October 15, 2014
Our guest columnist today is noted preacher and author Frank Thomas, professor of preaching at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dr. Thomas was a plenary preacher at the 2014 National Festival of Young Preachers.
In his book, Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land, the Reverend Doctor Joseph E. Lowery published a sermon entitled, “Chaplains for the Common Good,” from which I take the title of this article. In 1998, after his retirement from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Lowery joined with other activists and formed the Coalition for the People’s Agenda (CPA) – a coalition of advocacy groups on civil rights, peace, labor, women’s issues, justice, youth, human rights, etc.
At the end of each CPA meeting, they quoted together this line: “We are chaplains of the common good.” While many see the role of chaplain as reading scriptures and praying prayers at community, social, and even church events before eating or discussing business, they saw the chaplain role much deeper than that. A chaplain is the conscience of an organization, nation, or church, Lowery explained, urging all to do what is right and what is pleasing to God.
According to Lowery, chaplains nudge everyone toward the common good. Through Scriptures, prayers, and sometimes a clap of thunder, they jar us to righteous reality. Sometimes it is a flash of lightning making plain the landscape of societal ills; sometimes it is a whisper into our still conscience; sometimes it is an alarm clock saying it is time to rise; sometimes it’s a bugle call to engagement; sometimes it is a cool breeze of thankfulness following the glory of triumph or the agony of defeat; but it is always on the side of the Creator, always calling out the best in us for the common good.
I love the phrase “chaplains for the common good” because in this hour of American and global life we so desperately need preaching to have social significance; we need chaplains for the common good.
We have lost the sense of the common good in this nation.
In one of my most recent books, American Dream 2.0: A Christian Way Out of the Great Recession, I asked this questions:
• What is the centrality that holds this nation together?
• What is the common vision that unifies us?
• What is the common mission of America that we all share such to the extent that we all would be willing to sacrifice personal interest to see the vision become a reality?
• What is the dream of America?
There is no divine category of being called “American.” American is a socially constructed concept and identity based upon the adoption and agreement on certain values and principles. What values and principles do we share such that we might call our agreement, the common good? What would we be willing to sacrifice for the common good? We are chaplains of this common good!
What we have become is a nation of special interests and each special interest is more concerned about their special interest than the interest of the whole or the common good. We have become a nation of “Do not touch my….”
• Do not touch my guns.
• Do not touch my Medicare and Social Security.
• Do not touch my defense spending.
• Do not touch the military and prison industrial complex.
• Do not touch my corporate welfare.
• Do not touch my mortgage interest deduction.
• Do not touch my grants.
• Do not touch my farm subsidy.
• Do not touch my tax breaks.
• Do not touch my Section 8.
• Do not touch my entitlements.
As a result, we do not touch the concept of the common good.
We have even lost the concept of sacrifice in and for the nation. We can sacrifice if there is a common good, but because there is no common vision that we adhere to there is no common sacrifice. America is about our rights and what we can get, and as result “do not touch my stuff” has become a way of life. We live in the America of our benefit, and as long as we exclusively focus on our benefit, or the benefit of our group alone, we cannot see the common good. We have lost the American Dream.
We need chaplains for the common good. We need preaching of social significance to restore the dream of America.
If we would preach for the common good our preaching must not be partisan. Our preaching does not necessarily support one political party or persuasion or the other. Our preaching must consciously seek to unify and establish common ground. Recently, I wrote a sermon discussing the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri entitled “Can We Be Friends?” The sermon takes a position on violence against and criminalization of black youth, and the attempt is made to include everyone. You can view this sermon at
If we would preach for the common good, our preaching must go deeper than issues to the values that are underneath the various issues. I prepared a sermon supporting the Affordable Care Act because I could not fathom that we could be the richest nation in the world and 50 million people do not have health care. This fact of the uninsured in our nation said something about our values and the kind of nation that we were. Please see my sermon at http://drfrankathomas.com/media-room/entry/houses-fields-and-lands-jeremiah-329-15-ebenezer-baptist-church-atlanta-geo
Ultimately, we are the guardians of the souls of people and also of the soul of this nation. Our preaching must be positive, humble, and healing—not judgmental, arrogant, and condemnatory. Our preaching must speak for the least, the last, and the lost. We gospel preachers are the conscience of the nation and must call the nation back to the common good. We are always on the side of the Creator, calling out the best in us for the common good. In so doing, our preaching takes on social significance and we serve authentically as chaplains of the common good.
October 10, 2014
By Dwight Moody
Less than five years ago we created our YouTube Channel. We posted videos from the inaugural Festival of Young Preachers, held in Louisville in January of 2010. Fifty thousand times that year people viewed a sermon of one of our AoP ’10 Young Preachers.
Since then we have uploaded the sermon videos from each of the National Festivals and from many of the Regional Festivals. Plus we have uploaded interviews, promotional videos, and one five-minute introduction to the whole festival experience. There are more than 700 AoP videos now on the AoP YouTube channel.
Check out these videos: www.youtube.com/academyofpreachers
Since our launch 58 months ago, 302,296 times somebody has clicked on our channel and watched a Young Preacher deliver a sermon. That is 5,212 times a month for 58 months!
To celebrate this achievement and to develop further our use of video we now introduce a new series, called IN THE CALL.
