WAXAHACHIE — Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) hosted its first preaching festival to provide students with an opportunity to gain experience behind the pulpit.

On March 3, students pursuing ministry were given the floor to put into practice the lessons and training they received in the classroom. Participants chose a time slot out of a three hour period to preach a sermon on a topic of their choosing. They preached in front of faculty members from the Bible and Church Ministries department along with their fellow classmates. Following the sermon, the faculty gave constructive feedback over the content and delivery of the message.

Dr. Teresa Blakney, Instructor in the Bible and Church Ministries department, was one of the faculty members that provided feedback to students. “The experience of evaluating the young preachers left me feeling proud of the quality and depth of many of the sermons and humbled at the talent and potential represented in these SAGU students,” she said.

Dr. Jeff Magruder, Professor of Bible and Church Ministries, coordinated the event and was also one of the faculty members who provided feedback to students. “The students did a really good job and I think they also got a clear sense of what their strengths were which will help them continue to develop and grow,” Dr. Magruder said.

The festival was inspired by the national and regional preaching festivals held by the Academy of Preachers (AoP). The AoP is an ecumenical organization that seeks to identify, network and supports young people in their call to gospel preaching. The organization’s festivals are a celebration of preachers from different denominations and they also provide opportunities for constructive criticism for aspiring preachers. For the past few years, SAGU students have been able to participate in these festivals. However, a number of students have been unable to travel to this festival.

Dr. Magruder met with Andre Grey, an SAGU student who participated in the Academy of Preachers Festival at both the national and regional level. They began brainstorming different ways to coordinate a festival that would offer a similar experience for students unable to attend the AoP festival.

“The idea is to celebrate their calling and gifting along with providing constructive feedback regarding their skills as communicators,” Dr. Magruder says. “The festival provides a way for students to preach in a non-competitive way.”

Sermon topics were open-ended for this year’s festival. However, Dr. Magruder says that there may be a specific theme for future festivals.

“It was an amazing success,” Dr. Magruder says. “It was better than I could have imagined. A challenge that a lot of young preachers face is they do not get opportunities to preach in their local church. We are constantly looking for opportunities for students to put into practice what they are learning.”

Ryan Hughes was one of the students who was able to participate in the event. “I was excited about an opportunity to preach in a safe environment,” he said. “No competition, no prizes, only iron sharpening iron. From the start, it was never about the best preacher. It was centered on growth and development.”

Dr. Magruder said that he is excited moving forward with the festival and he expects for the festival to be an annual event.

To learn more about the Academy of Preachers, visit www.academyofpreachers.net.