Lee University Receives $1.24 Million Lilly Grant

Lee University has received a grant of $1.24 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Center for Exemplary Pentecostal Preaching within the School of Theology & Ministry (STM).

“We are so grateful to Lilly Endowment for this generous investment in our project,” said Dr. Mark Walker, president of Lee University. “It will enhance not only our ability to serve our students, but also our ability to provide educational support to the Church of God and other Pentecostal denominations.”

The program is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages, and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully.

The Center for Exemplary Pentecostal Preaching is the core of Lee’s proposed Compelling Preaching Initiative program that will cultivate compelling and transformative preaching among aspiring and active Pentecostal preachers.

According to Dr. Bob Bayles, associate dean of the School of Theology & Ministry, the Center will serve as the focal point of all program activities. The initiative will include three primary components: an undergraduate 18-hour minor in homiletics, an Institute for Exemplary Preaching, and LeePreach Forum, which is the Center’s website and integrated educational platform. The program will include campus-based activities for ministerial students, institute cohorts of participants and mentors, workshops, sermon construction webinars with peer feedback, preaching resources, and an annual Exemplary Preaching Conference.

The program will focus training in four areas: cultural competency, biblical and hermeneutical competency, technological competency, and spiritual formation and soul care.

The new program’s target audiences are English-speaking, mono- or bilingual, active preachers from the Church of God and aspiring preachers studying in Lee’s STM. With the understanding that the Church of God Hispanic constituency is growing, Lee plans to begin translating written materials in the program’s fourth year of implementation.

The committee members for this program are Dr. Julie Martinez, Dr. Daniel Glover, Dr. Steve Hall, Vanessa Hammond, Vicki Dennison, Blake Moates, Dr. Terry Cross, and Bayles, who chaired the project development. Others making significant contributions to the program’s execution are Dr. Ruth Wienk as the project evaluator; Nate Tucker, who will design the LeePreach website; and Dr. Christine Williams, who will help coordinate the digital media ministry area.

Lee University is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through this competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.

“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.

“We know from experience with Lilly Endowment what a significant boost this generous funding can bring to Lee programs and the people we serve,” said Vanessa Hammond, director of grants and foundation relations. “We believe that it will be the same for this grant and that the funding will expand the types of resources and training that Lee is able to offer aspiring and active preachers for years to come.”

According to Hammond, Lilly previously funded Lee’s Poiema Project, for the theological exploration of vocation, representing over 2 million dollars of investment into an initiative that still constitutes a vital aspect of Lee’s institutional identity and mission.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.

(Source: Lee University)

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