The Academy of Preachers (AoP) was launched with the vision of its founder, Dr. Dwight A. Moody, supported by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis, Indiana. Since its launch in January 2009, the Academy of Preachers has worked to Identify, Network, Support, and Inspire the next generation of Young Preachers.
During its first 18 months, the work of the Academy was hosted by St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2010, the Academy occupied office space at Middletown Christian Church, on the east end of Louisville, Kentucky; and in January 2015, the Academy relocated administrative space to Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. In September 2019, the Academy of Preachers began a new chapter as it moved to the Moench Center for Church Leadership at Belmont University.
Through our network of Founding Partners and National Partners, and by offering opportunities such as the Young Preachers Leadership Team, the Summer Preaching Camps, the Gospel Catalyst Network, the campus and regional Festivals of Young Preachers, and the National Festival of Young Preachers, the Academy has influenced the lives of more than 1,000 young Christian preachers from across the country.
The Festival of Young Preachers
In the inaugural year, Morehouse College of Atlanta pioneered the Campus Festival, and Campbellsville University developed the festival-enriched preaching course. Now both of these strategies of encouraging Young Preachers are being used by other schools around the country to strengthen campus preaching programs and undergirded the National Festival of Young Preachers. During any given year campus, regional, and denominational festivals for young preachers are hosted around the country; the Academy has developed resources for hosting such events, and these are available to any institution or organization in what we call a “Festival in a Box.”
A list of locations for each of our National Festivals is listed below.
- 2010 – Louisville, KY (St. Matthews Baptist Church)
- 2011 – Louisville, KY (The Seelbach Hilton Louisville)
- 2012 – Louisville, KY (The Seelbach Hilton Louisville)
- 2013 – Atlanta, GA (Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead)
- 2014 – Indianapolis, IN (Sheraton City Centre)
- 2015 – Dallas, TX (Magnolia Hotel Dallas/Park Cities)
- 2016 – Lexington, KY (Hilton Lexington/Downtown)
- 2017 – Lexington, KY (Embassy Suites Lexington)
- 2018 – Atlanta, GA (Hilton Atlanta Airport)
- 2019 – Atlanta, GA (Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead)
Grateful for Those Who Came Before
The Academy of Preachers has benefitted from a rich community of leaders during it brief history. Born out of the vision by Dr. Dwight A. Moody for encouraging and equipping young preachers and supported by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment and various founding partners, the Academy of Preachers is the work of many men and women who invested their gifts and passions into the next generation of young preachers.
While it is difficult to note every person who has served in leadership roles of the Academy of Preachers, it is good to note the contributions of several key individuals. Of course, Dr. Dwight A. Moody, Founder, President, and CEO led the Academy of Preachers from its inception in 2009 until his retirement in 2017. Rev. Ernest Brooks III then served in that role from 2017-2019. Dr. Darrell Gwaltney, became the new Executive Director of the Academy of Preachers when it moved to Belmont University’s Moench Center for Church Leadership in 2019.
Debbie Moody gave integral leadership as Director of Festivals and Director of Operations, Rev. Wyndee Holbrook as both Lead Gospel Catalyst and Executive Director, Rev. Winterbourne Harrison-Jones as Director of Philanthropy, and Rev. Tyler Best as Director of Communications. In addition to the leadership of these key persons, dozens and dozens of people have volunteered and contributed their time serving in festivals and other associated Academy of Preachers events in the last decade.
In 2013, the Academy of Preachers incorporated as a non-profit in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, empowered a Board of Directors (consisting of eight founding members: Christopher Gay, Ernest Brooks, David Emery, Martin Linebach, Robin Thomerson, Julie Roe, John Williams, and Dwight A. Moody), and successfully applied for tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Other committed individuals followed in their footsteps serving on the Academy of Preachers Board. The Commonwealth of Kentucky non-profit status was eliminated when the Academy of Preachers moved to Belmont University in 2019. Two separate boards of advisors–one consisting of Academy of Preachers Festival alumni and one consisting of pastors and academic leaders–are being created to give leadership for the next chapter in the life of the Academy of Preachers.
The Academy is proud of its presence on the world wide web, Facebook and Twitter, and especially YouTube (where AoP festival videos are being downloaded at the rate of 1,000 per week, or 370,000 in six years, with more than 1,000 subscribers). The AoP will continue to expand these initiatives to engage the generation of young adults, with a special focus on using social media especially video to promote our mission and programs, generate financial support, and advocate for opportunities for Young Preachers.
The Academy also published its first book in 2010, A Beautiful Thing: Sermons from the Inaugural Festival of Young Preachers! This unique volume contains the preaching of high school, university and seminary students and launched what is now a ten-book collection, which may be the only books in print that archive what the rising generation of preachers is thinking and saying. Other volumes include:
- Waking to the Holy: Semons from the 2012 Festival of Young Preachers,
- Uncommon Sense: Jesus and the Renewal of the World,
- Gospel and the City: Sermons from the 2013 Festival of Young Preachers;
- Questions of the Soul: Sermons from the 2014 National Festival of Young Preachers,
- Pentecost on Mockingbird Lane: Sermons from the 2015 National Festival of Young Preachers,
- Generation to Generation: A Commemorative Collection of Millennial African American Sermons Preached at the 2010-2015 National Festivals of Young Preachers
- Heaven and Earth: Sermons from the 2016 National Festival of Young Preachers,
- Rabbi. Radical. Redeemer. Risen Lord.: Sermons from the 2017 National Festival of Young Preachers, and
- Worship the Lord: Sermons from the 2018 National Festival of Young Preachers