How do you learn to love and serve God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind? Not by using the conventional ways the world approaches learning. I’m a pastor who’s been to seminary – a very good seminary for which I am grateful and which am happy to support – but I think the Church has become a bit too worldly in the way we train our leaders. Learning to love and serve God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is not merely an academic exercise. It requires the use of all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Discipleship is meant to be holistic, teaching us to love and serve God using relationships, our experience, prayer, worship, mission, service, and the intellect.
This is why I love the World Christian Discipleship Program. It’s a nine-month program designed for recent college graduates who want to learn to follow Jesus in community together. The goal is to prepare them to live as missional Christians in any vocation. Participants study early Church writings, create rules of life as they learn about spiritual formation, and world mission. During this time they’re volunteering in a local church and learning to practice living missionally in their workplaces. Participants also go on a short-term mission trip (international or domestic), giving them a cross-cultural mission experience as part of their missional and spiritual formation. And this isn’t just for people who think they’re called to traditional ministry. It’s open to anyone. The congregation I pastor now has three people participating in it – one’s a nurse, one’s a social worker and future missionary, and one’s a seminary graduate preparing for overseas mission. And I believe that WCD will prepare each of these young women to glorify God wherever he calls them after this.
The biggest reason why I’m excited about WCD, though, is that I’ve experienced the transforming power of its components myself. One of the books participants read is The Philokalia, a collection of monastic writings from the early Church which has completely transformed my own personal discipleship, the way I pray, the way I read scripture, and the way I approach my role as a pastor. In short, writings like this have encouraged me to pursue prayer and holiness in ways that I never before thought possible. And with the way WCD is designed, such powerful material for spiritual formation is connected directly to mission. Participants seek sanctification for the sake of mission in the world. So they read Lesslie Newbigin beside St. Teresa of Avila. They learn to pray without ceasing while working part-time jobs in the neighborhoods where they live. They laugh and cry together and learn from each other what it means to be the Body of Christ.
I’ve spent three years as a church-planter doing bi-vocational ministry, learning what it means to be engaged in mission in a post-Christendom environment. WCD offers both the training that I wish I had when preparing for ministry and the transformation I want members of the congregation I lead today to have. Anyone who wants to be truly transformed by God for the life of the world should consider applying.