As a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Divinity degree program, William Arnold shares the impact of being firmly planted in the good soil of God’s Word.
What an incredible journey it has been at Christian Leaders Institute (CLI)! I started my studies at CLI three years ago after having previously attended a “brick & mortar” Bible College. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew God led me here, and where God leads there is always blessing. When I think of studying at CLI the word “Growth” is what stands out most in my mind. The Parable of the Sower is such a good analogy for CLI. I think of the seeds in the Parable like students looking for fertile ground to grow in. Not only do they grow strong and healthy when they are planted in good soil, but they “grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times” (Mark 4:20). Jesus explained the Word of God is the soil. The multiplication is at the heart of the great commission. That is CLI’s core mission and has been true of my studies: growing in the Word of God and becoming a revival leader to multiply Jesus’ disciples.
Every CLI course is planted in good soil: God’s Word. One of the wonderful things I found in many courses was scripture memorization. I have been led many times to share scripture that I knew because of CLI courses. There are a few keys I have taken away from my study of the Bible at CLI. One is a deeper understanding of the word itself in Dr. Feddes Theology courses. Another is a better understanding of the background of Biblical times in courses like Old and New Testament history and Biblical Interpretation. The third are tools to pull out some of the deeper context such as Hermeneutics and Exegesis. Overall, my growth in Biblical understanding and developing a Biblical worldview have increased tremendously during my time at CLI.
Spiritual growth is where Biblical knowledge becomes Biblical application. I found many courses focused on the spiritual life itself as a result of being planted in good soil. I think this is one way theology has been such a blessing: it teaches the real-life application of the scripture. In my studies, courses that specifically focus on the daily Spiritual walk have been abundant at CLI. The course in Prayer and the course on Evangelism were both particularly impactful. As a result of those courses, both my prayer life and ability to evangelize have been sharpened.
I have also been challenged to think more deeply about my beliefs. Sometimes, those of us raised in the Church simply accept what we’re told, even if it’s basic like the belief in God. Although we are planted in good soil, sometimes that root isn’t as deep as it could be because we never dig deeper.
When I think of a challenging course Dr. Clouser’s “How Can We Know God Exists” course quickly comes to mind. For those of us who believe in God, it seems like a preposterous question to even ask. But as revival leaders it’s one we should ask, because the world does ask. This course asked me to think about what I believed and why I believe it. This has deepened my spiritual walk, and now I encourage other believers to think about why they hold certain beliefs. This, too, is part of the parable of the sower. It says, “Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away” (Mark 4:16-17). CLI has encouraged me to grow much deeper roots and to challenge others to do the same.
This is an of the area of growth I have appreciated the most at CLI. It is also part of what makes the course of study for a Bachelor of Divinity Degree unique. There are many ways a Christian can grow spiritually and in biblical knowledge. Good Bible studies, books, sermons, retreats, and many other ways – but most of these opportunities don’t focus on vocational or bi-vocational ministry.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about the one who produces a crop of 100, 60, or 30 fold increase (Matt 13:23). I think about why some produce 30 fold and why others produce 100 fold. I ask myself: wouldn’t God want us all to produce maximum results for His Kingdom? If the answer is yes, and I believe it is, then what makes the difference in our yield? Just like Jesus raising up his own twelve disciples to lead the Church, ministry training and discipleship at CLI has raised the effectiveness of my ministry several fold.
There are also excellent nuts and bolts classes teaching how to organize and run a ministry effectively. Professor Elzinga’s Management by the Book provided practical leadership lessons that I immediately applied week after week. In fact, several issues and opportunities for growth in my Church would seem to come up right after I had finished a lesson. I was able to effectively work through those challenges as a direct result of the teachings that week.
In one of the first courses I took at CLI, Pastor Reyenga asked the profound question: “what is your Ministry dream?”, and I’ve prayerfully considered that question throughout my studies here. In part, my dream is to be the most effective bi-vocational minister possible. This is why I believe the Lord led me to CLI in the first place, and has blessed my ministry with increasing effectiveness as I’ve grown in the good soil here. I also plan to continue to take courses offered by CLI and continue to support CLI’s work as a Vision Partner.
As an alumni, I plan to complete the Christian Leaders Volunteer class and find ways to help other students follow their ministry dreams. I am also prayerfully considering continuing onto my Master’s degree at one of the graduate schools CLI has partnered with. Finally, I dream of starting a mentor center at my church to help give in-person support to upcoming revival leaders. One of the best ways to increase the harvest is to use the principles of discipleship and multiplication.
Those are some specific goals, but my biggest ministry dream is to allow that dream to evolve as the Lord continues to grow me in my faith and walk. The Professors in the courses didn’t just share information, they shared their hearts and stories of their lives and ministry journeys. It was a blessing to hear how their own ministries had evolved in ways they couldn’t have imagined. I pray that above all else, I’m open to what God has in store as he uses me, planted in good soil, to plant His seeds in fertile ground.