Avant-Garde: An advanced group in a given field; daring or unorthodox; radical.
The Avant-Garde ELN in Adairsville, GA embraces the idea that each of us are unique individuals, called to impact a world that is no longer impressed with the traditional church. While we love and respect the traditions in which we have all grown up, we recognize that God is raising up a new generation of disciples – an Avant-Garde if you will – that will impact the world in a whole new way. We believe this generation is characterized by authenticity, courage, love, and servanthood.
In a post-Christian world, we can no longer be content with going to church, doing church or just mere church attendance! The focus of our lives and learning must be on discovering how to be the Church! Members of our Avant-Garde ELN program will gain the best of biblical studies, sound theology and practical ministry skills while living authentically in community. When we understand that we are the Church, then any vocational pursuit (ministry, market, home) can be undertaken with a greater sense of purpose and clarity! That’s what we expect from the Avant-Garde.
Testimony from a former Avant-Garde student:
My name is Nakisha Augustin, and I am a proud ELN graduate. My experience in the Avant-Garde program was EXACTLY what I needed at that time. I have no doubt that dedicating a year of my life to the Lord was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. There’s nothing like setting aside a specific amount of time and presenting your time and energy as a living sacrifice unto God.
Over the course of my year-long commitment, I discovered who I really am in Christ, built lifelong friendships, and established clear goals for my life.
But, most importantly, I experienced the love of God in a way that I probably never would have, otherwise. I can honestly say that participating in this ELN program has changed my life.
We recently caught up with Jeremy Pummel, the pastor of NorthRock Church in Thornton, Colorado. NorthRock is the home to Echo, an ELN program that’s now finishing it’s second year. Pastor Jeremy is passionate about developing young leaders, and talks about what’s happening through Echo and their students.
Crucible n. a melting pot, probably made of pottery, that can resist great heat, for the refining of metals such as gold or silver.
Do you feel called to pastoral ministry? Do you want to lead the next generation to Christ?
Do you want to know if you have what it takes? Then come and be a part of Crucible…
Crucible is a multi-ethnic ELN program in the Northeast that focuses on the training and development of young men and women who feel called to pastoral ministry. We use a three-pronged approach of education, discipleship and service.
Our students are challenged to grow personally and spiritually to become the next generation of leaders that are dedicated to the advancement of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.
Testimonies of current students…
My experience in Crucible has brought me to a deeper understanding of the cost and responsibility of leadership. The training and discipling I have received has prepared me for leadership–both now and in the future.” – Adrien, will graduate in 2013
“I recently joined Crucible ELN program and while I’m not exactly sure in what capacity of leadership the Lord is calling me, it has already been a valuable learning experience. I’m being challenged to new levels of commitment and I’m learning what Christ-centered living and leadership is all about.” – Eugene, newly enrolled 2013
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. Proverbs 17:3
President of The Barna Group, David Kinnaman said in his book UnChristian (http://amzn NULL.com/0801072719); “Most people in America, when they are exposed to the Christian faith, are not being transformed. They take one step into the door, and the journey ends. They are not being allowed, encouraged, or equipped to love or to think like Christ. Yet in many ways a focus on spiritual formation fits what a new generation is really seeking” (page 82).
We have been given the arduous task of reaching and discipling a truly unique generation. A generation that questions everything, values character over qualification, authenticity over ego, and craves an ultimate spiritual god beyond the material life, yet shuns authoritative figures. One look at Christianity and many youth and young adults go running. This time and need calls for action that must be more than just a surface level approach to answer a generation’s deep spiritual need and desire.
At The Highland’s Christian Fellowship in Palmdale, California, under the leadership of our Senior Pastor, Ken Hart, the United Academy provides an atmosphere within a healthy church environment for interns to grow and thrive. Passionate about developing Godly leaders, we are continually seeking to encourage and empower our interns to discover fully who God has created them to be. Jesus gave us all the challenge to take up our cross and follow Him, that in losing our life for the gospel we will save it (Mk. 8:35). I think that’s what President Nixon meant when he said, “A man who has never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life’s mountaintop experiences. Only in losing himself does he find himself.” Definitely not an easy task, but one we have set out to achieve daily with the goal of becoming more Christ like.