There are five of these videos, each less than three minutes long. They feature:
- Reggie Sharpe AoP ’10
- Mary McDaniel AoP ’14,
- Keith Turner AoP’12,
- Elizabeth Pollard AoP ’14, and
- Joshua Barrett AoP ’13.
Check them out. Watch one, or two, or all five. Tell us what you think. www.youtube.com/academyofpreachers.net
We plan to put more emphasis on video preaching. We are looking for creative ways to put these Young Preachers before a cyber audience. What they have to say is important and powerful and needs to be heard.
Thank you for your support, your prayers, your encouragement of young preachers. Register to attend our National Festival of Young Preachers in January of 2015 in Dallas, Texas. Bring a Young Preacher with you.
October 6, 2014
By Dwight Moody
Seminary President Byron Klaus wrote: “Thank you for your mission to motivate young men and women to preach the gospel. We want to partner with you in this worthy cause.”
And we want to partner with the Assemblies of God, one of the largest, most dynamic Christian movements in the world. In our conversation last week on their campus in Springfield Dr. Klaus and I talked about the need for a festival of young preachers in Springfield. In his letter, he wrote: “We would be delighted to participate in a regional festival which could be held in the William J Seymour Chapel here at AGTS.”
The Assemblies of God was sparked by the Azusa Street Revival of 1906. Bible teacher William Seymour of Kansas was instrumental in that storefront event which is counted as the launch point of the world-wide Pentecostal movement. The beautiful stain glass window in the Seymour chapel at AGTS commemorates this historic event.
AGTS, an affiliate of Evangel University, joins three other AoP Partners in Missouri: Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Aquinas Institute in St. Louis, and Chalice Press also in St. Louis.
AGTS is the second Pentecostal school to join the young preacher movement; the first was Messenger College, then of Joplin, Missouri, but now (after the tornado) of Euless, Texas. We are eager to receive into our network other Pentecostal organizations and institutions.
While at SGTS in Springfield last week, I spoke to both undergraduate preaching classes at Evangel University. I give a gospel shout-out to their professor Steve Smallwood for his hospitality in this regard and also for his warm reception to my presentations on the social significance of preaching and the nine marks of a good sermon. I hope to see him and a half dozen of his students at the 2015 National Festival of Young Preachers in Dallas in January. It is a drive of about eight hours from Springfield to Dallas.
The endorsement of the leading Pentecostal seminary in the country further solidifies the wide-open network of gospel-loving people who are collaborating with the Academy of Preachers. Perhaps your church, or school, or denomination, or business is ready to join this movement. Call me and we will talk about it.
October 1, 2014
By Dwight Moody
These are the four schools that have opened their hearts and homes to me over the last week; and in between these schools, amazing churches and communities: Rock Church (Roman Catholic) and Crossings (Evangelical) in St. Louis, and especially the Dominican Priory, also in St. Louis.
Dominic McManus, O.P. is my host at the Priory, and with him and his 30 colleagues I have attended morning and evening prayers (the daily office, it is called). They chant the psalms–all of them–every four weeks. And at every gathering a homily, generally spoken by one of the students at Aquinas Institute.
Dominic took me to the Rock on Sunday, liturgical mashup of Roman Catholic and Black Baptist. It was full of ritual and rites which helped stretch it to two hours plus, but it was also full of energy and imagination, led by their own 22 voice gospel choir. Powerful indeed.
Prior to that it was Tulsa, Oklahoma, with my long time friend and colleague in theological studies, Larry Hart. Besides chapel (featuring a 19 year old student) and dinner at “Billy Sims BBQ” I met with their president, Billy Wilson, who is from Owensboro, Kentucky (and has a son in ministry in Lexington!).
With Baptists, Bentecostals, Evangelicals, and Roman Catholics, I have found a deep and abiding interest in preaching. All want to bring students to Dallas, and each want to host a festival in their region (Tulsa, Springfield, and St. Louis).
It is all part of “identifying, networking, supporting, and inspiring young people in their call to gospel preaching.” Glory to God.
September 18, 2014
By Joshua Barrett, AoP'13
I recently read a wonderful article about Ruth Oosterman. Ruth is an artist – a very good one! – who collaborates with her two year old daughter, Eve, in the creation of her paintings. How so, you say? Ruth gives Eve the freedom to draw whatever she would like, and then using the lines and coloring of what Eve drew, adds color and additional lines to produce fascinating paintings (in addition to whatever the original idea was). The results are stunning!
I’d like to think AoP does something similar. No, you’re not a two year old, and nor is anyone else at the Festival. (I believe that falls a bit short of the age requirements.) However, when it comes to preaching, each of us sketches a certain way. We put lines here and color there, illustrations here and exegesis there. Hopefully we develop as we go, I pity the preacher who has everything figured out. But if left largely on our own, our sketches, our sermons, will sound very similar.
That is why there is AoP – a gathering of other fantastic artists. In participation with AoP, you will find that there are different ways to sketch – you’ll see and hear that you can put some lines where you didn’t think previously, shade where you never imagined. Whether consciously or not, your brothers and sisters in Christ will add lines and color and depth and beauty to your preaching. And you will do the same for others! So bring your sketch with you to AoP, just don’t plan on it staying the same. You may be surprised with what it looks like when you leave.