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CTS PhD Program Receives Compelling Preaching Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

By January 5, 2023April 26th, 2023No Comments
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Christian Theological Seminary has received a grant of $1,000,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the CTS Compelling Preaching initiative as an extension of the African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric PhD Program.

The CTS Compelling Preaching initiative seeks to help preachers love and improve their preaching by strengthening souls and transforming communities. The program is an extension of the African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric PhD in developing “practitioner-scholars,” learners deeply connected to the church and engaging in scholarship from the perspective of their location in ministry. This three-year initiative empowers preachers to be able to story themselves, to share not just a good sermon, but a deep level of spiritual and personal accountability where the Holy Spirit has revealed the truth of God and they have the homiletical skills to effectively organize and deliver what they have received. The program targets a national audience of preachers from diverse denominations and traditions.

“We are thrilled the CTS Compelling Preaching initiative was selected as a recipient of this groundbreaking grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. It represents another tremendous step that CTS is taking to connect our educational programs to meet the needs of the church on the ground, pulpit, and laity. This program fits squarely into CTS’ mission and specifically the mission for the PhD program: we believe the history, beauty, depth, power, and sheer genius of black preaching can generate a preaching renaissance to revive American Christianity in the 21st century,” said Program Director Rev. Dr. Frank A. Thomas.

The project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. Christian Theological Seminary is one of 32 organizations receiving funding in an invitational round of grants for the initiative, which is designed to help Christian pastors strengthen their abilities to proclaim the gospel in more engaging and effective ways.

“We are excited about the work that these organizations will do to foster and support preaching that better inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion.  “Their programs will serve a significant number of aspiring and current preachers who are working to reach and engage increasingly diverse audiences both within and beyond congregations.”

The Compelling Preaching Initiative is part of the Endowment’s longstanding 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.

About Lilly Endowment 
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic 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. The 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. In addition, 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.


Christian Theological Seminary  (CTS) is a fully-accredited ecumenical graduate school with historic roots in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that offers master and doctoral degree programs to form ministers, counselors, and laity to serve as leaders of the church and the world.

Stephanie Seeger
Communications Department
Christian Theological Seminary


Media Images for the CTS Compelling Preaching Initiative

Christian Theological Seminary – The Compelling Preaching Initiative, PhD Program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric


PhD Program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric Leadership. (from left) Assistant Director Rev. Dr. Courtney Buggs and Director Rev. Dr. Frank A Thomas