In just over the three short months our interns have been with us they are serving weekly in community outreaches, leading worship, spending time daily in God’s word and in prayer, being mentored by our pastors, and are working toward an accredited A.A. Degree from Life Pacific College. We’ve seen them overcome fears and step out into areas of life and ministry that they never thought possible.
Each week brings new and exciting experiences, new opportunities for ministry and fun, and relationships that are strengthened. At United Academy we rally around a cause bigger than ourselves for the purpose of becoming more like Christ each day. We ask the difficult questions, push through our challenges, and walk side by side in this journey called life as we prepare leaders for a life of ministry and service to God.
We encourage you also to get involved in a local church or a para-church ministry. Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” There’s nothing like living your life for a purpose larger than yourself and knowing it’s for a God greater than us.
When we began praying about starting an ELN program in Winterset I remember thinking, “God, this is a whole lot bigger than we are.” Then I began to realize, that is exactly where every believer needs to be in their walk of faith. If we don’t see the job God has set before us as bigger than we are, then we will attempt to complete it through human effort instead of divine intervention. It was during this process of praying and preparing for our first year of ELN, that I was reading the book Crazy Love (http://amzn NULL.com/1434768511) by Francis Chan. God used a quote from one of his professors to speak to my heart. “What are you doing right now that requires faith?” Such a simple question, yet profound in the application to our life if we truly answer it.
This journey with Jesus for each one of us began with a step of faith. That’s what Paul was saying in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” The faith we put into action at the time of our salvation is not a “one time” thing. It is to be a way of life for those who follow Jesus, “for we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). God has a plan and purpose for every one of our lives. We can run away from it (like Jonah did), we can make excuses (like Moses did), we can try to make it happen through human effort (like Abraham and Sarah did) or we can embrace it (like Jesus did).
I just want to encourage each one to pursue the plan that God has for your life. If there is one thing I have learned after more than three decades of ministry, is that God is faithful! We can step out in faith, because of who God is. We are not putting faith in “our faith,” but in our God who does the impossible.
Hannah, our first-year student, chose to attend ELN as a commitment to God. She wanted to give him the “first fruits” of her young adult life by dedicating a year to the immersion discipleship of ELN. She stepped out in faith as an act of obedience to God’s plan for her life. She is also trusting God to show her what the next step will be.
I can’t help but think of the movie clip from “Indiana Jones” when talking about taking steps of faith. Indiana hesitates to step out when it looks like there is nothing but a deep cavern below him. When he took the “step of faith” he realized the path was there all along, he just couldn’t see it from his perspective. Didn’t Jesus say, “I am the way?” He is the path–he will always be there when we take that step of faith. He will help us to see things from his perspective instead of our own.
This happened for us as we begin to pray about and plan our mission trip for our first year. The opportunity to join a team going to Thailand presented itself, but our initial thought was, “maybe that is too far and too expensive for our first mission trip.” (Mental note to self: What am I doing that requires faith?) Have you ever had one of those moments when basically God whaps you up the side of the head with a 2×4? This was one of those moments for us. One “God event” after another made it clear that we were supposed to be going on this trip! God has been faithful to meet every need as we step out in faith. We are excited to go and not just “minister for Jesus,” but to allow “ministry by Jesus” to take place through us.
What is it that God has placed before you that is bigger than you? What are you doing right now that requires faith? Know that God will lead you and guide you. He will show you the next step and nothing is impossible with Him!
By Rachel McMurray-Branscombe, Internship Coordinator, Redwood ELN
I love asking the question, “What are you passionate about?” I always enjoy hearing the response, because it is unique to each person, encompassing their past, present, and future. I have never heard two of the same responses. And I especially love asking young adults, because they almost always believe that the pursuit of their passion is still a possibility; they haven’t given up, and don’t plan to. While I believe it is never too late to make the choices that will put action behind passion, as a young adult, you’re just setting out in life. In fact, I believe the actions made during those critical years have the potent ability to shape the rest of a person’s life.
