Dear friends of Preachers Institute,
Thank you those of you who donated so generously to our matching grant fundraiser. We reached 73% of our goal. Thankfully, our anonymous friend is happy to match those gifts.
Additionally, the feedback I received from you was exceptional! After more than five years of working together, your candor and support was amazing! And it is with this that we are now turning our energies toward the future.
But lets’ start at the beginning. A few years back, we polled the seminaries to see what actual preaching classes and training were being offered, and what was actually mandatory. The results were shocking, in many ways. Good teaching and required preaching appeared in many unexpected places, and likewise, disturbingly little was being done in our most prominent institutions. It was not considered important (after all, anyone CAN preach. It did not matter that preaching with excellence was rarely accomplished). However, it is clear that homiletics and preaching are not properly valued in North American Orthodoxy then, and barely so now. That is something we set out to change, and change is taking place thanks to you – the pastor, parishioner and lay preacher who proclaim the Gospel weekly, sometimes daily, to those who have no idea what it consists of. But change takes time and persistent effort. That’s something I have, and you do, too.
Today is Pentecost, and the first sermon preached by the Church inspired by the Spirit brought thousands of souls to Christ. This is our model! It must be remembered also that the Apostles’ successes were quickly followed by difficulties, usually from their own God-fearing people, but none of it mattered. In the end, preaching the Gospel was a juggernaut that could not be resisted.
Failure is the ladder rung to success. I’ve plowed through dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands, of failures in my life, just as you have. Failure is a good teacher. Failures haven’t stopped me from attaining my goals, but they have instructed me on success. And that is where the real value of experience comes into play.
This is the first time in my adult life that I’ve missed a fundraising goal. We raised about 73% of our goal. In the classes I teach, that’s a ‘D’ – barely passing. This is my grade, not yours. The money is not the thing (really!). It is about what we are doing.
Recently, I’ve been involved with several conversations with different atheists, agnostics and millenials who claim a confusing and contradictory spiritual philosophy which is mostly just garbled self-delusion. Something which I have come to discover is that universally they not only don’t know what the Gospel is, they are convinced that they know what the New Testament is, who wrote it, and why it was written – and they are so wrong it is frightening to me.
Here are a short list of real statements;
- The Bible was written by men expressing their position on why they should be installed with political power,
- The Bible says Jesus will send you to hell if you don’t accept his love,
- God is helpless to save us because he has already judged us,
- The men who wrote the Bible changed what Jesus taught once they were in power,
- The early Christians captured slaves and denigrated women to retain their influence and power in society,
- Crimes committed by people today are the result of an evil patriarchal system, and the system should be destroyed, while the individual is not to blame,
- Christians hate everyone who is not a Christian,
and I could go on.
These folks are describing what they think Christianity is, and they have no reason to believe they are wrong. Why are these being passed around in conversation as legitimate examples of Christian truth?
Do you not know the answer to this question?
Faith Comes By Hearing
We have to no longer be content with ‘announcing’ the Gospel on Sunday mornings alone – we must proclaim the Gospel, the real Gospel, to anyone and everyone who will hear it.
Make no mistake – proper preaching requires the highest level of exegetical, historical, Biblical and spiritual understanding and nuance that can be accomplished. It is tough work, and requires time and effort to do well. Your priest knows this, but I can tell you from personal experience how many times someone will interrupt my sermon prep, ask what I’m doing and then conclude, aloud, that I’m not busy with anything important. I assure you, it is the most important thing I do in parish work.
It is time to take an account of our homiletics toolbox. I mean a real accounting of the tools we personally possess, and if we are shy one or two, how best to obtain them. This isn’t just for clergy. It is time for us to train lay preachers, men and women, to bring in the spiritually poor and lame (there are so many) from the highways and byways of our society right now.
Interested? Don’t answer too quickly. Don’t put your hand to this plow without counting the cost.
Preachers Institute has failed, and missed a simple and obtainable fundraising goal. We have learned though, what is valued and what is not. Things are far better than they were when we began five years ago, but no where near where they should be.