Trevecca Awarded $1.25 Million Grant From Lilly Endowment to Develop and Support Preachers

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Trevecca Nazarene University has received a grant of $1.25 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help the university’s school of theology establish the More and Better Preachers Initiative.

The program at the Millard Reed School of Theology and Christian Ministry is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative, which is designed 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 purpose of Trevecca’s More and Better Preachers Initiative is to significantly impact the effectiveness of preaching in the Church of the Nazarene, particularly within the Southeast Field of the Church of the Nazarene. Over the next five years, the program will work to significantly increase both the number and proficiency of preachers in the contexts of church revitalization and church planting; ethnic congregations; and existing traditional congregations.

The program has three primary objectives for raising up more and better preachers in the Southeast Field of the Church of the Nazarene:

Discover and nurture new preaching voices among the middle school and senior high youth, preparing them to preach effectively in all the contexts on the Southeast Field: urban, suburban, rural and small town, house churches, Haitian churches, African American churches, Latino churches and the planting of new churches in these contexts

Develop current and novice adult preaching voices who are particularly equipped to speak into Haitian, African American, Latino, new start and house churches

Deepen current preaching voices who will continue to serve in more traditional contexts, especially smaller (co-vocational) churches

Dr. Michael Jackson headshot“We are excited about the partnerships that will result from this generous grant from Lilly Endowment,” said Dr. Michael Jackson, professor of homiletics and Hebrew Bible at Trevecca and director of the More and Better Preachers Initiative. “As our denomination requires a steady supply of well-trained preachers, this grant will enable our School of Theology and Christian Ministry to partner with the 10 Southeast districts and their leaders for this work. Our aim is to discover, nurture and resource a new generation of compelling preachers. We also aim to develop and deepen seasoned preaching voices in their effectiveness to preach the gospel in this post-Christian era.”

Trevecca 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.  

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.

Trevecca Nazarene University ( is a Christian university in the heart of Nashville focused on preparing students for lives of leadership and service.  Founded in 1901, Trevecca is committed to holistic education that encourages students to grow intellectually, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. In addition to its historic main campus near downtown Nashville, Trevecca offers two other locations across Tennessee, and online classes worldwide. With students from 44 states and 24 countries, Trevecca offers 17 associate degrees, 77 undergraduate majors, 19 master’s programs and 3 doctoral programs as well as specialist and certificate programs. Trevecca has been recognized as a national university by the U.S. News & World Report; as a doctoral university by the Carnegie Foundation; and as the nation’s #3 school for an online doctorate in leadership by Fortune.