Today I shared lunch with a preaching visionary - Dr. Dwight Moody. Three years ago he founded the Academy of Preachers (http://www.academyofpreachers.net/). Maybe that doesn't sound too visionary. After all there are several organizations for preachers already! But this is aimed strictly at young people aged 14-28. At various "festivals" around the country, with a national festival in January, all these young people are encouraged to preach. They are promised not only the practical (and invaluable) opportunity to preach sermons (on a selected theme), but also to receive ongoing guidance and feedback.
Dwight commented that if young people can be enthused and trained in other interests early in their teens, such as sport, music, and their studies, why not enthuse them about the highest way of serving Jesus Christ - being preachers? He has found (and I am sure he is correct) that keen young Christians often dismiss preaching as a serious option. They completely miss its prime strategic importance for telling out God's good news and building his kingdom. (Incidentally, Dwight has also recently read O. C. Edward's book on the History of Preaching and he almost 'repeated' my blog of a few weeks ago -not that he had seen it you understand - about the significance of preaching in church renewal through history!) So, with great energy and vision he is organizing and networking young people for this great task.
Of course, reading this you will likely have many questions, such as: Isn't 14 too young? What about testing a call? Where's the accountability? How do you ensure biblical integrity? Aren't they likely to be mimicking others? What happens when they reach 28? Isn't this all a big risk? You maybe will have more queries. BUT the more I listened the more I sensed how worthwhile this risk is. How it is releasng a fresh passion for preaching among the young.
Dwight shared many interesting details. One that sticks in my mind is his observation that the younger the preacher, the more authentic they seemed to be, and the more able to speak to their own generation. That's why they begin at 14! I know all this is "out of the box" and risky, but as Dwight left to fly back to Louisville (where the academy is based) I couldn't help but feel exhilarated about vision and what God can do through this for his kingdom. Do you know any 14-28 year olds who would respond positively?