Preach Seminar Moves 'Beyond Pulpits and Pews'
Noted speakers encourage, challenge global audience
BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor, reporting from Collegedale, Tennessee
panoply of preaching played out under a warm April sky as four “pastor’s pastors,” each a master of pulpit technique, shared their best messages and deepest encouragement with a global audience. The Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists sponsored the annual Professional Growth Seminar as a gift to Adventist pastors and those of other denominations.
AR editor Bill Knott (left) with Emory University's Fred Craddock. [Photo: AR]
The PREACH (Project for Reaching Every Active Clergy at Home) seminar, now in its eleventh year, featured speakers including Michael Quicke, professor at Northern Seminary, Lombard, Illinois; Fred B. Craddock, Bandy Distinguished Professor of Preaching Emeritus, in the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta; Israel Bamidele Olaore, senior university pastor and head of the Division of Spiritual Life at Babcock University, Nigeria; and Chris Oberg, newly appointed senior pastor for the La Sierra University Adventist church.
James A. Cress, ministerial secretary for the world church, and Anthony Kent, an associate secretary in the department, were on-air hosts for the global program. Nikolaus Satelmajer, editor of Ministry magazine, and associate editor Willie E. Hucks II, led panels of pastors and professionals who questioned the presenters after each message. Adventist Review editor and executive publisher Bill Knott was one of the panelists.
The seminar drew several hundred area pastors and ministerial program students, to the chapel of Southern Adventist University’s campus church in Collegedale, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Broadcast globally via the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Hope Channel and over the Internet, the international audience is typically numbered in the thousands, but it difficult to precisely count because not all downlink sites register.
“When we preach mission, we have to be very humble,” Quicke, a veteran of more than two decades of pastoral ministry, told the audience. “We need our great God to be present. It’s possible to do it in Nazareth and in your place and in mine,” he added.
Quicke noted that there are often two kinds of churches: one that is “a ‘doing’ church, accomplishing something on God’s behalf in the world, or a ‘missional’ church, which understands itself as a community created to participate fully in the ministry of God in the world.” He advocated missional churches, noting that “always the Lord is calling us to preach beyond ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves.”
Oberg, who said she discusses her weekly sermon topics with her mother via telephone, told the congregation that her choice of Rahab, the “broad of Jericho” as one translation described the historic prostitute, elicited a pained, “Why do you have to talk about her?”
Israel Bamidele Olaore from Babcock University in Nigeria. [Photo: AR]
One reason for discussing the “provocative interruption” in the book of Joshua, Oberg said, is that “Rahab stands for anyone who feels they are outside of God’s community. She’s one confession away from God.”
Oberg then related how her pastoral staff, on a retreat in San Diego, recently fed homeless street dwellers: “Sometimes in the ‘other’ I see the face of my God that I don’t see in the people of my church,” she said.
Babcock University’s Olaore, who spent 10 years pastorng churches in Tuscon, Arizona and Los Angeles, Calfornia, spoke about the need for pastors to provide mentoring to others: “Succession planning is imperative for all spiritual leaders,” Olaore declared. “A successful successor is my success. … Jesus mentored a few in order to reach the many.”
Pastors, he added, “are the midwives that God entrusts with birthing the sons and daughters of God into the Kingdom.”
Calling the Professional Growth Seminar “a tremendous gift to the church,” Craddock said the New Testament church “was born out of the synagogue, which was a place of study.”
In his presentation, the final one of the afternoon, Craddock noted that as preachers, “we’re not just retailers of the Gospel. If we listen to what we’re saying, it’ll change our lives.”
Along with listening, Craddock said, is an imperative to be good communicators: “Don’t use ‘walking the walk’ as an excuse for not ‘talking the talk,’” he instructed his audience.
“Some sermons are true, but they’re too small,” he said in response to an audience question. “Make sure there’s good news in every message. Never underestimate the power of kindness.”
La Sierra University Church's new senion pastor, Chris Oberg. [Photo: AR]
The three and one-half hour program brought e-mail and telephone questions from the Caribbean and Nigeria, among other places, and drew an enthusiastic response from the Collegedale audience. Students from Southern’s school of journalism and communication formed the broadcast technical crew.
In 2010, the PGS Seminar will be held in California, and is expected to feature repeat appearances by Yale professor Miroslav Volf and Adventist Review associate editor Roy Adams, and Marguerite Shuster, from Fuller Theological Seminary, among the speakers.