By Erica Lea
Sixteen young preachers from 15 to 28 years old preached at the 2014 Academy of Preachers CBF Assembly Festival. The Academy of Preachers was founded by Dr. Dwight A. Moody in 2009. Moody was concerned about a large number of young people committed to ministry, but not preaching. The Academy of Preachers seeks to identify, network support, and inspire young people in their call to Gospel preaching. While Moody’s background is Baptist and he turned to his friends in CBF to help launch the Academy, the Academy of Preachers has an ecumenical vision.
Wyndee Holbrook, Academy of Preachers Director of Programs, says that “ecumenism is the body of Christ, and coming together around Gospel preaching brings great energy! We learn and grow best when we honor Jesus’ prayer for unity as found in John 17”.
This ecumenical vision related to preaching echoes new CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter’s missional vision of ecumenical partnership. Porter said during the Wednesday commissioning banquet, “We need not only to reimagine mission, but we also need to re-narrate the story of CBF’s participation in God’s mission that involves both… global church ministry networks and state and regional organizations; the Baptist World Alliance and ecumenical bodies…”
The Academy of Preachers has a number of regional festivals throughout the year that culminate with the national festival each January. National festivals have the most diverse ecumenical representation among young preachers – Baptist, Catholic, Orthodox, Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, and more. Typically each young preacher preaches for about 15 minutes, then receives written and oral feedback from evaluators such as pastors and hermeneutics scholars.
Participants gather to sharpen their preaching skills, as well as to meet other young preachers from a variety of denominational backgrounds. Holbrook says “all Festivals focus on young people preaching with opportunity for small group discussion and encouragement.”
The 2015 National Festival of Young Preachers will be held in Dallas, Texas on January 2-5 and will be co-hosted by Highland Park United Methodist Church, Perkins School of Theology, and Holiday Inn Dallas Central- Park Cities. There will be a track for 14 – 28 year olds and a track for 29-35 year olds.
Holbrook says the next goal for the Academy is “to develop local and on-line Academy of Preachers chapters. We envision these will not be limited by age, simply by commitment to inspiring young people in gospel preaching”. Judging by the multiple standing room only CBF Assembly preaching festival sessions, interest in young preachers among CBF members and supporters is abundant.
Erica Lea is a CBF Scholar and a recent graduate of George W. Truett Theological Seminary where she focused on spiritual formation and pastoral leadership. She currently serves as Interim Pastor of Houston Mennonite Church and will begin as a Pastoral Resident at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. in August 2014. She also blogs at olgaproverbs31.wordpress.com.