I, Peter, was in El Salvador about six weeks ago teaching on Spiritual Formation. While there, I was preparing a group of twelve students to begin their second year of the Master of Theology in Latin America with Palmer Seminary, part of Eastern University in partnership with International Ministries. The other day, I had my last online class time with them. We talked about what they are learning and how it’s impacted their lives.
I like to say that spiritual formation in seminary is not just about the student’s relationship with Christ but also their relationship with other people. When explaining this to my students, I like to use a simplified translation of the above to grab their attention. So, I say, “I teach pastors not to be jerks.” This phrase always gets a laugh! And most of the time someone expresses a desire of wishing they’d have learned this earlier in life. This current group was no exception.
During this last online class time, we took turns sharing about the impact of the course. There were two main themes that came up. First, there is a lot of reading (6 books in 7 weeks). And those readings are worth it but because of the nature of the program they had to read the books too quickly. The second theme was similar, that because of the readings they were understanding their calling and ministry in a new way. That they did have some “jerk” patterns of ministry that needed to change so they could love God and others better. Join us in praising God for the maturation and growth of these students! And continue to hold them in prayer.
An older student (almost 70 years of age), Jorge, shared about the impact of this course on his ministry to adolescents. He expressed that there are a lot of things from this course that are helping him to understand and love his ministry more. In fact, he is beginning to teach some of the principles of creating a lifestyle of knowing God and a set of rules of devotion. Both of which are bringing meaning and fulfillment to his students.
These students have similar frustrations with the church that our adolescents have in the USA. They hear teachings that they like and with which they agree. However, they don’t see it being lived out in the church. Spiritual formation is about personal responsibility to seek God and to find ways to make those teachings practical and real so that you are living them. Jorge’s changed approach to his ministry to adolescents is impacting their lives and minds. As well as Jorge’s! There is a growing excitement for Jesus among this group of adolescents. And they are beginning to grow spiritually as a result.
I always challenge my students not to make it a list of rules. We cannot say pray this many hours a day and read the bible for these many minutes to be a good Christian. What we need to be doing is living in a way that we desire to do these things and more so that we connect with God and open our hearts to God’s Spirit to transform us. This will look different for each of us because God makes each of us unique reflections of God’s image.
Thank you for your continued support, prayers, and love for our family and ministries. We have been in a time of discernment in the recent months. We look forward to sharing with you how God is directing our family. As soon as we can (hopefully in the next couple weeks), we will be sharing some very important ministry updates with you all.