Stories of Degree Students
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Online Bible College Journey – Chaplain David Green
First, I would like to mention what a wonderful opportunity it has been over the past four years, starting as a Christian Leaders Institute student and graduating with a degree from the Christian Leaders Institute. My online Bible College journey has been blessed!
The Call: Beginnings
When I began my studies, I was not too sure about where or what may lay ahead. Was this the right path for me? How many classes should I take? Should I just get my Commissioned Minister License? Should I pursue an associate degree? Or should I really go all in, grit my teeth, and pursue a bachelor’s degree and get ready for years of studies.
What I did know was that it was the Lord’s will for me to get some sort of education in ministry. Conversations with the Lord were: “Are you sure you want me to pursue a 4-year degree? Because that will take a lot of commitment, and I have so many other things going on.” I felt as if God said, “You know what I want you to do. Now stop complaining because I am preparing you for something you do not even know yet.” Even in the beginning, I did know what the Lord wanted of me. I was not sure I wanted to listen.
To start, I took courses and got awards in the adult education program at Christian Leaders Institute. Many, many hours have gone by studying in airports, early mornings, late nights, even on vacations when I traveled with my family. I am not sure I would even want to know the number of hours I have spent studying.
Ministry Journey into Chaplaincy
Back in 2012 was when I felt that being in the Ministry as a vocation was where I needed to go. It was not necessarily wanted, but needed. It honestly feels like a lifetime ago, and it almost seems surreal that this part of my journey is about to end. Now one of the biggest commitments I have ever made is about to begin. After two and a half years of studies and the Lord working in my life by putting certain individuals in my path, I decided to not only get ordained through CLI but to continue a higher degree and pursue a Bachelor’s of Chaplaincy degree at the Christian Leaders Institute.
I volunteered as a first responder Chaplain in September of 2019. A traumatic event occurred in my life a few years ago. In working through and getting past this event, it helped me realize even more exactly where God was calling me. Being a first responder chaplain has been difficult and has had many challenges. The classes I have taken help with those challenges.
Full-time Chaplain Opportunity
In April of this year, the Executive Chaplain made known his plan to retire in August. A few people told me that I should think about applying. I was not sure I should consider this position as I am or was not the most qualified at the time the idea was presented to me. However, I sent in my application in June. Then I hunkered down for many months studying any chance I could get to finish my degree. I knew the degree would help with being offered the position. I was interviewed for the job this September and was asked soon after if I would accept the position.
On October 1, 2020, I will be beginning the new full-time Assistant Chaplain position. It is hard to grasp that it is actually happening. I am also finishing my degree at the same time. I know my degree work helped significantly in my application. With help from CLI and CLI, this dream has become a reality.
It is hard to put into words how I felt when offered the position, and how I still feel today. I have prayed for many years for this day to come. That the Lord would allow being in Ministry to be my life’s work. Now it is happening. Many hard days are to come, I know. But with the Lord’s strength and never forgetting why I do what I am doing, I know I can succeed. With this new position, I will be serving all the first responders of Central Oregon (fire, law enforcement, dispatch, etc.). The Lord has truly given me a heart that loves and respects our first responders. To be able to care for them is an honor!
Growth on My Online Bible College Journey
I have experienced growth in a myriad of ways throughout this journey. One of the most basic of ways has been discipline. Being a husband, father of two, and working a full-time job, it has taken strong discipline to get to this point. There have been days or weeks that I genuinely wanted to quit and thought the task was too great. But my desire and love for God kept me on track. I have not only met but exceeded my goals.
One of the most valuable things I have learned throughout this whole process has been on how to be a leader. Classes such as “Leadership”, “Life Coaching”, and “Introduction to Chaplaincy” have taught me what it means to be a leader. They have also taught me what it is to be like our Savior in becoming a servant leader. As Jesus stated, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” There is no better person to model after then Jesus when he lived among us. He lived a life of servanthood and became a leader by not only saying but living a life that was honorable. Every aspect of his life can be learned from.
Being a leader does not mean you become a person that is full of pride and arrogance. As Proverbs 29:23 puts it, “Pride brings a man low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor”. Paul writes to the Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” In becoming a full-time Chaplain this is how I must live: To serve as Jesus served while on earth and to love as He loves.
Knowledge Gained on My Online Bible College Journey
The knowledge that I have gained from all the classes is invaluable. Many of my favorite classes were ones where Dr. David Feddes was the instructor. I truly enjoyed his teaching, his style, and his “Back to God Hour.” I wish I knew about his program back when it was on the radio. I would like to get the opportunity to thank him someday.
