Special project: Sacred Calling
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — “When I grow up, I want to be a preacher.” These words, from 9-year-old Trent Lester, are common in the Myrtle Beach Church of Christ. Their Wednesday night Men of God class trains and encourages males of all ages to publicly share God’s word.
About 20 of the 200-plus member congregation participate in quarterly Sunday evening worship services led by students in the class. They make announcements, read Scripture, lead singing and prayer, present Bible lessons and direct the Lord’s Supper. Several are participating in personal evangelism. In April, 16-year-old Dawson Ice led a school friend to the Lord.
Related: Special project: Sacred Calling
Steven Guy — minister and elder of Myrtle Beach — teaches the Men of God class and takes seriously the responsibility to equip saints for ministry. He has been training men to lead since his first ministry in Yucaipa, Calif. (1975-80) and continued during ministries in Buena Park, Calif. (1980-83); Lancaster, Calif. (1983-1991); Myrtle Beach, S.C. (1991-95); Leoma, Tenn. (1995-1999); Muscle Shoals, Ala. (1999-2004); Booneville, Miss. (2004-08); Nashville, Tenn. (2008-11); and again in Myrtle Beach (2011-present).
“My wife and I believe God sent us to congregations where there were men who wanted and needed to get more involved in ministry,” Guy said. “It is phenomenal to see growth and realized potential in men moving from the pew to the pulpit — or at least finding their niche in ministry.”
Guy’s 1997 doctoral thesis at Harding University Graduate School of Religion, now known as Harding School of Theology, in Memphis, Tenn., was a case study of 42 men in three different Churches of Christ — Lancaster, Leoma and Myrtle Beach — over a 10-year span from 1983 to 1993). The thesis was entitled “Developing Leaders in the Local Congregation through Homiletical Training.”
Some, for the first time, found the courage and know-how to stand before a group. One 80-year-old in Leoma took on the job of directing local nursing home services on Sunday afternoons. Some accepted the challenge of teaching a class for the first time, including a brother with muscular dystrophy who reached his goal of teaching an adult Bible class.
Others accepted full-time congregational responsibilities. Jim Holland, a Lancaster bread truck driver in 1983, took training classes, went on to the Southern California School of Evangelism in Buena Park and then preached for 30 years in Merced, Calif. Roger Richardson and Bill Windham, students in 1993 Myrtle Beach classes, later became deacons and are now serving as elders.
To expand the equipping of saints in Myrtle Beach, the elders established the Myrtle Beach School of Preaching and Biblical Studies in 2015. Its 35 courses include Guy’s basic and advanced “homiletics,” the art of preaching. The 14 weeks of 2-hour videos, with practical assignments, are available online on the MBSPBS tab of the church’s website (myrtlebeachchurchofchrist.org).
Individuals can register, view the videos and complete quizzes and practical assignments. Some have used these practical videos to train men in their congregations. They set up a schedule, such as one hour on Wednesday nights or two hours on Sunday afternoon. Class members watch a video and then apply course material through in-class Scripture reading, prayer, and writing and presenting Bible lessons.
Men who have completed MBSPBS preaching classes have filled vacant pulpits for local congregations that had no preachers or whose preachers were out of town. Two who went into full-time ministry include firefighter Michael Beck and retired military member John Oakes. Beck, with his MBSPBS certificate, became the chaplain for the Myrtle Beach Fire Department. Oakes and his wife are now full-time missionaries in Ecuador.
Some wonder why preaching schools are not graduating more preachers. Perhaps more local congregations need to plant seeds by encouraging young men. They can also equip others to be vocational preachers or at least leaders in worship services and church ministries.
Let us encourage congregations to encourage and train men to lead in as many ways as possible. And perhaps, they will hear more young men like Trent say, “When I grow up, I want to be a preacher.”
CYNTHIA GUY is a member of the Myrtle Beach Church of Christ and director of women’s studies for the Myrtle Beach School of Preaching and Biblical Studies. Reach her at [email protected].
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