When I was first asked to attend Academy of Preachers as the student representative for Central Baptist Theological Seminary, I thought, “Oh boy…they have an awful lot of faith in me…..I have no idea where to even BEGIN writing a sermon!” However, I have found that the key to doing something new is listening to and learning from the people around you who have already done it. When I set out to begin the process of sermon writing for the first time, I began listening to EVERYONE around me who had experience!
I met with Tyler Tankersley, my coach, to begin the process. He gave me some great advice about how to begin the process of writing a sermon. He shared with me what sources I should look at, as well as some first-hand knowledge of what the Academy of Preachers would be like. The piece of advice which most impacted me during our meeting was when he reminded me that I would be preaching with many, many other young preachers over the course of the weekend. He asked me, “What will make your sermon stand out? Why will your sermon be one that is remembered?”
I also had a great asset in my friend Kim White, who represented Central at the Academy of Preachers the year before. She shared with me what her experience being a first-time preacher had been like, and how it important it was to trust God through the process. She also offered the piece of advice which had been passed down to her the previous year: “A sermon is supposed to move us beyond thinking or feeling something, a good sermon moves us to do something.”
So, between Kim and Tyler I had some great insider knowledge on what the Academy of Preachers would be like, and what sort of sermon I wanted to write. I wanted to trust in God, believing that the Spirit would move me in the right direction. I wanted to write something which would have a lasting impact on those who heard it. I wanted it to move people not only to think, but also move them to act. No pressure, right?
The last piece of advice that I received helped me to get out of my head and begin to listen for the movement of the spirit within the process. I am currently the seminarian intern at Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ. When I told the pastor, Chase Peeples, that I was preparing my first sermon he was quick to offer up the pulpit at CCCUCC for my first preaching experience. Over the course of the next month, he guided me step-by-step through the process of how to write a sermon, what sources to look at, how to handle the editing process, etc. However, the best piece of advice I received from him gave me permission to get out of my head a little bit. He said, “No one expects you to be ‘Bethany Who Has Preached 100 Sermons.’ You can’t be ‘Bethany Who Has Preached 100 Sermons,’ because you aren’t there yet. But, you can be ‘Bethany Who Has Preached One Sermon,’ and you can give that your all.”
So, here I am. After lots of praying, I am trusting that God will be with me throughout this process. I am going into this experience as “Bethany Who Has Preached One Sermon” and I am trusting that that will be okay. I can’t wait to experience fellowship and community with the other young preachers, the training and guidance I will receive, and the opportunity to preach for the second time. Most of all, I can’t wait to see who “Bethany Who Has Attended Academy of Preachers” will become!
Central create scholar