Will you make the choices that set you on a path to develop and deepen your passions? Or will you make choices that put your passion on the back burner, potentially to be forgotten?
I have asked several people over the years for their definition of passion. I’d heard responses like “desire,” “a love for something,” or “dreams.” But with the root of the word passion being pasio (meaning “to suffer or submit”), I can’t help but think that being passionate about something has deeper implications than just desire and dream fulfillment. There is an implication that your passion is that thing you’d be willing to suffer for in order to pursue it.
We see the divine example of this in Jesus. His passion for us was more than a partiality for us, or an enjoyment of our company. It literally drove Him to the cross. At every moment He was willing to submit and suffer in response to His consuming passion. Remember the movie The Passion of the Christ? It was so named because it described in detail His suffering, which He endured for our sake.
So when asked the question, “What are you passionate about?” this isn’t really a question of what you enjoy doing, or what you dream of one day accomplishing (although those may be true qualities of your passion). The real question is, “In your life, what are you willing to submit for? To suffer for?”
Which leads to the follow-up question—what are you going to do about it?
You’re at a unique point in your life: you have every possibility open to you, and every distraction and excuse calling out to hinder you. You know what you’re passionate about, but you have to make the choices that will support and direct that passion if you hope to pursue it throughout your life. You may have to make sacrifices for it; it may require months of tedious work. But if you’re passionate about it, you’ll willingly face the trials and suffering. And it starts with your choices.
I believe that this is why the Redwood Emerging Leader Network (along with other ELN programs) exists. We exist because we know there are passionate young people who are choosing to pursue the passion that God has instilled in them, and we want to come alongside you and help you in every way we can. It won’t always be easy (being completely passionate about something never is!). But in ELN, you’re walking alongside leaders and other students who want you to succeed, and who are devoted to that same mission of pursuing passion as Christ did and continues to do support you.
You’ve heard that Emerging Leader Network programs are all about immersion discipleship. We believe that God wants to immerse you into His love and His life so that you may be completely TRANSFORMED. We want to share with you the story of one of our Emerging Leaders, whose present and past is being miraculously transformed:
“My name is Jasmine and I am a 2nd year student in the Redwood ELN program in Eureka, CA. Four years ago, at the age of fifteen, Jesus Christ rescued me from a life of drug addiction, self-mutilation and abuse, and He has brought me through a miraculous healing process.
Last week, during our fall ELN retreat, God gave me a vision that tore down some of my tallest, most resilient walls. The vision was perhaps the most perplexing, beautiful, powerful example of God’s love that I have ever experienced. On the last night of our retreat, the interns were asked to think of a time that we experienced rejection, and then walk through a seven-step healing prayer. I did not think of a specific rejection experience, but instead, thought of all the abuse that had happened to me as a child and a teenager. As we walked through the steps, I saw snapshots of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. I was digging deeper than I ever had before.
When we got to step 5, we were told to ask God where He was in those incidences. I closed my eyes and lifted my hands towards my Father. I asked, in anger, ‘Where. Were. You?’ Perhaps this is the question I had been holding onto all these years. The wall came down and suddenly, I saw. I saw myself, fifteen, drugged and drunk on the forest floor. I saw a monster on top of me; I felt the pain. And I saw the physical manifestation of Jesus Christ come in anger and fury and throw this man off of me. I saw him pick me up, cleanse me and put me in a white robe and a white veil. His furious love was present now and had been then. I saw scene after scene, all ending the same way. He picked me up, hugged me, stroked my hair and clothed me in white.
I saw myself at the age of ten, waiting in the rain for my parents who had once again forgotten me, and watched as Jesus walked up, sat next to me and held me. He waited with me.
Every instance of abuse, every time I had been wronged, He was there, claiming justice over my heart. Proclaiming redemption over my soul. He held me close, and after all of these visions, spoke to me in a clear, soft voice, ‘This is how I see you’. Pure. Clean. Whole.
