The Academy of Preachers and Zac Bailes; Kiss Your Chicken

Published: February 2, 2012

As a first year student, I have been taking advantage of the new community the School of Divinity has to offer. Perhaps some of the most enjoying times I have spent with the new people I have met were last semester’s Co-Rec Intramural Flag Football run to the championship game and this January’s trip to Appalachia for the Fierce Landscapes course. There is something about playing flag football on a division one field and riding for hours around mountain roads in 15 passenger vans that just seems right. However, amidst all the newness my first year has meant, I must acknowledge that my being in the Divinity School is due in large part to a few older students who encouraged my arrival.

I came to this community, luckily, with a few good friends already made. One of these friends is Zac Bailes. I have known Zac for five years now and have lived either with him or his younger brother Mac for each of those past five years. Since Zac and I hang out, I wonder from time to time what he is up to and where he wanders. This January, Zac spent the 2nd through the 5th in Louisville, Kentucky at the Academy of Preachers Festival of Young Preachers. I took the time to sit down with him and ask him some questions about this endeavor, because it is a good example of the School of Divinity enabling its students for success in the strange place that is the real world.

The Academy of Preachers, an ecumenical initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment, is “energized by the conviction that gospel preaching is a vocation of public and social significance, a calling worthy of our very best and brightest young people”.*

Essentially the initiative works to bring young people together to grow and learn by public practice of preaching. When I asked Zac why he felt his involvement with the Academy’s Festival of Young preachers, he was adamant about its significance both to his development and the vitality of the Church saying, “The Academy of Preachers provides training and opportunities for young men and women to preach and dig deeper into preaching.”

“For a Church that is aging,” he continued, “it is important that young people from varied denominations learn from each other and develop their preaching ability so that the Church can reclaim a prophetic voice.”

Certainly Zac himself has benefitted from the experience and he believes the value is easily identifiable beyond his own person. Asked why he has spent so much time at the Festival of Young Preachers, now three years, his response was clear, saying, “Preachers hold much power to illuminate worlds of imagination and dream alongside congregations.”

“Beyond developing my preaching skills,” Zac said, “I have found the Academy an empowering way to find fellow agents of justice, and to know that God isn’t done with humanity.”

The Academy of Preachers, providing a platform for young people of many denominations to find Christian voice concerned for issues of justice, is a beacon of hope in a world of constant change and turbulence.

Asked how the experience has equipped Zac for the future, he replied, “I have loved preaching ever since I was young. When I was 5 or 6 I would go get tapes of Martin Luther King Jr. and listen to him, and I knew I wanted to do what he did. I wanted to be able to inspire people and challenge communities to seek justice. The Academy reminds me of that calling. Though I want to pursue a PhD in Public Policy the Academy has helped me see that doesn’t mean I cannot still preach.”

It is comforting that there are places where Christian agents concerned with public action are given opportunities to grow. Zac’s experience at the School of Divinity has certainly allowed him to be successful on the platform the Academy provides. Perhaps, Zac’s sermons with titles such as “Kiss Your Chicken” will one day reach a larger audience than Wake Forest and the city of Louisville, Kentucky.

*For more information about the Academy of Preachers, visit their website , where information for this entry was taken.

Perry Dixon
First Year