By Trevor DeVage
I never dreamed preaching is what I would be doing. I had my sights set on living out the “American dream.” I was going to be an attorney. I had prepped my entire adolescent life for that path. In high school, I worked for an attorney’s office, was on the mock trial team at our school, and watched Law and Order and Matlock. Preaching was never on my radar—it just couldn’t generate income the way busting criminals would.
But something happened during my junior year of high school. I was visiting a friend in the hospital and I was sharing my plans to attend college and go into law. As we talked, a little lady who was cleaning the room interrupted.
“Excuse me, Sir,” she said. “I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but you are not going to be a lawyer.”
I laughed to myself. She didn’t know me.
“Oh really!” I replied. “Then what am I going to be?”
She looked me squarely in the eye and said with a gentle yet firm tone, “You’re going to be a preacher.”
I burst into laughter, full on, right into her face. Little did I know she was right.
A year later, I found myself in the middle of a cornfield in central Illinois, a freshman at what was then known as Lincoln Christian College—a far cry from law school. The plan was to get some Bible base, then transfer out and get my law degree. Four years later I graduated with a degree in preaching and a minor in youth ministry.
While at LCC, I interned with Mike Baker at Eastview Christian Church in Normal, Illinois. He preached to one of the largest youth ministries in our brotherhood at the time. He encouraged my gifts in preaching and communicating. He took time to develop me as a young preacher.
I will never forget his words: “Whether the crowd is 10 or 10,000, always be willing to preach.” In other words, every crowd needs Jesus.
When asked, I jumped at the opportunity to be on Baker’s NACC executive committee for 2015. As we kicked around the theme of “We Speak,” we wanted to find a way to reach the next generation of preachers. We began to dream of a preacher search much like the popular TV show The Voice. What if we combed the United States looking for the next generation of up-and-coming preachers? What if we opened it up to juniors in high school through seniors in college? What if we were to team them up with mentors and coaches? What if we were to give them an opportunity to preach to well over 10,000 people?
We call it the Next Gen Preacher Search. After processing numerous sermon videos submitted online, we invited 40 finalists for a two-day intensive preaching boot camp, complete with mentoring and feedback. From that 40, four will be chosen to speak on the main stage at this summer’s NACC in Cincinnati, Ohio.
We don’t know what God has in mind for the destiny of those high school and college students who have taken part in the search, but we know the One who knows their future. And I do know this: whether the crowd is 10 or 10,000, these young people must be ready to preach the gospel.
Trevor DeVage serves as lead pastor with Christ’s Church at Mason (Ohio). He has traveled and preached the gospel in 10 countries on three continents.