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In search of faithful expositors...
March 22, 2004
By Jeff Robinson
Stephen Olford, founder of the Institute for Biblical Preaching in Memphis, Tenn., leads the Southern Seminary chapel audience in prayer. The 85 year-old preacher was one of the many prominent speakers during the National Conference on Preaching hosted by Southern March 8-11. Photo by David Merrifield
Is there a future for expository preaching? Speakers at the 14th annual National Conference on Preaching held at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary March 8-11 grappled with this vital question and set forth a positive answer to the question of expository preaching’s future.
Conference speakers included such noted ministers as Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., Covenant Theological Seminary President Bryan Chappell, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel L. Akin, Robert Smith of Beeson Divinity School, Ralph West, pastor of The Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas, and Stephen Olford, founder of the Institute for Biblical Preaching in Memphis, Tenn.
“I am blessed every year by the opportunity to hear dynamic, faithful proclaimers of the Word of God,” said conference founder Mike Duduit. “It touches my heart and stirs me to have an opportunity to hear some of the great preachers year after year who come and participate in this event.
“They are here because they love preaching and they love pastors. To have an opportunity to fellowship with some of these great preachers is a real joy.”
In his address to open the conference, Mohler said faithfully preaching the Bible is a stewardship central to the preacher’s calling.
“We should understand the task of the preacher as the task of fulfilling the stewardship, the assignment of being a servant of the Word,” Mohler said. “[A preacher is] a servant to inscripturated revelation, a revelation that defines itself as living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.
“[It is] a revelation that has its authority because of the Revealer, the one true and living God. Thus, the authority of preaching is the authority of the Word. The task of preaching is well-defined. The office is well-described as that of being a servant of the Word.”
The conference was sponsored by Preaching Magazine founded by Duduit, a 1979 graduate of Southern Seminary. This was the first time it had been held at Southern.
Duduit founded the magazine in 1985, and during its early years, Mohler served as the publication’s first associate editor. Mohler’s involvement with the magazine continues as he annually contributes a list of “must read” books for pastors. Duduit served on Southern’s staff in various capacities including director of public relations from 1993-96.
More than 350 people attended the conference, a new record for the annual event, Duduit said. This total included nearly 100 students from Southern Seminary, he said.
“There is a great resurgence of interest in expository preaching,” Duduit said. “I think there are a lot of people who are interested in talking about that issue and [who] want to think about what expository preaching looks like in the 21st century. Plus, Southern is a beautiful setting for the conference. The folks who have attended have been very positive about the seminary campus and the seminary community.”
Larry Alvey, pastor of Liberty Christian Church in Paoli, Ind., attended the conference for the first time. Alvey said his participation in the event will enable him to meet the needs of his congregation better.
“As an overall whole, it has been very enlightening,” Alvey said. “The preaching has been excellent. It kind of gives us a goal to come up to their level because these men have preached for years.
“I think this will help me meet the needs of the people and to be more sensitive to their needs, to help them with the storms that are going on in their lives. We all have some kind of storm in our lives, or if we don’t one is coming. I think this conference will help me to help them through those storms better.”
This was the second time Tonie Bradford, pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in East St. Louis, Ill., had attended the conference. Bradford is a first-year master of divinity student at Covenant Theological Seminary in pastoral care and says the conference has the potential to help even veteran preachers.
“I was very impressed,” he said. “The caliber of speakers they keep bringing in year after year is very impressive and is helpful for seminary students, as well as those who have finished their schooling and have been preaching for a while.”