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Preaching and the Lilly Endowment

I am recruiting 15-18 young people, students in high school, college, university or seminary who will serve on a Young Preachers Leadership Team. We will gather for a retreat in January, convene for a week-long Preaching Camp in June, and host the first Festival of Young Preachers in Louisville in January 2010.

The Lilly Endowment is one of the largest, wealthiest private foundations in the United States. Last year, they awarded $333 million in grants.

The endowment supports community projects—but only in the state of Indiana; they support education—but only in the state of Indiana; and they support religion—all over the country.

Which is how and why I found myself engaged with the endowment while on the faculty of Georgetown College. There I administered a $2 million grant as part of their “theological exploration of vocation” initiative. Georgetown was one of 88 schools in this grant program.

But when I grew restless at Georgetown and sought a new direction for my ministry, it was the endowment that opened a way forward. In an unplanned and unprepared way, I described for them an idea that had been running around in the back of my head for two years—a national network of young people who aspire to be preachers of the gospel.

I called it The Academy of Preachers.

“What can we do to make this happen?” one of their staff asked, and I did not have my wits about me even to speak the most basic form of a request. When I stumbled he said, “Why don’t we give you a grant and let you do it?”

So I spent a good part of my summer writing a grant proposal. I turned it in on Sept. 1 and on Nov. 13 I received a call from the endowment to inform me the proposal had been approved and on Dec. 1, 2008, I could formally and officially begin my work with the academy.

Of course, I could not wait, and had not waited. Throughout the fall, I have been traveling around the region targeted for the 18-month pilot project: Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Evansville and Nashville, and all the territory within a 150-mile radius of Louisville. There are 60 private, mostly church-related, institutions of higher learning: Bible colleges, liberal arts colleges, universities, seminaries—such as Simons Bible College in Louisville, Trevecca Nazarene College in Nashville, Butler University in Indianapolis, and St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana.

I am recruiting 15-18 young people, students in high school, college, university or seminary who will serve on a Young Preachers Leadership Team. We will gather for a retreat in January, convene for a week-long Preaching Camp in June, and host the first Festival of Young Preachers in Louisville in January 2010.

My partner in this is St. Matthews Baptist Church of Louisville. The endowment does not give to individuals but to institutions, mostly. So we have collaborated on this vision, and what a vision it is: inspiring young people in their call to gospel preaching.

Dwight Moody is a writer, preacher and professor living in Lexington, Ky. This column appeared previously on his blog.

Related:

So You Want to Be a Preacher (first column in the series)

The Significance of Preaching (second column in the series)