Back in 1998 and 1999 Pastor Leo Barbee and the congregation at Victory Bible Church in Lawrence made an investment in me by paying my way to attend the E.K. Bailey Conference on Expository Preaching in Dallas. At the time I was a bi-vocational prison chaplain and youth pastor, and the conference was a great blessing for me. I learned more about preaching from it than I did from seminary (and I say that not to knock my seminary but to lift up the conference).
I was certified by E.K. Bailey Ministries in 2001 and returned a for few years afterwards, but less regularly. The last one I attended was in 2007, but this year I felt it was important for me to return -- not just for my sake but because it was our turn to make the investment. Tagan Trahoon has shown genuine Christian commitment, oratorical talent, an eagerness to share the word, and a willingness to go deeper. I knew this conference would be a good investment in him, and I wasn't disappointed.
The conference was founded by Dr. E.K. Bailey, a Baptist pastor from Dallas. He died in 2003. In my office I have a picture of myself with him and his wife Sheila, in the year I was certified. Sheila spoke briefly at the conference, but the mantle of leadership has been handed over to Bailey's successor, Pastor Bryan Carter. Carter was Bailey's hand-picked successor and has emerged as a leader in his own right, taking the conference to the next level. Tagan and I had a chance to meet him. Here is Tagan with Dr. Carter...
The conference featured a mixture of powerful preaching, lectures on homiletical practices, worship and praise, and a host of other things. The theme was on the preaching of the gospels.
One surprise when I arrived: I think they wanted to make a Texan out of me. We straightened out the nametag and had a good laugh...
A highlight of the conference is always the "Living Legend Luncheon" where they give honor to a legend of preaching. This year's designee was the Rev. Clay Evans of Chicago. He is renowned in part for defying a ban against Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s, and inviting him to preach in his pulpit despite an order from the Chicago Mayor not to do so. He is 90 today and was unable to attend for health reasons, so his sister received the award in his stead.
I was also blessed to be a part of a workshop on preaching on the death of Christ with Dr. Joel Gregory, who today is the Professor of Homiletics with the Truett Seminary at Baylor University.
Part of the blessing of this conference is fellowship. Tagan told me he added about ten new facebook friends from people he met here, including several ministry leaders. I was also blessed to connect with Christian leaders I've known and/or worked with before -- including one fellow I went to grade school with many years ago...
It was a great blessing to be back at the conference. It energized us for preaching in this next year. God has good things in store as we proclaim His word. I'm grateful to our church family for allowing us to attend.