What Difference Does It Make?

April 24, 2014

By Dwight Moody

187A0200 300x200 What Difference Does It Make?I am thinking about our festivals for young preachers and asking myself: what difference do they make?

We have some answers to that question through a comprehensive survey just completed. One hundred ninety four (194) of the 429 young adults who have preached at one of our five national festivals told us about their experience at the festival.

“Listening to other Young Preachers” ranked at the top of the impact list (667%) with “Talking with other Young Preachers” close behind (52%). Almost half listed “Preaching at the festival” as having the posting positive effect.

This coheres with what I have told all of our outstanding plenary speakers and workshop leaders: “You are good, and you will do a good job; but the reason they come is to hear each other. You and I are incidental to the impact and inspiration of the festival.”

The vast majority assert that the festival either confirmed a call to preaching or helped discern a call to preaching. One young preacher wrote: “I always knew I was called to preach. However, being around so many gifted preachers confirmed my call and love and passion for preaching.”

Some, however, were pushed the other way, realizing through the festival experience that preaching was not their ministerial vocation. One wrote: “I saw many people at the festival who had a true calling to preach and I learned that I am not called.” That is important to know.

Almost 9 out 10 of you who have stayed in touch with the AoP since the festival indicated you do so through social media; so I am posting this on our web site and will announce it through Facebook and Twitter. Let’s hope this brief report gets a good reading. A comprehensive report of the survey (designed, administered, and interpreted by Dr. Lori Carrell, Distinguished Professor of Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh).

Round Two in Indiana

April 16, 2014

By Dwight Moody

IMG 98051 266x300 Round Two in Indiana Last year the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church hosted a Festival of Young Preachers in conjunction with the Annual Meeting.  It was a smashing success.

Consider these facts:

Now, a year later, Tyler and his network of UMC fans of young preachers are planning a second festival, the second INUMC Festival of Young Preachers, again in May of the year and again in concert with the Annual Conference. May 29, 2014 in Indianapolis.

The preaching theme is TELL ME A STORY. They are using the theme and the texts promoted by the Academy of Preachers.

There is preaching space for up to 27 young preachers. You can sign up to preach. They will provide you with expertise and immediate feedback from a seasoned coach and they will record your sermon and post it on their web site.

This festival is, first of all, a role model for all other United Methodist Conferences and, indeed, for all other denominational gatherings.  All such gatherings, at the regional, state, or national, level would benefit from featuring a Festival of Young Preachers.

The festival is, second, a powerful time of discernment for young people: discerning whether a call to ministry in the vocational cards, so to speak or whether preaching will be a part of your ministerial career.

The festival is, third, a splendid time for young people to strengthen their ties with a mentor, a coach: someone who is vested in their obedience to the purposes of God for live and ministry.

For these and a host of other reasons, this second annual Indiana Conference/United Methodist Church Festival of Young Preachers is to be praised, and imitated, and attended: as I hope to do on May 29th. See you there!


“Unbroken” and Unbelievable!

April 14, 2014

By Dwight Moody

TellMeAStoryBASEfile 300x188 Unbroken and Unbelievable!Laura Hillenbrand wrote a book called “Seabiscuit” and it made her famous.  Probably rich, as well.  I saw the movie.  Actually, I went to the acting call for local extras but was unable to show up at Keeneland when the time came.  So much for my career on the big screen.

Now Laura has written another book: actually in 2010, but I am just now reading it (having been loaned a copy by my friend Julie Roe).

It is called “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”

Hard to read is my first comment on the book. Not because the language or ideas are obscure, but because the events she describes are so absolutely incredible: in their meanness, one person to another; in their desperation, one event after another; in their hopelessness, alone at sea, abused in a POW camp, done in by addiction and PTS syndrome.

It is the story of Louie Zamperini, young aviator in the US Army Air Force, flying a B-24 in the South Pacific.  In 1943 he crash landed in the water, drifted for 43 days across 2,000 miles of water on a rubber life raft, and came ashore on a Japanese controlled island.  He was promptly thrown into a POW camp where he was tortured, taunted, and treated like an animal.

He survived, and that is a miracle in and of itself; and when he returned to the United States, was hailed as a hero.

The part of the survival I was most interested in is found on page 108:  “At intervals between a bomb falling it sounded like church: voices from nearby slit trenches all chanting the Lord’s Prayer together-over and over again.  Louder when the bombs hit closer. ”

The Lord’s Prayer, I think, is the most widely-known, oft-recited collection of words in the history of human culture.  For many, it is all that is known of faith, hope, and love.  This status makes it unparalleled in power and influence.

Louie, of course, became a praying man.  Not a Christian. Yet. In his desperation, somewhere out on the South Pacific he made his bargain with God: “If you will save me, I will serve you forever.”

God kept his end of the deal.  Saved from the sea and later, saved from sin. Through a preacher named Billy Graham.  In his first big successful tent revival, in Los Angeles, Mr. Graham preached to a reluctant attendee, drug there by his newly converted wife.  On the second time around, the gospel preaching of this young minister made its way into Louie’s soul.

A young minister never knows who is listening, who is desperate to hear good news, who is on the verge of transformation, who is present to hear and receive precisely what God has poured into the mind and soul of the preacher.  This is the glory of gospel preaching.

God saved Louie that night; and never again would Louie be at the mercy of tobacco, alcohol, or the flashback nightmares that had tormented his spirit. God filled his soul with forgiveness, enough to wash over ever man who had mistreated him in his incarceration. I’m sure he did not know that old gospel song, but it gave words to what happened to Louie: “Mercy there was great, and grace was free. pardon there was multiplied to me. There my burdened soul found liberty. At Calvary.”

