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Clynt Reddy S’17 employs “holy frustration” in crafting a great sermon

Clynt Reddy S’17

“God landed us in the frozen tundra.”

That’s how Clynt Reddy S’17 describes the time his family moved to Minnesota from South Africa in 1996, just as the apartheid system was coming to a close.

The family was Hindu until Reddy’s grandmother converted years ago. They had just 11 suitcases and knew almost no one in the United States when they first moved to accept a new job. Local Christians became their welcoming party, getting the family plugged in and acclimated to their new home.

“It was with them that we experienced our first Thanksgiving, our first snowfall, all those firsts,” Reddy says. While the memories are mostly fun ones, Reddy also says those early years helped form his understanding and appreciation of the power of the local church.

He attended the University of Minnesota and planned to go into medicine, but feeling a growing pull toward vocational ministry, Reddy took a year-long ministry internship in Washington, D.C. in 2012. In a new city and in a brand new marriage, Reddy and his wife, Annie, faced major decisions about whether to go all-in with a new life path, too.

"We had this gravitational pull back to the Twin Cities, which is unsurprising since my wife is a home-grown Minnesotan,” Reddy says with a laugh. And even on the East Coast, the name Bethel Seminary kept coming up among friends and coworkers. “I was intrigued by the ‘three centers’ approach to learning at Bethel Seminary, because I really wanted a rounded experience.”

So they moved back to the Midwest, and like other Bethel Seminary students, Reddy ran the gamut of academic experiences with courses in the seminary’s Center for Biblical and Theological Foundations, Center for Spiritual and Personal Formation, and Center for Transformational Leadership. He also dabbled in every possible class format, taking online, in-person—mostly evening—and hybrid courses that best fit his schedule and course offerings. The biggest thing for him, in every format, was the opportunity to learn in community, just like in the church bodies he had come to love so much.

“Even in an online setting, you’re never in a vacuum or isolation,” Reddy says of the personal, tight-knit seminary setting. “Plus, even though it’s an evangelical seminary, there’s a huge diversity of student thoughts, perspectives, and socioeconomic statuses. The faculty do a great job not pitting people against each other…they’re not wishy-washy either, but they celebrate diversity as we all come to understand who God is. We can learn from one another even—especially—if we disagree.”

In spring 2017, as Reddy neared the end of his Master of Divinity program, he took the opportunity to enter Bethel Seminary’s 50th annual Omark Preaching Competition. He and fellow students would develop a sermon on an assigned, broad topic—justice—and get feedback from faculty and peers. Three finalists would preach in Bethel’s undergraduate Chapel and receive cash prizes and the chance to speak before a local congregation.

Reddy saw it as a great opportunity to synthesize the lessons and tactics he’d picked up during his years of seminary. “I thought back to my first-ever preaching class, which was so helpful in reminding me how important it is to connect with the audience, the power of story and being relatable,” Reddy says. “I can lean intellectual at times—focusing on word studies, history, context—but if I don’t connect in relationship, those points won’t hit as strong.”

For Reddy, step one in the sermon preparation process is often gleaning inspiration from the great social thinkers who’ve gone before him such as Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and Martin Luther King Jr. He also leans on Bethel’s libraries and online resources—including the Logos Bible software that’s free for new seminary students—and the network of expert theologians at the seminary.

“My sermon developed so much from round one to round two,” Reddy says, recalling the panel of professors who reviewed and critiqued his work early in the process. “Plus, that kind of a process opens great doors to be okay with feedback—that can sometimes be tough.”

From there, he let a kind of holy frustration take over, and the heartfelt, inspiring sermon won him a spot in the top three.

“There’s an angst and a discomfort with the injustice in our world—God has it, too,” says Reddy, who focused on Amos 5 for his talk, Roars and Whispers. “In that passage, God is very upset with religious shortcutting. I found myself asking ‘how do we, as the church, connect with the marginalized?’ We can’t hide behind our stained glass windows and think everything is fine.”

He says seminary is a great place to learn about Scripture, but that spiritual knowledge has been a fringe benefit of being in community with others and coming to terms with issues and injustices, including the ones he experienced as a kid. “It’s a transformational environment, even for people who may not end up in ministry long term. It’s a great place to discern a call,” Reddy says. “I’ve had a tremendous experience at Bethel, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow and discern in a place like this. Omark has been a fun way to close out such a great experience.” 

Clynt and Annie Reddy live in Burnsville with their toddler son, Laker. Clynt serves as connections director at River Valley Church, an eight-site church based in the south metro. There he helps shape adult ministry strategy for the multisite church. He loves ministry, academia, and the marketplace, though—so he’d love to see those passions collide more strongly some day in his future.

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