Today, I feel more free than I ever thought imaginable. After four, long years of recovery and healing, I finally feel whole. I finally feel as though I have been restored. I look onward now, into the future that God has in store, and I see pure, powerful hope. I know that the healing is never over. But I now know where God stands. He stands in Love, forever. He cannot be moved out of Love; he cannot be shaken or swayed. He is Love. In my pain, He is Love. In my regrets, He is Love. In my disobedience, He is Love. And He is in Love with me.”
God wants to TRANSFORM you completely by the power of His unalterable Love. He wants to work out the pain of your past to bring healing for the present, so you may have hope for the future. Immerse yourself in His healing.
P.S. Jasmine recommends the worship song “Never Once” by Matt Redman to reflect on His presence in your life. Watch it here:
That must have been how the weathered hands of a gruff fisherman held on to his livelihood: his net. That’s how he would have held to the very thing that brought in the daily catch, supported his family, and in many ways was his very identity. His grip was so firm and sure that no man could break it.
Until Jesus asked him to follow Him.
In today’s world a young adult’s identity comes from many places. The things they choose to keep or discard from their childhood, their friendships, social status, work place and the like are what form their knowledge, character and actions. They also face a storm of information, ideas and conflicting standards as they stand as the only generation with instant access to all things at all times.
They also learn very early on to have a tight grip on all that identifies them. A hold every bit as firm as that of a fisherman who is desperate for the evening catch.
Until Jesus asks them to follow Him.
In that moment, there is a choice to made: hold on to all that is familiar and secure, or simply let go and trust that the life you’re about to live will be far greater than the one you’re leaving behind.
Immersion Discipleship (ID), our ELN program just outside Portland, Oregon, was designed to present young adults with a challenge: Leave your nets behind and follow Him.
During our two-year program, students leave all distractions behind and follow wholeheartedly after Christ. They are educated, discipled, trained, and in the end, transformed. These young adults walk out a season of life unlike most in their generation. In reality, however, the 60 units of college credit, 3000 hours of ministry training, and extensive time of discipleship cannot truly compare with the testimony of one of our graduates:
“Upon coming into the program, it was all about me and the plans that I had for my life. At the outset, God began a huge transformational process in me regarding my willingness. To experience true joy, I needed to be willing to go anywhere and set down anything in my life that He would ask. He has transformed my selfish ambitions into a decisiveness for Him and His call. Simply put, I’m no longer on auto-pilot mode, following the whims of my flesh. I’m nowhere near perfect, but now I begin my days asking Lord for His direction, and I’m in the midst of His joy because of it.”
When all was said and done, the apostle Peter had no guarantees when he chose to leave his nets behind. No real promise other than that of becoming a fisher of men. But deep down there was something he knew. Something told him that Jesus would lead him into a life of transformation and give him the opportunity to transform the world. Peter stared deeply into this adventure and realized the nets he held to so tightly were mere ropes. They were no longer his identity. They were no longer his future.
Look at your hands. What are you holding onto so tightly? It’s time to hear Jesus’ call and turn to stare deeply into this adventure, realizing that His promise is real and true.
By Timothy Hill, ELN student in Westminster, CA, at Catalyst
Only days separate me from my graduation from Catalyst, the ELN program here in Westminster California. I now have the privilege to look back on the amazing moments, memories, and life changing experiences I had while being an ELN student. I know, spiritually speaking, it’s impossible to take a before and after picture and see the change, but I know God did some amazing things in my life. Aside from getting my spiritual walk rock solid, my outward actions have begun to change as well, and I even feel different. I’m sure that every ELN student can attest to the amazing things they experienced, but this is my story.
Two years ago I was just finishing up High School. My heart was set on going to a four-year university to become a police officer. God was ultimately the deciding factor for me to come to Westminster. Each ELN program is unique and offers different things. Catalyst is a one or two year internship in beautiful Orange County. I moved from Washington State to join this program not knowing exactly what I should expect. It was a huge step of faith into the unknown, trusting God that He will guide and take care of me. I knew that dedicating the next two years of my life to the Lord would be positive, so I went for it!
