In the beginning, there were T-Shirts—bright aqua-colored T-Shirts that read “This Is What a Preacher Looks Like.” In 2008, Baptist Women in Ministry produced and distributed the T-Shirts during the celebration of the organization’s twenty-fifth anniversary, and I must say the T-Shirts were a big hit. They were colorful and fun and stirred up conversation.

Baptist women bought them and proudly wore them. Mothers purchased them for their daughters. Seminarians were seen wearing them in class. Husbands ordered them as gifts for their wives. Church leaders gave them to women who preached in their churches. And several fathers inquired as to whether the T-Shirts came in toddler sizes. The T-Shirts were a hit.

I have pondered a bit about why the T-Shirts were so popular, and one conclusion is that a simple cotton T-Shirt let us as Baptists “say” out loud and embrace the truth that there is not ONE look for Baptist preachers. Baptist preachers are a diverse lot. We have many looks, many preaching styles, and many voices.

We are young and . . . older. Our voices are soft and loud, prophetic and pastoral, humorous and sincere. We are veteran preachers and new to the preaching world. We live in all geographic regions in the United States and in places all around the world. We come from a variety of Baptist faith traditions, and we hold theological positions across the entire spectrum. We serve on church staffs, in campus ministry, as denominational leaders, and as theological educators.  We are African American, Asian, Latina, and Caucasian. We are sisters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and friends. When it comes to “This Is What a Preacher Looks Like” T-Shirts, one size surely does not fit all. Baptist women preachers are truly a diverse group.

Late in 2008, Smyth & Helwys editor, Keith Gammons, contacted me about putting together a collection of sermons using “This is What a Preacher Looks Like” as the title. As I gathered sermons from Baptist women preachers and began reading them, my conclusion about the popularity of the T-Shirts was confirmed.

As I read sermons and more sermons and then even more sermons by Baptist women preachers, I was struck by the great variety in those sermons. We surely do not all sound alike. Some of us are narrative preachers. Others are expository preachers. Still others tend toward being topical preachers. We preach from different places in life. We each bring our own voice, our own story, our own experience to our sermons.

In the midst of this collecting and reading of sermons, I finally realized that what a preacher looks like is—all of us. Only when we expand our vision and embrace the truth that all of us who are followers of Christ are preachers of the gospel—only then will we know what a preacher looks like. Only when we hear all the voices—women and men, young and old, black and white and brown, conservative, moderate, and liberal, strong and weak, seasoned and inexperienced—will we have a clear picture of what it means to be a preacher of the gospel. Indeed, only then we will know what the body of Christ looks like. To be fully the body of Christ, we need each other. We need to hear each other.

The book, This is What a Preacher Looks Like: Sermons by Baptist Women in Ministry is now available from Smyth & Helwys. And the T-Shirt is still available too!