It’s amazing how fast time flies. ARISE has now graduated its 12th class. That’s over 500 students since we started! It seems like just a few weeks ago we were having orientation for the newly arrived 2013 students on their first day of class. And in a flash it’s all over. As always, this year’s class of students represented several countries from around the world: United States, Canada, Austria, Germany, Venezuela, South Korea and Norway.
Our curriculum continues to morph and change into better things, which is really exciting. We never want to get static in our efforts to communicate the gospel in fresh and compelling ways. As we come to the end of yet another year, we realize that it could be even better. We call the program curriculum, “The Story.” It follows the narrative of Scripture from Pre-Creation to Re-Creation, from Genesis to Revelation, from Eden lost to Eden restored. For three and a half months the students get a big picture of what the gospel is all about and how to share it with others.
But the program isn’t merely about sitting in a classroom, it’s about encountering real people and seeing the gospel intersect with their lives. That’s where community outreach comes in. Throughout the program, the students participate in about 200 hours of outreach. It’s an opportunity for them to put to use the things they learn in the classroom. It’s one thing to learn information in class but the real experience is sharing it with others. Outreach this year included meeting people house to house, conducting in-home Bible studies, feeding the homeless, visiting church members, and ministering at a senior citizen’s center.
The program isn’t merely about sitting in a classroom, it’s about encountering real people and seeing the gospel intersect with their lives.
My favorite thing about the outreach program is seeing the students stepping out of their comfort zones to do things they would never have tried on their own. Many of them engage in personal ministry for the very first time during the program. I love the nervous tension in the atmosphere as they venture out to meet and interact with total strangers. That’s one of the valuable lessons ministry provides—becoming comfortable with the risk of rejection.
Getting the opportunity to overcome the fear of rejection, along with fellow classmates with whom to share the experience is an empowering journey. It’s liberating to learn that, though we all have our individual part as co-laborers, this is really the Lord’s work. I think of Dan, one of our students who was nervous about giving his first Bible study. Now he knows that he can do it! But what’s even more exciting is that he took a local church member along with him to make the connection so that in his absence there is someone that can follow up on that relationship.
One of the things that sticks out the most to me about this year’s class is hearing the students share testimonies at graduation. They talked about the paradigm shift they experienced. They got a fresh perspective on the character of God. One student said, “I’ve heard people say it but now I know first-hand that ‘God is love’ is the central message of the Bible.”
I’ve heard people say it but now I know first-hand that ‘God is love’ is the central message of the Bible.
At the end of the day, we know that with all the classes, all the conversations, all the instruction that the students were exposed to, it would be impossible for them to remember everything. Actually, it would be impossible to remember even half of what they heard. But, as David mentioned in the final charge at graduation, the most important thing is that they remember “the one thing.” And what is that “one thing?” Well, it’s that thing that Mary was after as Jesus visited with her in Martha’s house. Luke tells us that Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (Luke 10:38). That’s the one thing she did. She sat at Jesus’ feet to take it all in—His teachings and His life. The affirmation that Jesus gave her has been preserved for us all to ponder: “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).
Of course, the story of the Cornerstone 2013 graduates is far from over. In fact, now is when their story begins. Now is when they return to their own worlds and take with them the encounter they had while sitting at the feet of Jesus. They’ll take that to their universities where Christ’s mission will be woven into their academic pursuits. They’ll take it to their workplace where they’ll do even the little things for the honor and glory of God’s kingdom. They’ll take it back to their families where they’ll reflect the love of God to their wives, husbands, and children.
May the Lord richly bless this new group of alumni to “go… and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19)!