the thousands of mourners and admirers find their way home from his memorial service is simply this: I never heard Dr. Taylor preach.
But (and this is a mighty important conjunction) I hear his voice, his echo, his word.
I hear it in the sermons of the young African American preachers who flock to our Festivals and stand to preach. They have heard Dr. Taylor or else they have heard those who did hear the great man. Which is why they come to preach: they want to sound like Gardner Taylor, and stand like Gardner Taylor, and preach like Gardner Taylor--often without knowing the true image of their great ministerial ideal.
No, these Young Preachers don't say "I want to preach like Gardner Taylor," not in so many words. But preachers like Gardner Taylor have created the preaching environment into which these talented young people are born, by which these dedicated young preachers are discipled, for which these inspirational young adults are destined.
Which is why these young preachers speak with such skill, passion, and clarity; which is why they make the Word dance and the gospel sing; which is why, when they take a text (as they say), they capture the attention of all the other people at the Festival (including me) and make us which wish we could preach like they do...or, like Gardner Taylor does.
I never heard Dr. Taylor preach, but every year when we gather for the National Festival of Young Preachers (next January in Lexington) echoes of that great man of God, now gathered to his people, reverberate through every preaching hall and from every pulpit. Taylor's voice--for truth, for justice, for love, for courage, for gospel--has found its way, through a thousand intermediaries, into the minds and imaginations of a new generation of talented, dedicated young preachers. All the rest of us can say, while still in the shadow of the great man's passing: Glory to God, Glory to God.
Dwight A. Moody
April 14, 2015
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.