Another class that I absolutely enjoyed was Philosophy. I dreaded the idea of taking this class for years, so I kept putting it off. But this class was much different then what you would get at the university. Many universities can be biased and one-sided. So as a Christian, this class fit and did not feel overly one-sided.
I have learned about and listened to many different theologians, philosophers, and pastors throughout the course of my studies. One of my favorites was Francis Schaeffer. His series called “How Should We Then Live” was wonderful. I plan to watch this series of videos many times over. I enjoyed the way he approached Christian history and philosophy in a way that anyone can grasp. There was a lot of information to benefit any minister, evangelist, and apologist.
A Favorite Class on My Online Bible College Journey
Another of my favorite classes was “Prayer”. Too often prayer is overlooked and becomes the last resort when it comes to having a relationship with our Lord. Prayer needs to be an everyday occurrence. Pray when we get up, before we eat, while driving to work, and before we lay our heads down to sleep. An aspect the I really enjoyed learning and have kept is how to pray. Dr. Feddes described a good rule of thumb in using the acronym ACTS, which stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. This acronym has really helped my private and public prayer life.
Challenges Faced on My Online Bible College Journey
One of the most challenging aspects over the past four years has been to stay committed, positive, and dedicated. Many of the classes have been quite challenging and to stay motived each day and press on was not always easy. What I kept reminding myself was that I was not doing it for me, but I was doing it to better myself and grow. Then I will be better equipped to help others and fulfill God’s calling on my life. Knowing this truth made the times when I did not feel like studying more manageable.
A New Journey Begins
As you can already tell from above, completing this degree is the beginning of a journey that has been in the works for quite some time. So, it has had and will have a dramatic impact on my family.
My prayer is that with this new journey of being a full-time Chaplain I can make my kids and my wife proud. I pray that as my kids grow older, they will understand why Daddy made this significant change in their lives (I am actually crying while writing this). It was a change that made things more difficult, but one that reflects what it means to follow and believe in Christ no matter what and allow His Will to rule over my own. I am putting my faith in God more than I ever have with this change – financially, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. However, with the knowledge I have gained with this degree, I have grown into a more godly man. I know that I am ready, and my family supports me and my walk with the Lord.
Thank you all! Know that each and every one of you is loved and appreciated. May God bless and keep you!
Our very own staff member, Abigail Reyenga-Dominiak, recently finished her Associate of Divinity degree with Christian Leaders Institute! Her story speaks to how her studies the last several years have been one of the best journeys of her life.
One of the Best Journeys
In reflection of my Associate studies at Christian Leaders Institute, it becomes clear that this training was one of the best journeys of my life. In the first place, this is because it has further prepared me for my ministry work. I thank God for the opportunity to take free online college courses where I have the honor of working. In addition to this, each course has enriched my life emotionally and spiritually. Not only that, but they have also equipped me with more knowledge in ministry. As I continue working as the Vision Partner Advocate and Christian Leaders Institute Director, I see how these courses have trained me to better assist and encourage fellow students and graduates.
These experiences have molded me as I refine how to seek the Lord’s will in each decision I make. Upon the completion of this academic achievement, it is my hope and prayer that my family and friends can see the transformation these studies have had on my life. My husband, Mitchell, has been one source of encouragement on the spiritual growth I have experienced with CLI. As I have progressed through this degree, he has observed the positive effects it has had on my personal walk with God. I pray the Holy Spirit will continue to lead me to use what I have learned in my studies to advance His Kingdom as I continue to serve at Christian Leaders Ministries.
Classes That Resonate
As I reflect on studies, many of the classes have personally resonated with and impacted me. Those required for the Associate of Divinity degree include People Smart for Ministry, Old Testament and New Testament Survey, College Algebra, and Management by the Book. People Smart for Ministry will always stand out to me. Apart from the Biblical Greek and beginner courses, it was one of the first classes I took that made me realize how much I value taking classes with CLI. One example where I practically applied this course’s content was in high school.
At the time, I remember trying to put into practice the people smart skills I was learning to those around me. One thing I will always remember from that class is the importance of listening and smiling. A heartfelt smile can go a long way in brightening someone’s day and coming across as someone full of the joy of the Lord. Also, there were a lot of vital tips on how to make a good first impression. This is important as I meet many fellow brothers and sisters at CLI.
I loved the Old Testament and New Testament Survey, because it practically walked me through the whole Bible. Not to mention, the courses provided a lot of insight into the authors of various books of the Bible. In addition to this, the background and illuminated many of the messages that were shared in various Bible stories. Growing up as a Pastor’s daughter, I read and knew a lot of the Bible stories. However, taking this course highlighted and shed new light on many of the truths and stories of the Bible.
