I want to talk about a different aspect of my internship that I haven’t spoken much of yet. During this whole year, I’m going through the Men’s Development Program. It’s designed to be an theological intensive, cohort based learning environment to train up men and women in both their doctrine and their ability to effectively minister to the church. This is ran through the Austin Stone Institute, the training and equipping arm of our church.
A cohort based learning environment means that a group of 5 other men plus myself are going through this year of training together. During the large group sessions that are held every Wednesday night, our cohort sits together and uses built in breakout sessions to discuss the content taught each night. It’s been really helpful to workout our theology in this community context; not only is it easier than going at it alone, but it also helps to check your thoughts and concerns with other people.
In addition to our weekly large group meetings, I meet up with two other men weekly as something our church calls Life Transformation Groups. These LTG’s exist for for three primary purposes:
- Hear and Obey – during our LTG time, we’re able to share the truth of God with one another as it applies to each other personally. We speak into each others lives in order to encourage one another in God’s word, and challenge each other to be more confromed to the image of Jesus.
- Repent and Believe – confession of sin and honesty about the weak points in our hearts is essential to spiritual growth. This aspect gives us room to experience God’s grace in light of our sin and failures, and to turn away from those things and believe rightly in God.
- Pray for Non Believers – we spend time to pray for people who don’t know and love Jesus. This sometimes includes praying for our city and nation, but is most often spent praying for the friends and family in our life. We pray for God’s blessing for them, and most importantly for them to believe that Jesus is who he says he is and to follow him.
What I’ve Learned
The most heart changing thing God has taught me so far through MDP is how God reveals himself to the world, and more specifically, to his people. The doctrine of revelation is seen in two ways. General revelation is the knowledge of God’s existence, character, and moral law that are made evident and clear through creation to all humanity. This is what Psalm 19:1-2 speaks to when it says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” God’s special revelation is his own words addressed to specific people, including the words of the Bible. This is to be distinguished from general revelation, which is given to all people generally. This means that God reveals himself and makes himself known through his words to his people, and through his son Jesus (John 1:14). His special revelation comes through his Spirit enabling us to hear his voice and know him (1 Cor. 2:10-13, John 10:24-27).
This beautiful truth has completely changed how I approach reading God’s word. Knowing that it is God who reveals himself to us has given me a lot of freedom to allow him to do what he has promised to do. So, when I approach the bible, I don’t have to worry that I’ll fail at learning what God wants to show me through his word. Instead of carrying that worry, I have been able to more confidently read the bible and expect to be changed by it because God has promised to do that.
What’s Coming Up
Right now we are in a conversation and development phase, where we are asking each church campus what type of counseling training they need for their people. Much of the planning we do from now until the end of this year will be implemented in the Spring.
I’m currently reading through 4 counseling related books in addition to the Systematic Theology and other required coursework for MDP. I have just started working on a short term pastoral counseling training handbook that we want to use to help our pastors counsel and serve our church. Also, I’m collaborating on the development of our core counseling values that drives our whole counseling ministry.
A lot of what I’m working on now is developmental; I’m enjoying this phase of learning and putting that knowledge down on paper, and I’m also looking forward to getting more hands on counseling experience in the coming months.