History of the Florida School of Preaching
By Jackie M. Stearsman

The Florida School of Preaching began in September 1969 as a work of the South Florida Avenue church of Christ in Lakeland with support from other churches and individuals. The school continues to use spacious facilities provided by this church. In June 1972 the school was issued a charter from the State.


[The following is a brief excerpt of the chapter by B.C. Carr (1918-2001) that was included in the 1999 Anniversary Lectureship Book.]

How It Began

The school began through a gradual process from the thinking of several people. One of the first to suggest that Florida needed such a school was B. C. Goodpasture, then editor of the Gospel Advocate. Brother Goodpasture was in a gospel meeting in Winter Haven in the late sixties. We attended most every service and several times would go out for refreshments afterwards. We had known the Goodpastures in Nashville before moving to Lakeland in 1964. On one occasion brother Goodpasture talked about how we had lost Florida College to the "anti" brethren, which left us without a school in the whole state that would train preachers. He had been working with the Nashville School of Preaching and was well pleased with the results. He challenged me to start a school of preaching in Lakeland to fill a void that he felt was urgent.

Potential

Shortly after talking with brother Goodpasture, I talked with G. K. Wallace who had retired from Freed-Hardeman College, and had moved back to Temple Terrace. His sentiments paralleled those of brother Goodpasture. Brother Wallace thought we had much to offer in the Florida climate. He could visualize people retiring who could come to Florida to help in this work. We talked with the elders of South Florida Avenue about the possibility of starting a night school in Lakeland. They were favorable to the ideas and would give permission to let us use the building. We felt there were men with potential to preach and serve as elders or personal workers who would be eager to receive training. From the beginning it was decided there would be no charge for tuition. Students would buy their own books and attend classes which would enable them to be better servants of the Lord.

September 1969

With these thoughts in mind we would begin working toward starting a school in September 1969. We had to work toward publicizing this effort so that students would be present for the first sessions. We studied catalogs from other schools of preaching and decided upon a curriculum for a night school only. The first year we would offer courses in Genesis and Exodus, English Grammar, The Life of Christ, Speech, Denominational Dogmas, The Local Church, Prophetic Books, Basic English, Public Speaking, The Book of Acts, Topical Studies and The Work of the Local Church.

Night Classes

Classes would be taught on Monday, Thursday and Friday nights from 7 to 9 o'clock. Two classes would be taught each night.

First Faculty

The first faculty was to be B.C. Carr, who was the preacher at South Florida Avenue, G. K. Wallace, Vice President Emeritus of Freed-Hardeman College, J. H. Blackman, Jr., who preached in Bartow, and James Jordan, minister and educator from Tampa.

Advancement

With these plans in place we began to advertise the school. The first public announcement was made at the Mango Church where G. K. Wallace was preaching in a meeting. Many preachers meetings were attended where students were urged to enroll. Letters were written and every means available was put to use to get the word out. At a later date, B. C. Goodpasture came to Tampa for an area wide dinner for preachers and elders where he promoted the school. He also ran a front page picture in the Gospel Advocate to help us get before the brotherhood.

Numbers

In early September 1969 the school began its teaching program. We began with 30 students and soon the enrollment was 33. Two weeks after the beginning of school the Lakeland Ledger sent Jim Fisher to make a report of our work. The Ledger published a full page article with pictures on September 27, 1969. This helped the Lakeland area to know about the school.