Appreciation and Challenges
My love for College Algebra stems from my previous appreciation for mathematics. My passion for math fueled my rate at which I completed the class. As a matter of fact, it was the fastest I ever completed a course. I enjoyed being reminded, as well as learning new principles of Algebra. Overall, I did appreciate many of the other core required courses too. I enjoyed Management by the Book as Pastor Steve Elzinga reflected and demonstrated management principles from Philemon 1. Prior to enrollment, I wouldn’t have thought I could learn so much from one chapter of the Bible. I love how the word of God has so many different truths we can obtain from just one chapter. I am praying that God continues to guide me in management at CLI.
Some of the most challenging classes I took were Advanced English Comprehension, Philosophy 101, and Biblical Greek. For me personally, Advanced English Comprehension and Philosophy 101 contained the most challenging and thought-provoking content in all my training at CLI. I found the material difficult at various times. Both courses provided me with an educational growth opportunity. I had to work hard to pass with a grade that was reflective of the dedication I put into my studies. The Biblical Greek courses were tricky as well. Learning a new language is very time-consuming, but definitely worth it. From this class, It was revealed to me how reading the New Testament in its original written language is such a rewarding experience. I definitely need to touch-up on my biblical Greek as that was the first couple of courses I did at CLI in 2011.
A Blessing to Many
The past nine years of studying at CLI have brought times of testing, and even more times of growth in my relationship with my heavenly Father. My studies have opened the eyes of my heart in many areas of my life. I have learned ministry skills about the history of the church as well as how to communicate. I have learned about church planting, pastoral care, and ultimately, I have furthered my biblical knowledge. God has been so faithful to me throughout all my studies. My family, friends, and CLI family has been so encouraging to me. They have spurred me onto receiving this degree. God has blessed me with such a beautiful support system. I cannot thank God enough for all he has given me!
Christian Leaders Ministries is a blessing to so many Christians worldwide. It is providing debt-free, high-quality college degrees. I am so thankful to be finishing my Associate of Divinity degree and very close to finishing my Bachelor of Divinity too! What I have learned has been life-changing. It has molded me into more of a Christian leader – reaching the world for Christ. I have much more to learn, and I am excited to embark on finishing my Bachelor’s degree.
Thank you Christian Leaders Institute for all you have taught me over the past nine years. They have greatly blessed me! Studying at CLI is truly a gift from God. May I always glorify, honor, and trust God in all I do in Jesus’ name. Because this was one of the best journeys, I am very excited to continue onto the next part of my journey at CLI!
In reflection on his time at Christian Leaders Institute, Mark Peverett says that the Bachelor of Ministry degree program fully equipped him with the tools he needed to lead.
An Inspiring Journey
This has been a truly inspiring journey. Fulfilling, rewarding and comprehensive are some of the descriptive words that come to mind. One can hardly believe that a quality, college-level degree of such a high standard is available for free anywhere.
I completed the Bachelor of Divinity degree in May of this year. The major reason I took that course was to broaden and reinforce my understanding of the Christian faith. Having been a Christian for most of my life, I still felt that I was on shaky ground. In particular, I felt this way when it came to apologetics and theology. The courses changed my entire outlook and really convicted me. The more I learned, the more I realized how much there was still to learn. The more I learned, the deeper my conviction became. I started the degree course in Ministry in order to equip myself to put what I had learned into practice. In addition to this, I want to be able to give back. I want to be as fully equipped as possible to minister and fulfill the Great Commission to the best of my ability.
Developing House Churches
The course on developing house churches was both insightful and enlightening. I hope to develop a house church when and if the opportunity arises. Some of the challenges I face at the moment are language and culture. I am a South African living in Ghana. Under these circumstances, I think it would be quite a challenge to start a house church here. Not impossible I guess – but challenging. It is far easier to do with one’s wife and family involved. I am a “part time” bachelor with a full-time job. My wife and daughters live in South Africa and I travel back and forth every 2 months or so. It is certainly something I would like to do when I am finally reunited with my wife full time.
Philosophy and Psychology
The course on Christian Philosophy was intriguing. It is not a subject that would normally grab my attention. However, this was an eye-opener and I am thrilled that this was part of the curriculum. In addition to this, I have held management positions for most of my adult life. I assumed that I was well versed in enterprise. I thought that the Enterprise course would be a course that I could teach. It was a humbling experience to realize how little I knew. It is not too late to pass on what I have learned in my courses. The content is helpful to me when advising and ministering to my children, as well as the many younger people I interact with.
