I mentioned some of my initial 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? BUT I also said that the more I listened to Dwight the more I sensed how worthwhile this risk is.
Well, during my visit to Georgetown last week I witnessed a "festival". From 4:00 - 8:15 pm seven young preachers were given opportunity to preach at the Georgetown Baptist Church before an open audience. I arrived in time to hear the last four preachers. The youngest was 18 who suffers from deafness and the others were college students, including one currently at Asbury Theological Seminary.
Each of the preachers was introduced by their mentor who clearly had an important role in preparing these young people. Overall, they preached with considerable skill (two largely without notes!) developing themes from the Sermon on the Mount with careful attention to the text and lively application. An evaluator was responsible for providing solid feedback (given privately) - Dr Charles Bugg is a noted homiletician and I was impressed by his level of commitment and enthusiasm for the whole task.
What stood out for me:
- their enthusiasm. They demonstrated keen desire and interest in preaching (so often missing among older folk!)
- their authenticity. The personalities and experience of these young people shone through, especially in humor and application.
- their Scriptural work. Each paid careful attention to their texts in Matthew 5.
- their giftedness. There were no "poor" sermons but rather a (surprisingly) high level of skill both in content and delivery.
Later the President of Kentucky Baptist Seminary spoke to me. Three participants came from his seminary. He said: " I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity that gives these young people such a high-profile opportunity to share their gifting. Without this event, they would never have opportunities to preach." Yes, this experience definitely showed that it's a worthwhile risk working with such young people! I wonder how many of you are in contact with young people who would value such an opportunity.