For the last two years, Brittany Sutton has immersed herself in growing and developing as a biblical student at Christian Leaders Institute and Christian Leaders College. As a recent graduate of the Associate of Divinity degree program, her story emphasizes how much she is grateful to live freely as a believer in Christ.
Go Against the Grain
My youth pastor had a powerful impact on me when I was in high school. He changed the way that I looked at what it meant to be a Christian in the twentieth century. He challenged me to go against the grain and not be like every other teenager. For the first time in my Christian walk, I felt like I “belonged” as a believer. He built a family of teenagers that weren’t ashamed to represent Jesus everywhere we went. As an arising senior, I felt in my spirit that I should attend ministerial school. But there was still a part of me that feared the road less traveled.
While my classmates began applying to colleges and taking the SATs, I became caught up in the excitement of attending a university and participating in college life. I let the dream of formal biblical education become smothered. But that dream was never far from my heart. While the majority of my fellow students were going to football parties and raves, I joined Campus Crusade for Christ. I also joined the college ministry of my local church, and continued to pursue God throughout my adult life.
Almost twenty years later, while traveling with my best friend, we discussed what was on our “bucket lists”. Without even knowing that the words would come out of my mouth, I said, “To go to ministry school”. On the surface, I had completely forgotten that had ever been an aspiration of mine. My friend challenged me to go for it. It would have been easy to dismiss it as fantasy and go on about my life. In the midst of searching for a new position, saving for and researching the purchase of my first home, and helping my youngest sister with her first child, the Holy Spirit would not let me forget. In the fall of 2018, I enrolled in Christian Leaders Institute (CLI).
Without a doubt, I can say that my life has changed for the better since embarking on formal Christian education. It seemed that the more I studied and the more classes I took, the more difficult situations my friends and family sought counsel. Rather than being timid in responding or taking a worldly stance, I have been able to provide insight based on sound biblical principles. Since those in my circle know that I have been training for such instances, my advice has more weight. I have enjoyed learning so much that the time has flown by. My favorite classes have been Apologetics, Church History, and People Smart for Ministry.
The approach taught by Dr. Feddes opened my eyes to the perspectives of non-Christians, and his directives for responding to having my faith challenged were enlightening. Church History opened my eyes to the many unsung heroes of the faith. Conceptually, I understood that martyrdom was not unique to biblical times. Studying story after story of believers from many different backgrounds and depths they went to in furthering the gospel tested my thought process. It also made me more thankful to live in a time and place where I can freely serve the Lord and share my faith. People Smart for Ministry was so practical in spelling out guidelines for relating to and treating people from all walks of life. In particular, those who are sensitive and struggling.
Grateful to Live Freely
I do not have aspirations of taking on a formal ministerial role. However, I embarked upon this journey because I wanted to know God and His heart more deeply. I wanted to gain a greater understanding of the roles of believers in the modern world and expand my capacity to share the gospel in my everyday life. The Associates degree program has challenged me to think and live beyond myself. In many ways, my perspective has changed. Both as it relates to what a Christian life should look like, as well as being able to see more clearly how non-Christians look at and relate to Christians.
I have also gained a greater appreciation for my life. It is easy to get weighed down by the day-to-day, or to have tunnel vision when it comes to your own problems. I have become increasingly grateful to live freely as a believer. I am also grateful to be largely protected from the emotional turmoil that stems from not living life God’s way. Also, for the men and women of God who have sown biblical wisdom into my life.
While my formal biblical education is coming to a close, I will continue to press forward to the mark of the high calling of Jesus. I am looking forward to taking additional courses through CLI and regularly attending church services. Also, participating in Bible studies and pursuing being closer to God. I also look forward to additional opportunities to share my testimony, faith walk, and all the wonderful teaching that I have gleaned through my studies with CLI.
What My Mom Taught Me
When I received my Officiant Minister Ordination, one of my sisters said to me that she wishes that our mom was still alive to hear about it, because she would be so proud of me. That statement was bittersweet. What my mom taught me above anything else was to follow God with all my heart. Unbeknownst to me, she used to tell her friends that I was the one who prayed in our family, and that I was still going to church faithfully in my twenties. Before my mom passed away, I had received both Bachelors and Master’s degrees in business. But that wasn’t what she bragged about – she bragged about my walk with God.
I would love for her to be here to share the news that I have completed a degree in ministry. What I can do is take every lesson about the Lord that she taught me and her dream that I would follow God all the days of my life. I can continue to pursue God and serve. Thank you to each instructor for their teaching and exams, which brought focus and clarity into my life. I hope that many more students have the opportunity to experience life-changing biblical teaching through CLI.