Anxious. Elated. Hesitant. Eager. Preaching can be a wild mix of conflicting emotions as one prepares and delivers a sermon. My sophomore-in-college-self was rarely the timid, reserved person I remember being at my first National Festival of Young Preachers in 2012. Admittedly, the more preaching I watched during the Festival, the more nervous I became in anticipation for the time I would rise to the pulpit and deliver my own message from God. The idea of preaching to other preachers was very intimidating. I recall retiring to my hotel room for a long period of time to rewrite my sermon (twice) and practice my delivery profusely. I was a complete mess and the only thing I really felt confident of was that, in comparison to everyone else, I was not really cut out for this preaching thing.
Despite having mentors, family, and friends with a willingness to walk alongside me, I felt all alone with only God by my side. I realized later that I was missing one of the most important aspects of the Festival… shared experience and community. “You’re not alone” is a common takeaway during my time with the Academy of Preachers. If we as preachers choose to isolate and cut ourselves off from other preachers, we can quickly yield to self-doubt. After listening and sharing with others in my preaching circle through the years, I understood that many of my feelings and experiences of doubt are not exclusive to me. More importantly, I found a community of people willing to encourage and help me grow in the midst of such doubt.
I have discovered that one does not attend a Festival after reaching the pinnacle of preaching. Instead, one attends the Festival in pursuit of that pinnacle.
You see, as preachers, there is often this false understanding that we must have it all together at all times. We think every sermon should be perfect, we should fully practice what we preach before we preach it, and we subscribe to stressful self-imposed constraints like having our sermon prepared two weeks before the service (or Festival) begins. Contrary to this thinking, I have confidently learned that one single bad sermon does not define my entire preaching life. I have also found that God is often teaching me through the sermon I prepare and preach as much (if not more than) the congregation to which I preach. I have also come to know that even despite the most thorough study in weeks prior, God tweaks or changes the message last minute and that a sizable number of Young Preachers retire to their room for last minute edits and preparation for their sermon at the Festival. I would not have learned these simple, yet profound truths (and others like it) if it were not for the community I have cultivated through the Academy of Preachers. Each truth has changed my perspective and, in their own way, strengthened my sense of calling. What truth about preaching have you learned in community with other preachers?
My time with the Academy of Preachers has been steeped in the deep, raw friendships I developed with other preachers throughout the years. Some of my closest friends are a result of connections from the AoP network. It takes intentionality and a willingness to be brutally and lovingly honest, but there is great value in the being vulnerable in our self-doubt with fellow Young Preachers. It is helpful to explore where we were, where we are, and where we would like to go as preachers of the Gospel… together. How could you or someone you know benefit from a community like this as you grow and discern your call to preach? I hope you will share in this sacred experience with us this coming January. We’ll see you in Atlanta!
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*The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author(s) or speaker(s) and do not represent the beliefs or positions of the Academy of Preachers. The distribution of content by Academy of Preachers is an effort to fulfill our mission to Identify, Network, Support, and Inspire young people in their call to gospel preaching. Our network and participants are widely diverse in geography, ethnicity, culture, gender, theology, tradition, and practice. We give space for those in our network to contribute their unique voices to a global conversation on gospel preaching and Christian ministry.
About the author…
Tyler Best has been involved with the Academy of Preachers since 2012 when he preached at his first National Festival of Young Preachers in Louisville, Kentucky. Since that time, Best has attended every National Festival, serving in roles related to technology, communications, and bookkeeping. Before serving as Director of Communications, he worked as a Gospel Catalyst, contract worker, and Social Media Manager. Best is originally from Southern Indiana near Louisville, Kentucky. He is currently attending Asbury Theological Seminary pursuing an M.Div.
In addition to serving as AoP’s Director of Communications, Best also serves as the campus pastor of a new church plant in Corydon, Indiana. He is also a small business owner.