Louie kept his end of the bargain as well.  He found a home at the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, where he served for the next fifty years.

I did not know this story though I am sure it has been written and disseminated.  I’m just glad it finally came my way; and I am passing it on to others.  It is a great read, on many levels, and an encouragement to the preacher of the gospel.  God is able to do far more than we ask, or think, or imagine with our simple, stumbling words. Glory to God.

Learning from TED

April 11, 2014

By Dwight Moody

Dwight Headshot 300x206 Learning from TEDTED talks have become all the rage.

It began in 1984 with a single conference that brought together devotees of technology, entertainment, and design. The format was simple: get up and talk about it.

Their mission, now 30 years and counting, is stated on their web site:

“TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.”

Preachers have much to learn from these TED talks, not the least of which is the potential for video to create powerful communities; but for right now, let’s concentrate on how the success of TED talks can help the preacher become a better communicator.

Nicholas McDonald has written about this on his blog whic h is distributed through the Church Leaders web site.  He identifies 11 things that TED Talkers do that gospel preachers usually don’t:

1)  Talk about one simple idea; this coheres with #1 on my own list of nine marks of a good sermon.
2)  Set a time limit; we give young preachers 15 minutes, three less than the TED talks.
3)  Collaborate with others; lectionary preachers do this in a world wide community of commentary and conversation; many others do it with ministry teams or fellow ministers.
4)  Use visuals; this advise is like the Red Sea, separating those who use the screen and those who don’t.
5)  Practice; ministers have traditionally avoided this thinking it moves the preaching too much toward stage performance, but it is desperately needed (as are sermon coaches)
6) Avoid notes; preaching with out manuscripts or notes is making a strong comeback, thank God.
7)  Avoid jargon; this is hard for ministers who want to teach their people all the historic words of theology and scripture.
8)  Draw people into caring; contra McDonald, preachers have been doing this for millenia.
9)  Show the difference; this touches on appeal, and many modern preachers are loath to make a strong appeal.
10)  Plant yourself; some do this well behind a pulpit but it is harder to do when you have an entire stage at your disposal.
11)  Anticipate and address counter claims; this may be TED’s chief contribution to preaching; I find myself thinking through counterclaims even as I sit and listen to the preacher make her case.

All that being said, the phenomenal success of the TED initiative (now in more than 100 languages) reminds all ministers of the unmatched power of the human voice. The person who can stand before others and articule a moral vision for human life, and do so with clarity, intelligence, humor, and passion, will always gain a hearing…and often a following!

“How then shall they hear without a preaching?” is the old yet new question. We at the Academy of Preachers are working to locate and mobilize talented young people who have a deep and abiding commitment to both the renewal of the world and the savior of the world. Thanks be to God!!


Evolution – AoP Style

April 3, 2014

By Wyndee Holbrook

Wyndee resized1 150x150 Evolution   AoP StyleIn 2015 the National Festival of Young Preachers will in some ways be very different from past Festivals.   Each year we learn from suggestions, mistakes and trial and error, all part of the learning curve.  However, this year really opens up some unique possibilities and we plan to take full advantage.

The Fest will always be an inspirational and transformational experience for Young Preachers and attendees from across the country.   We’ll never lose focus on the importance of hearing the voices of Young Preachers, but you can expect some dynamic new twists in 2015 as the Festival keeps evolving and growing. 

Check out these new features coming to the National Festival of Young Preachers January 2—5, 2015 in Dallas, TX.

Themes come and go, but what could be more natural for a preaching theme than, Tell Me a Story?  The preaching texts are just the beginning, AoP expects Young Preachers to engage us with stories that help communicate these scriptural truths.

Schedule starts on Friday afternoon and ends with the Great Amen commissioning service on Monday morning.  This means folks can travel more comfortably on Jan. 2 and settle in by the 4 p.m. Orientation and have Monday afternoon to travel home.

Three venues share the 2015 Fest – Highland Park United Methodist Church, Perkins School of Theology and Holiday Inn Dallas Central- Park Cities.  Things will begin at the Holiday Inn (a full-service conference hotel) on Friday. The hotel is about a mile from the church and school.  These two are so close they share a parking lot.  The focus of the Festival will take place in this shared space Saturday through Monday.

Young Preachers are traditionally the 14 – 28 year olds who preach a 15 minute sermon at an AoP Festival.  But we want to open up options for 29-35 year old Young Preachers in Dallas.  The spaces will be limited to 16.  This group will have opportunity to preach and attend a workshop on Friday and Saturday in their own mini-Fest track.  This gives them the chance to leave on Saturday afternoon.  Naturally, they are more than welcome to choose a full package for the Fest and stay through Monday.

Master Class develops the individual’s preaching skill in a particular area.  Sponsors will host Master Classes using a faculty expert &/or a team approach.  Young Preachers will pre-register according to the Class’ focus (example: Storytelling).   Each Master Class will engage a minimum of 30 Young Preachers with a 1.5 hour session on the opening night and the option of hosting another session on the closing day.  Interactive Master Classes will help the Young Preachers enrich their skills and broaden their exposure.

Sponsors’ Fiesta happens on the opening night.  In a “speed-dating” fashion, groups of four Young Preachers will spend one minute with each sponsor’s representative to receive a taste of the institution/ organization before everyone moves on to the next conversation.  With the 3 venue format we’ll free the sponsors from the old exhibit hall model so they can engage in the Festival.

Preaching Sessions run concurrently with 2-3 Young Preachers offering sermons and will take place at Perkins and HPUMC.   The preaching venues will have a different feel as sponsoring hosts add their unique hospitality with a video, session convener and sermon coach/ evaluator.

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