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Latest Update on the Cultivating the Gift of Preaching Initiative from Director Matt Aragon Bruce

Over the last few months, I – along with many others – have been at work getting the Cultivating the Gift of Preaching Initiative (CGPI) of the ground. This has involved, among other things, meeting with church leaders across the synod, attending meetings and conferences, and recruiting both participants but preacher-mentors. And we have made much progress! The application process is live, and we have begun to receive applications. Further information about CGPI and the application can be found here. We have also extended the application deadline to April 19th; recommendation letters are due on the 26th. And if anyone should need additional time to apply, please contact me and let me know you plan to apply.


I’ve spent a significant amount of time travelling these past months, and this has afforded significant time to contemplate the forms our ministries might take as we bring the Good News that Jesus has been raised from the dead to all the world. I was reminded recently that in the Confession of 1967 it states: “Jesus Christ has given the church preaching and teaching, praise and prayer, and Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as means of fulfilling its service to God among [human beings]. These gifts remain, but the church is obliged to change the forms of its service in ways appropriate to different generations and cultures.” And in the next paragraph, we read that while the Gospel message comes to human beings in “particular situations,” nonetheless, “effective preaching, teaching, and personal witness require disciplined study of both the Bible and the contemporary world.” (BOC 9.48-49)


I can say with confidence that the participants in CGPI will receive sold training for effective preaching and teaching and will engage in disciplined study of both the Bible and the contemporary world. But I have been wondering what new “forms of service” the Holy Spirit might be leading us to consider as the generations and cultures of our country and our churches continue to change?


One of the things that I have continued to grow in excitement about with the CGPI is the opportunity it affords for particular congregations with their distinct needs to have a greater role in identifying and raising up their own leaders and preachers. Our present model of theological education, sending people to far away and expensive seminaries and divinity schools is increasingly, and for a plethora of reasons including financial, no longer feasible. And this is especially so for the many smaller churches. Theological education and our forms of ministry are going to have to change quickly and perhaps drastically. (For what it is worth, as a holder of three advanced theological degrees from expensive far away ivory towers, I am well aware of what will potentially be lost as well. Moreover, this is not an either-or matter but a both-and.)


CGPI provides us an opportunity to explore and experiment with new models of education for new forms of ministry in our ever-changing world. In particular, it gives smaller congregations the opportunity to have a more robust role in determining the forms their ministry will take. How so? By giving these particular congregations, with their distinct needs, the opportunity to identify emergent preachers in their own midst and to get them the training they need to be effective preachers. We have many churches, from rural communities in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to inner city Detroit or Cincinnati, which are already served predominantly by “lay” preachers from among their own members. We can now provide for these preachers to be trained for effective preaching with disciplined study of the Bible and contemporary culture without the difficulties and expenses of traditional theological education. 


So, if you know of anyone who is presently already preaching in their congregations who would benefit from further formation of their preaching skills and disciplined study of the Bible and culture, please send them my way!

Happy Easter!


Dr. Matthew J. Aragon Bruce



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