In May, we celebrated our 10-year anniversary of running the ARISE discipleship program in Australia. The impact has been nothing short of astounding. Much of that impact is measurable.
As of this year, 375 students from 19 different countries have graduated from the on-site ARISE Australia program.
While we teach that every follower of Jesus, regardless of their professional vocation, is a minister of the gospel in some way, shape, or form, 31% of our Australia graduates have gone into full-time ministry in various capacities:
- 42 Bible workers
- 10 teachers
- 13 chaplains
- 24 pastors
- 13 current theology students preparing for pastoral ministry
- 13 conference-level church leaders
Hallelujah! The gospel is truly fruitful. (Actually, this is true even in the Genesis sense. Several weddings have taken place and babies have been born also as a result of the ARISE Australia program.)
Of course, there are major benefits that cannot be measured with numbers. Allow me to give you a peak into those.
On the Friday night before our 2023 graduation ceremony, which was combined with our 10-year celebration, we came together for a communion service and an agape feast. I had no idea what I was about to witness.
We placed a chair at the front of the room and announced that any student at any time could occupy the chair and share whatever might be on their heart. At first, there was a shyness about occupying the chair. But eventually one of the students went to the chair and sat down. The whole room went silent as we all turned our attention to her.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming here to ARISE,” she said. “It didn’t seem like it would be pleasant spending three months with super religious people in a religious environment. But this has been the best experience of my life. I didn’t know God was so beautiful and now I do. All of you are so wonderful. I love you.”
The door was now open, and the shyness subsided. One student after another occupied the chair and testified to the transformative impact ARISE had on them.
There were three male students that, from all external observation, seemed disengaged from the ARISE program the year they attended. “Are they even listening at all?” the boy’s dean wondered. We had even considered the possibility that they were too young and immature to be in the program and should be expelled, so I was blown away when one of them went to the chair.
If God is good, why did this happen to my brother?
“Before coming to ARISE,” he said with tears in his eyes, “I was so depressed I was trying to figure out how to kill myself. Now I’m so happy that I can’t even relate to those thoughts.”
This prompted two more students to share that they, too, were suicidal before coming to the program but not anymore. Others shared that before coming to ARISE they had experienced depression, anxiety, and a sense that life is pointless.
We do a lot of ministry for young people and I can tell you with absolute certainty that this current upcoming generation is experiencing a massive existential crisis. It is abundantly evident that it is very difficult to grow up in our current world. Young people are now being raised in a hyper visual and therefore hyper self-conscious social environment, an abysmal predicament driven by social media. Many of them, maybe most of them, are constantly in a process of comparing themselves with the images projected by this sick, shallow, sexualized culture that defines a person’s value by their physical appearance and the clothing brands they wear. It is not surprising that depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation are exponentially rising among young people.
It is also not surprising that the gospel is powerfully transformative by virtue of the fact that it paints a beautiful picture of the character of God that transcends the ugly value system that the advertising industry and the algorithms of social media are forcing down young people’s throats. We see the power of the gospel over and over again as we open its wonders to minds in general and young minds in particular.
Another student shared that her brother had died of a drug overdose recently and that she was angry at God. “If God is good,” she articulated her understandable confusion, “why did this happen to my brother?” She then explained that while losing her brother is still painful beyond description, she’s not angry at God anymore because now she understands that “God is love,” that “love requires freedom,” and that “freedom is unavoidably risky.” God was exonerated in her mind through the study of Scripture even as she continued to grieve the loss of her brother.
The chair was occupied one time after another. It went on for so long we considered stopping it. But it was too amazing to interrupt. Here before our watery eyes was a room full of young adults testifying of their newfound love for God, their unexpected freedom in Christ, and their deep sense of connection with one another as a little community of fellow believers.
Over and over again we hear that we are losing our young people to the alluring attractions of the world. But the fact is, in many cases, if not most cases, we are losing them because they are desperately hungry for a clear sense of God’s love and a clear direction for their lives, and, for whatever reasons, that’s hard to find. The ARISE discipleship course is giving them exactly what they need to keep them in the church and, more importantly, in a vital relationship with Jesus.
Thank you for your ongoing financial support of Light Bearers, which makes all of this possible. With your help, more young people’s lives will be saved for eternity. (And you never know…perhaps more wedding bells will ring and more babies will cry with new life.)
Ty is a speaker/director of Light Bearers. A passionate communicator with a message that opens minds and moves hearts, Ty teaches on a variety of topics, emphasizing God’s unfailing love as the central theme of the Bible. Ty and his wife Sue have three adult children and two grandsons.