Have you ever stood in front of a congregation to preach a sermon? If so, you have a good idea of how difficult that can be. You face the pressure of putting a sermon together and having a panorama of eyes looking at you as you attempt to share a message that is of eternal value. Anxiety, fear and nervousness are just a few of the common experiences for most preachers, especially those with little-to-no experience. Now, imagine doing that at the age of 11–14! That is exactly what eight Pathfinders did though on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Salem Central Church as they participated in the Oregon Pathfinder Preaching Challenge.
These eight Pathfinders, representing seven different churches, each shared a message surrounding the theme, Parables of Jesus. They each had up to 15 minutes for their sermon and presented to a congregation composed of parents, Pathfinders, teachers and local church members. In the crowd, three pastors served as the pastoral advisory panel for the event: Nate Hellman, Belinda Rodriguez and Ben Barcenas. In preparation, each Pathfinder worked with their pastor, parent or Pathfinder director. Some even joined Ben Lundquist for an online, one-hour preaching class. They were ready to execute the challenge!
After each message was presented, all three pastors kindly shared feedback on areas of strengths and areas where improvement could take place. Additionally, each pastor kept track and scored the Pathfinders on eight predetermined parameters for each sermon. At the completion of the eight presentations, the pastors determined the top three Pathfinders based on their scoring and personal judgment. All presenters were called up on the stage and presented a special certificate of participation and a $25 gift card.
After congratulating each preacher and recognizing their courage and effort, Rodriguez came on stage and announced the top three finalists, each being awarded a placement ribbon. The top three placements were: Emmanuel Vazquez of Salem Spanish Church, Isaac Boettner of Redmond Church and Jean Cifuentes of Vancouver Spanish Church.
Our prayer is that this opportunity will serve not just as a stepping-stone for each Pathfinder to preach the word of God more regularly, but also as encouragement to others, young and old, to be willing to publicly share God’s word.