May 23, 2024

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Festival of Homiletics in Pittsburgh, PA. It’s an annual gathering focused on the art of preaching. I have attended the festival in previous years when it had been held in Atlanta and San Antonio.

Spending time in Pittsburgh itself was a great experience. It’s a beautiful city with some amazing places to eat (standouts were Primanti Brothers and Pamela’s Diner).

I traveled to the Festival with some other pastors serving in CBF churches in the state of North Carolina. The time we spent together was rich with meaning and our conversations held a precious, eternal quality.

I went to the Festival with a blank notebook, eager to take notes on the art of preaching. I expected to receive tools that I would use in my own preaching. But I got something I did not expect: I was preached to. The conference was not about “how to become a better preacher” but instead the various speakers and leaders spoke the Word of God to us as preachers.

Karoline Lewis (preaching professor at Luther Seminary) began the Festival with a sermon on Matthew 8:23-27. She asked us to consider that Jesus’ calling the disciples “you of little faith” is not an indictment, but a term of grace. After all, she said, Jesus is not rebuking the disciples, he’s rebuking the storm!

Amy Butler explored the Parable of the Sower and encouraged us to embrace our role as faithful, reckless sowers, trusting where the seed falls is ultimately up to God.

Willie James Jennings of Yale Divinity School, preaching on John 5:1-11, asked us, “Do you want to be made well?” as he reminded us, “We are caught up in a community that will not give violence or death the last word.”

The author Brian McLaren spoke a pastoral word title “You Have Permission” as he gave us four words of gracious permission: (1) You have permission to face reality; (2) You have permission to declare an emergency; (3) You have permission to fall back on love when faith and hope seem far; and (4) You have permission to take the long view.

And Chicago pastor Otis Moss III lectured on the importance of the Inner Journey for all leaders in order for them to lead with integrity and authenticity. He said, “No preacher can preach with genuine effectiveness until they have courage to confront themselves.”

And as if all of those sermons were not rich enough, I experienced one of the most beautiful worship experiences of my life. At one of our host churches (East Liberty Presbyterian Church), we were invited to participate in a Taizé service. It’s a form of worship that arose from a French monastic community. The songs are short refrains sung over and over until they sink within your heart. Over and over we sang:

In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful
In the Lord I will rejoice!
Look to God. Do not be afraid.
Lift up your voices; the Lord is near.
Lift up your voices; the Lord is near.

I am really grateful to CBFNC for the opportunity to attend the Festival and to Ardmore Baptist Church (especially the Staff) for carving out space for me to receive words of goodness and grace into my life.


Contact / Location

Contact info

123, New Lenox, Chicago IL 60606

Gathering Times


8:00am, 9:15am, 11:00am