Putting myself into a group of strangers wasn’t new to me when I joined The Discipleship Project (TDP). In 2008 I flew to Northern Ireland to be a part of a group of young people answering a call in their life to see what great things God is doing in the world. It was my first real experience with intentional community, and it completely changed my life. Since that time I have been interested in learning more about intentional faith communities, the way other people do life together, and the way communities of faith are involved in changing the communities around them. I was so excited to find out about The Discipleship Project and its goal of fostering intentional Christian community when I was looking into seminary.
I bring up having been a part of an intentional community before TDP because it gave me some preconceived notions about what TDP would be like. I expected to be given a task that my cohort and I could work on throughout the school year, something that would impact the community around Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) and bring us closer into community. I expected the group to figure itself out quickly and for us to always get along, but that certainly wasn’t the case. We spent a very long time trying to figure out who we were as a cohort and, to be honest, I’m still not sure if that ever happened. However, we committed ourselves to coming together weekly for prayer and fellowship as we tried to discover what our purpose is.
To help us explore the idea of Christian community we decided to read some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, the classic text about Christian community written while Bonhoeffer was operating an underground seminary during the second World War. In the book’s first chapter Bonhoeffer says, “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”
This year, I had to learn to drop my preconceived notions about Christian community in order to actively participate in the community that was developing right under my nose. Instead of expecting the program to go the way I feel it needs to, I needed to listen to my peers in the cohort to see how we could work together to mold and shape this cohort into something that could build community in the seminary and impact the community around CTS. Letting go helped me to be more involved in creating something rather than sitting back and comparing it to my ideal.
One of the things I have to remind myself of constantly is that I will get out of something as much as I put into it. It has been a helpful concept in the classroom as well because the more I engage in the discussions, the readings, or the lecture, the more I grow as a person and the more I can relate to people in the future. All in all, this year in TDP has reinforced the lesson that Bonhoeffer wrote down in Life Together all those years ago in his underground seminary as he trained and prepared future leaders of the church.
Nathan Kibler is a Master of Divinity student and a member of the second TDP cohort. He is passionate about non-violence, reconciliation, and community development. He is a lifelong member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is on track toward ordination.
The Discipleship Project is a groundbreaking approach to theological education at Christian Theological Seminary that is inspired by Jesus’ pedagogy in the New Testament gospels. To request permission to repost this content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.