I discovered that ELN programs don’t remove you from reality, but they allow you to experience daily life and the challenges that come along with it. Some of the greatest lessons I learned from being in ELN happened when I had to deal with real life issues that stretched me way passed my comfort zone.
I’ll never forget being asked by our lead pastor, Aaron Bull, to help him with the Sunday message. I was immediately stricken with fear and doubted my abilities. “Who am I? All the people in our church are much wiser than I am”. But my pastor saw my potential and pushed me to accomplish things I had previously thought were impossible. After that experience I began to have more confidence in myself as a minister. After going through Catalyst and constantly breaking through my comfort zones, I now know I am way more capable than what I ever thought possible.
The greatest victory for me was being able to manage my stress in the face of adversity. My first year of Catalyst was filled with things that continually were stressing me (going to camps, serving in the church, serving in the community and going abroad). I felt overwhelmed began to literally worry myself sick. But during my second year, God has taught me how to take each day as it comes and to stay calm, trusting in Him, despite how overwhelming a challenge or task may seem to be. I am proud to say that today marks 14 months I haven’t been sick! God is good.
Catalyst has rocked my world and my walk with Jesus is stronger than ever. As my ELN time comes to an end I am not saddened or worried about what is next. I know that this end is just a new beginning. For me, I am called to become a missionary, so after I graduate I will be spending time serving my church as a Missions Director. I have been blessed to meet and network with some amazing people while being an ELN and it has opened doors that will allow me to take my next steps. I encourage people to look into ELN programs like Catalyst. I know without a doubt in my mind it would radically change your life.
“Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established” (Proverbs 16:3).
I first heard about Anthem in a pamphlet that was pinned to the bulletin board of my church. I was 19, going to college, and had been saved for less than a year. That looks interesting. I thought, and paid it no more mind until a family friend asked me to go with her to their preview day. I agreed to go only out of curiosity; after all, I was in college. I didn’t need a discipleship program. And moving to Olympia? With all those hipsters? Totally out of the question.
I remember being amazed from the moment I stepped in the door at the confidence the Anthem students exuded. They were all smiles and, for a girl who was yet to have any coffee, a little confusing. How could anyone be so happy so early in the morning?
The morning began with worship, and I watched in awe as they went all out. I was from a small church where only the super mature adults got into worship. For me, lifting my hands was a huge act of faith. The Anthem students were so excited about worshipping God that it made me feel like I might be missing something. But, I told myself, it wasn’t like I really could worship – I was so guilty over my own sin that I cringed at the idea of drawing close to God. I was saved, but I knew God didn’t like me too much.
The guilt and condemnation were so stifling that I almost left the room. It was easy for those Anthem students, I decided, because they had never really messed up, as I had. I knew that the things I had done were way past forgiveness, and if I told anyone in the room, they’d probably shun me.
Just as I was getting ready to sneak out, I heard the voice of the Lord cut through my frantic thoughts like he was coming in on HD. Jennifer, He said, trust Me when I say that I am big enough to cover your sins.
Before I knew it, I was signing up to do Anthem.
It’s been over two years since that day. Two years spent interning in the most amazing program I’ve ever seen. In those two years the Lord has revolutionized my life. He’s taught me about grace and how to live in it. He’s taught me how to walk with that same confidence I envied on my first day here. He’s taught me how beautiful I am to Him, how my worth is based on what He says, not what I do. He’s taught me that my sin doesn’t disqualify me – it just gives me perspective to speak to others.
Two years later, I can confidently say that the Lord absolutely showed up for me when I put my neck out for Him. I was scared out of my mind to do this program. Over the course of Anthem my fear receded, but God’s love never did. No matter what I was going through, He stuck by me, and every day He reminded me that I was right where He wanted me.
You’ll hear people say that Anthem isn’t easy, and it isn’t always fun. That’s true. But it’s also been the best two years of my life. I’ve gained friends better than I could dream of, a relationship with the God who promised to never leave me, and a second chance at a life that I don’t deserve. The Lord used Anthem to change my life; I wouldn’t take that experience back for the world.