TIGARD, Oregon – As the Southwestern Church of Christ prepared for its upcoming 50th anniversary, elders developed goals to accomplish by this milestone in 2023.
One of the key parts of the Portland-area church’s vision is to establish a school of discipleship.
Church leaders prayed and dreamed of the possibility, but when the time came to make a decision, the COVID-19 pandemic stalled plans.
âWe actually pushed the pause button for three or four months,â said Elder Paul Hinds.
But after more prayer, the congregation decided to come out with faith and get involved, Hinds said. The school’s launch was announced late last summer.
The elders hired Darren Williamson, a history teacher and preacher who recently served Christ Keizer Church in Oregon for 11 years, as the founding director of the Northwest School of Discipleship.
According to Williamson, the school is “a church-based educational initiative that aims to equip disciples to be better disciples of Jesus Christ, equipped with the Word of God and the Christian worldview, and ready to serve in the church “. It has three main components: a transformative education program, a preaching ministry internship, and a gap year program.
The Transformative Education Program is a resource for churches in the Northwest, offering a variety of courses to help Christians grow as disciples. One of the foundational courses is a six-week introductory class on the fundamentals of Christian discipleship.
âWe call it ‘Come follow me’,â said Williamson. âWe are learning to follow Jesus. We learn to be changed by Jesus and to engage in Jesus’ mission as well.
Over 30 students from four congregations in the region participated in the first Come, Follow Me course. Rachel Hanson, a member of the Church of Christ Scapoose in Oregon, attended the class with her husband, Wes Hanson, and two of their children. Wes is the minister of the Church of Scappoose.
âIt was like coming home, revisiting all of these things that are so important and fundamental to our faith,â Rachel said. “We plan to go to as many of these classes as possible.”
Hiking … and learning
While most classes are held in a classroom setting, the next âJourney of Manhoodâ instruction will take place during a five-day backpacking trip in the Cascade Mountains.
âThis particular course is geared towards young men and helps them be godly and develop in Christian character,â said Williamson. Designed for men between the ages of 18 and 25, it will revolve around a discussion of the book âDisciplines of a Godly Young Manâ and will be led by men from three congregations.
âThis program is designed to accompany some of our Christian colleges and Bible institutes that train preachers. “
Another component of the Northwest School of Discipleship is a preaching ministry internship.
âIn the Northwest, it is often difficult to have good preachers,â said Williamson. âThis program is designed to accompany some of our Christian colleges and Bible institutes that train preachers. “
The first preaching ministry intern is Thomas Yukich, a student at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn. During the summer, he preaches in five churches of Christ in the Northwest.
âIt has been a great blessing not only for Southwest, but also for a growing number of congregations in the area,â said Hinds.
The third component of the Northwest School of Discipleship is a gap year initiative.
The Antioch Project is designed to equip young people for the next season of life by helping them to grow in their faith.
“Whatever they do next, this is the time for them to take a break, study, grow, get mentored, go on a missionary trip to Ecuador and have the opportunity to establish firmly their faith, âsaid Williamson.
While the students are between the ages of 18 and 22, Project Antioch is an intergenerational experience. Students will take classes alongside other disciples, learning from the wisdom of older Christians. Each student will have a mentor for the duration of the program and will live with a host family.
The nine-month program will begin in September with a five-day hike in the Cascade Mountains. The rest of the year, students will take a host of classes, meet weekly mentors, participate in Service Fridays, and make several excursions in the Northwest. The year will end with a three-week missionary trip to Ecuador.
George House, a high school graduate and member of the Circle Church of Christ in Corvallis, Oregon, was the first student to enroll in Project Antioch. House signed up for Project Antioch because he wants to stay strong in his faith.
âI saw an opportunity to grow in my faith and an opportunity to talk to people about facing the trials of the world and how I can improve and prepare,â he said.
Another incoming student is Mitchell Rohrback, who attends Southwest Church.
âI just felt called to do it,â he said, âand I also felt it was an opportunity that I didn’t really want to miss.â
The Southwest congregation is excited about the program and people are eager to get involved. Elder Hinds said families are particularly interested in hosting students, whether for the internship program or the Antioch Project.
âThere is definitely an optimistic dynamic,â he said, âand we look forward to what the Lord is going to do with it. We are grateful for the impact the school seems to be having on the Southwest congregation, but also on others in the area.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Christian Chronicle Intern Makyra Williamson is the daughter of Darren Williamson.
Filed under: Church of Christ Churches of Christ Discipleship National News Northwest Antioch Discipleship School Project Top Stories