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At Concord Church in southern Dallas, pastors gather for inspiration, fellowship

E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference founded by legendary Black pastor is in its 26th year of bringing church leaders together.

Robert Smith
Robert Smith, seminary teacher at Beeson Divinity School, takes notes during a panel discussion on Jesus and Culture as part of the E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference at Concord Church Dallas on Tuesday.(Liesbeth Powers / Staff Photographer)

By Sriya Reddy

The worship center inside Concord Church in southern Dallas was filled with cheers and applause on the second day of the E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference on Tuesday.

About 1,200 pastors and leaders from across the country are attending the three-day conference, which addresses topics such as churches in a post-COVID world, reaching Gen Z and millennials, and social justice issues.

Concord Church has hosted the conference since 1996, and it’s named for church founder E.K. Bailey, who was an influential leader in the Black church until his death in 2003.

Now in its 26th year, the conference touches on themes that are relevant to today’s world, said Cokiesha Bailey Robinson, daughter of E.K Bailey.

“I like that in recent years, the conference has developed a social justice lens,” she said. “I think it’s very important in a polarized society that we teach biblically and that justice is biblical.”

Robinson, a preacher and associate dean at Grace College in Indiana, was one of the speakers and workshop leaders at the event. She said her father left her an important legacy.

“As an adult raised by him, reared by him, and a leader that worked for him, he was considered by the grace of God as an elder,” Robinson said. “He was deemed by some as a prince of preachers and a groundbreaker for expository preaching in African American communities.”

C. Dennis Williams, pastor at Smith Chapel AME Church in Oak Cliff, has been attending the conference for years. He’s interested in learning how to teach the gospel to younger generations through social media.

“Millennials were born into a world that was full of social media, computers and phones,” Williams said. “How do we use what they are used to to make the gospels more attractive? So for me, I’m interested in how to merge the culture of Jesus and the younger folks.”

Williams said during the coronavirus pandemic his church had to pivot and create an online presence through virtual worship and social media.

“Now, we’ve opened back up. We’ve been open for about a year and a half, and people came back slowly, but they’re coming back stronger,” he said.

Trenton Green, a pastor in Bastrop, La., is also hoping to learn more about navigating his church in the post-COVID environment. Green said that he is at the conference to be enlightened and encouraged.

“I want to be made better for my community so I can minister more effectively,” Green said. “It’s been a rough couple of years since COVID, so I’m getting encouraged and refreshed and recharged so I can go and serve them better.”

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