“I really want people to come to this conference to see the excellence of the Black church,” says Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen, senior pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. “I also want people, especially preachers, to gain tools and techniques that will enable them to better proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Allen’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the oldest predominantly African American congregation in Madison, along with the Upper House, a center for study and gathering
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be the hosts for the inaugural Midwest Gospel Preaching Summit (Midwest GPS) on October 13-15.
African American scholars and pastors from across the United States will converge at the Upper House in downtown Madison for the Midwest GPS that will equip pastors and ministers with seminary-level training to strengthen leaders in their teaching, preaching, and service to their congregations and local communities.
Rev. Allen explains how it all came together.
“I’ve attended several programs at Upper House and I’m on the community advisory board and I know that they do a lot of great things for our community, so I asked them if they would consider doing something that focuses on the African American Christian community and they agreed to do two projects,” he says.
“So in May, we did a one-day conference, just thinking theologically about these times and what we’re all going through and then they said, ‘Let’s do a three-day conference in the fall.'”
Three nationally known preachers with a passion for training pastors and ministers will be headlining the first-ever Midwest Gospel Preaching Summit including Rev. Dr. Jerry M. Carter Jr., Rev. Dr. Carolyn Ann Knight, and Rev. Dr. George Lewis Parks, Jr.
“We’re bringing in African American scholars to come and teach on preaching for the whole community at an event that will be all-African-American led,” Allen says. “It’s geared towards everyone of all ages. The target goal is to get pastors and preachers to come.”
The theme for the summit is ‘We Preach Christ.’
“We’ll be focusing on the life, death and burial and then the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Rev. Allen says. “So all three speakers will be focusing on that. We will have breakout sessions that will focus on pastors and preachers dealing with burnout. And then we’ll be talking about things like technology in the church and sermon preparation.”
Rev. Allen says that the topic of burnout that many pastors and preachers have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic is an especially important one.
“Because a lot of pastors continued to work and continued to do the things for the church even though the church was not in person, and people were not present,” Allen says. “Statistics are showing that thousands of pastors are walking away from the church. So ultimately, we want to give encouragement to those pastors to hang on in there, to stay with it, to not walk away.
“We want to give them hope, give them some encouragement, but then also give them some techniques and some tools to improve where they are so that they can be better for their church for themselves, for their families and the community,” he adds.
Rev. Allen adds that a big goal of the summit is to help those pastors who wanted to leave ministry due to COVID-19.
“So it’s really focusing on what is the message that we should be giving our people in a time like this with COVID, with inflation, with monkeypox, with racial tensions and with the political anxiety that so many people are dealing with,” he says.
With breakout session leaders, the Midwest Gospel Preaching Summit will instruct attendees on the development, design, and delivery of inspirational preaching and will bring decades of experience in training seminarians, as well as years of service shepherding congregations.
The distinguished keynote speakers for the event are as follows
- Rev. Dr. Jerry M. Carter, Jr., is the 14th pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church of Morristown, NJ, and founder of the How Shall They Hear (HSTH) Preaching Conference.
- Rev. Dr. Carolyn Ann Knight is a former assistant professor of homiletics at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta
- Rev. Dr. George Lewis Parks, Jr., is Senior Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church of Little Rock, AR, and a frequent conference presenter.
“I’ve had a chance to attend several preaching conferences myself, so many of these speakers at this event have attended these conferences, too,” Rev. Allen says. “All of them through their preaching or teaching have had an impact on my life so I wanted to bring them to Madison so they can share that wisdom and knowledge about preaching to preachers in this area to help us out.”
Rev. Allen says that he welcomes any community members that wish to sponsor the pastors or sponsor the conference.
Pastors of all backgrounds and denominations are invited to participate and celebrate the riches of African American preaching, he says. Since it’s the Midwest Gospel Preaching Summit, Rev. Allen is hoping to see people from many different states.
“We are trying to talk to people from everywhere and reach people from all over – definitely Chicago, definitely Indiana, Rockford, Janesville, Beloit, Milwaukee, and Madison …definitely those preachers and people in those areas,” he says.
“I think the fellowship that you will see at this event is very important, too,” he adds. “COVID has pushed us away for a long time and I think there’s an opportunity to bring people together and we can be able to gain wisdom and knowledge from each other about church preaching, and fellowshipping and gathering.”