Some 40 people gathered together Friday and Saturday at our church for an orientation retreat for the Apprentice Program which begins in September. Our leadership team worked very hard to make this an unforgettable experience. It exceeded our expectations. As I sat in the back watching Cody leading the final worship experience, my heart was full.
Cody is one of eight new apprenticing Apprentice teachers who will be pouring their hearts into the lives of others this fall. We are a part of God’s ingenious recycling plan. Each of us apprentices to Jesus and then plays our part in training other apprentices who go out and do the same – each in our own Spirit-directed way. I have spent time with all of those leaders helping them understand their calling to this unfamiliar role, sharing tools and materials, encouraging and shoring up and listening as they made the decision to invest in the Kingdom of God by creating a providing a space for grace where these people can meet God and learn from Jesus.
Each year as we “recruit” the participants of Apprentice, and I talk and write and explain and attempt to motivate them to commit to this challenging adventure, I wonder: “How will she be transformed?” How will he be different in May? What is God’s plan for this life? What damaged false narrative will she find freedom from? Who will be the ones who finally see that in Christ they are no longer seen as sinners, but saints?
And now I was watching these people go forward to the altar to pick out a stone inscribed: “I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights.” I saw a mother and father pushing their 20-something daughter in her wheelchair -all with delighted smiles – to the altar. (I, too, smiled as I noticed the little bouquet of flowers fastened to her chair, a gift from one of her new Apprentice friends.) I saw a young single parent, who had confided earlier that she was scheduled to work today, but found someone to take her place. She had worried about how she would replace that money, but today she told me she knew God would take care of her and her children. I saw long-time Christian couples, joyfully walking to a new experience in faith. And I saw the tearful faces of their new teachers, ready for the next step in the journey.
This particular group on this particular weekend responded joyfully to our invitation to be transformed, to risk examining what they still needed to surrender to Christ, to share deep parts of their journey with others, to covenant to help each other grow. Most importantly, they understood (through Rob Bell’s Nooma video Dust) that unlike the rabbis of his time, Jesus does not require “the best of the best” to follow him. When he was on earth, he called the “anybodies, the JVs, the B team” to let go of the controls of their lives and follow him. He loved them, trained them, and just before he left them, he directed them to go out into the whole world and make disciples. They did. And they changed the world.
Jesus offered the same to these 40 people last weekend. And, whether they know it or not, the results will be the same for them as they were for the first disciples. They will become more of who they were created to be. They will go out and transform their world.
I am so blessed to be part of that process!