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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Young preachers offered chance to polish skillscomment (0)

October 5, 2006

By Sondra Washington


Heritage Baptist Church, Pell City, is proof that churches don’t need large congregations or vast resources to fulfill the Great Commission and make an impact for the Kingdom.

As the 150-member St. Clair Baptist Association congregation looked for ministry opportunities that matched its resources, church leaders recognized the need for pastors in many Alabama Baptist churches and decided to do something about it.

“Heritage felt one possible reason for these vacancies was that young men who had acknowledged God’s call on their lives were not afforded many opportunities to preach and, therefore, unable to gain valuable experience,” Pastor Joey Rich said. “Instead some teach Sunday School or discipleship classes, but over a period of time, their enthusiasm would become cold, and they would never fulfill the purpose to which God had called them.”

To meet this need for opportunity and experience, the church developed Praxis, a training ministry for new ministers that allows them to practice preaching.

Following the definition of Praxis, which means “practice,” the 1-year-old ministry offers the chance to hone skills and gifts through study, instruction, evaluation and preaching in the setting of an actual church service, according to Rich.

He added that the purpose of Praxis is for participants to “grow spiritually, learn by doing, develop lifelong relationships (with each other) and multiply their impact by establishing Praxis in other churches.”

Praxis has no more than two participants at a time, and each one must acknowledge a call upon his life to preach the gospel and be recommended by his pastor.

Each participant is required to prepare and preach a sermon at least once a month at Heritage and to listen and critique the other participant’s sermons on evaluation forms. The church’s pastor and three members of the congregation also fill out these forms.

Praxis participants can take part in the program for up to two years, but if one is called to serve a church, then his participation ends because he has accomplished the ultimate goal.

Scott Cosper, pastor of First Baptist Church, Shelby, attended Praxis for seven months before accepting his position at the Shelby Baptist Association church.

“Because of Praxis, when I was called to this church, I was more prepared to preach the Word of God. It’s a very mind-numbing thing to get up before a crowd and speak on behalf of God,” he said. “(Praxis) gave me an opportunity to preach on a regular basis, and I could get feedback so I could improve. It made you consciously work on how you were presenting the message. … It was a huge benefit to me.”

Such a benefit, in fact, that Cosper hopes to start a similar program at First, Shelby.

Ben Chandler, director of missions for St. Clair Association, said he believes that other churches should also consider this kind of mentoring ministry. “Any time that an experienced pastor can mentor a young pastor who has surrendered his total life to the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be good to come out of that experience,” he said.

In addition to assisting young pastors, Chandler believes this ministry can help churches stay focused on the next generation. “We are in a great generational shift in ministry,” he said. “This type of ministry to the newly called-out ones is essential if we are going to maintain the momentum that exists within the Christian movement today.”

Rich said he believes Praxis has blessed Heritage members as much as its participants.

“It has been encouraging to have larger churches like Moody First Baptist and Pastor David Spray support and recommend individuals for Praxis,” he said. “Because of Praxis, Heritage has had the honor of hearing enthusiastic messages and personally seeing what God is doing in and through the lives of young men.”

So far only Cosper and Shane Latta, who was recently named associate pastor of Heritage, have gone through the Praxis program.

For more information about Praxis, call Rich at 205-410-0794.

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