by Debbonnaire Kovacs
Laurent Grosvenor preaches at the 2012 Preachapalooza
Churches are full of pastors who tell stories about how God talked them into becoming pastors when their dream was entirely different. Laurent Grosvenor is not one of these people. By six years old, he says, he knew the names of most of the pastors in his region and loved to imitate them and pretend to preach. Like most little boys, young Grosvenor toyed with other career possibilities—fire fighter like his uncle?—but he always came back to preaching. By ten or eleven years old, he had the nickname of Preacher Boy.
Born in Oldham, England, Grosvenor remembers his boyhood as being centered around church life. He went to a teen camp in Wales, where he would spend the late evenings preaching in his tent, imitating the speakers. People came to listen to him, and he says even people who didn’t know him knew about Preacher Boy.
Grosvenor came to the U.S. to attend Oakwood University as an international student. He says it wasn’t easy, but he enjoyed it, worked hard, and made it in four years, graduating with no debt. He credits the “ministry and generosity of people” who helped him get through. Now he has already been called by the South Central Conference, who have sent him to the seminary at Andrews. He is trying to learn all he can there, but looks forward to going back to what is now his home conference.
He has many friends who are pastors or seminary students of other denominations. When he asks what they think of Adventists, the most common answer is, “We just don’t know them. They keep to themselves.” When he was asked to preach at a prestigious Baptist church in New Jersey, one person said, “When we heard you were Adventist, we didn’t know what to expect. I know a couple of Adventists, and they are very closed. They won’t go to anyone else’s church, and they told us we weren’t saved unless we were in their church.”
Grosvenor agrees that often “Adventists have put themselves in a box, isolated themselves. But there’s a new tide, a wave of people, many of them young, who want to work together and stop being isolationist.”
He would know. A couple of years ago, on youtube, he found some sermons posted by young people and was both impressed and intrigued. He followed their links and learned about an organization called Academy of Preachers. He and two Oakwood friends, Richard Martin and Joniel Forsythe, went to the Academy’s 2011 Preachapalooza, a yearly competition for young preachers. In 2012, Grosvenor went again, and this time his own youtube sermon garnered 1237 hits and his preaching at the event placed him in the top ten. [Couldn't make a link work, but to watch his sermon, put Laurent Grosvenor into youtube.]
Grosvenor says the best thing about the event was “meeting new people and making friends from other denominations. They may not share all the same views, but they share a passionate love for Christ. The blood that unites us is greater than the denominations that divide us.”
He added, “A lot of young people are dropping out of churches, but at AoP I see a different story. I think it would be a wonderful idea for our churches and schools to encourage young people to be involved with AoP. I believe young people can reach young people. Like attracts like.”
What, then, is this Academy of Preachers? According to their website, [www.academyofpreachers.net]:
Grosvenor says the AoP is not only for those who feel the call to lifelong, professional pastoring, but reaches out to any young people whose lives may be enriched by the gift of public speaking, and helps them to recognize that they can all be ministers for God, no matter what their lifework is.
Wyndee Holbrook, Lead Gospel Catalyst for AoP, says that many churches and schools use the organization and its events as a discernment. They encourage young people to participate and explore what it means to preach, and in the process, perhaps discover whether they are or are not called by God to this lifework.
When asked what she believes is the main value of AoP, Holbrook said, “A key value of the Academy of Preachers is bringing together the fullness of the body of Christ. It is absolutely a stunning thing to be chatting with a 25-year-old Eastern Orthodox one moment, and a 16-year-old Pentecostal the next.” She added that the young Orthodox was female, and therefore couldn’t be a pastor in her denomination, but that a forward thinking leader in the Orthodox church put out a nationwide youtube challenge to young people of both sexes to post a sermon, and the winner of that challenge was sent to the 2012 Preachapalooza. In fact, the event gains most of its young participants because they saw other young preachers on youtube, and this year there was a prize for the sermon that got the most hits.
“I think it would be a wonderful idea for our churches and schools to encourage young people to be involved with AoP,” Grosvenor says. Not only does he believe it will enrich them and help get them “out of the box” to meet other people who think differently, but he adds, “Young people are finding the church not relevant, so they’re going other places that will fill their needs –what kept me in church is that I was doing something. I was doing ministry.”