The introduction to Psychology was challenging yet fascinating. I think everyone accepts that the brain is incredibly complex. The millions and millions of lightning-fast interactions are like millions of miracles happening within us all the time that we are unaware of. I cannot fathom how anybody can doubt that God exists when everything within us is so beautifully and perfectly ordered. God, in His infinite wisdom, has created each one of us to be unique and perfectly part of His own grand design. There are so many character types and personality traits that all complement each other. As the apostle Paul has taught: we are all unique, but nevertheless, part of one body. Our individual differences strengthen the whole.
Our family has a history of anxiety disorders as well as mental illness. This course gave me a much clearer understanding of the multitude of possible mental and emotional conditions. Many of these are a result of genetics, while others could be caused by a traumatic experience. Without a clearer understanding, it is all too easy to be dismissive and to assume the affected person will – or should just get over it. It must be traumatic living with a debilitating condition that few people fully grasp.
A Thriving Marriage
My wife and I have been married for 36 years this August. I am the lucky one – I have an awesome wife. I’m at least as in love with her now as I was when we first met. That is not to say that we have always had an idyllic relationship or that we have not had more than our fair share of challenges. We have definitely had rocky patches and I thank the Lord that my wife has had the fortitude or downright stubbornness to stick with me through thick and thin. A lesser woman would have headed for the hills long ago.
How I wish that I had taken the course on thriving marriages many years ago. Even after 36 years, this has been helpful for me. I have a better understanding of my own flaws as well as the vast differences in thinking and approaches to various situations between men and women. Physically, the difference between the genders is obvious. The stark but invisible difference is in the way that our thought processes and emotions function. If I had known all of this when I was younger it would have saved me much agonizing and soul-searching, not to mention unnecessary anger and frustration.
A Traumatic Time
The Introduction to Chaplaincy course has been particularly helpful given the traumatic time that most of the world is going through now, with the Coronavirus wreaking havoc indiscriminately. I have found myself counseling and comforting many people, none less than within my own family. It has been tough dealing with loss my own loss while trying to comfort others.
I lost my youngest brother to this dreadful disease ten days ago. My daughter and 8-month-old grandson have been hospitalized. My grandson was born two months premature, so his little lungs are struggling. Needless to say, all of our close family are feeling emotionally bruised. Whilst no amount of study or knowledge can dull the pain, it has given me a clearer understanding of the stages of grief. It has helped me to have a heightened awareness of my own utterances and the need to lend a listening and empathetic ear rather than to give unsolicited advice. I have a bad habit of being to quick to voice my opinion – often completing someone else’s sentences. I fear I would not have the awareness of my own behavior if I had not taken this course.
What I have learned has been particularly helpful in conversation with my elderly mother. As with any parent, the loss of her child has been a serious blow. Emotionally, she is very fragile. I hope that I have been able to give at least a small measure of comfort.
Equipped with the Tools to Lead
The quality and diversity of the courses that Christian Leaders Institute offers is incredible. For most of my life I have felt like a passenger in church. Now I have been equipped with the tools to take a more active leadership role. Previously, I felt that I would be an imposter. Despite my strong conviction, I felt inadequate without any formal training. There is hardly a meaningful subject that has not been covered in the courses I have taken. I plan to continue to take courses beyond what was required for this degree, because my studies with CLI have left me yearning for more.
The Lord led Kyle Parcher on a new journey that he did not expect: one that was filled with pain and confusion, but also beauty and true freedom in Christ. Read his story to hear more about his journey and the ways in which God continues to lead him.
Getting My Attention
The past four years here at Christian Leaders Institute and College have been amazing. I started this journey in 2017 while lying on my back in bed due to an injury. The Lord was attempting to get my attention. I had spent my life wrapped around money and how much I could personally create. There were times that I would let God in, but in most cases I spent a fair amount of time marveling at what I had accomplished. The Lord had other plans for me. The day I fell off of my roof was day one of a new journey.
Change of Plans and a New Journey
When I was eighteen, I attended college at Philadelphia College of Bible. My dad called and asked me to come home, just as I was starting my sophomore year. He was battling stage four cancer. So I packed my things and started home, not knowing what to expect. I told God then that if he really wanted me to go to college, then He would have to make it free. My life has been amazing. I met my now wife of 26 years, settled down, and started my own business. Once we had our four boys, life sped up to 120 miles an hour. I dove into money: finding it under rocks and hanging in trees. I found it extremely easy to make. This gave me a sense of accomplishment, and the older I got it became more of game really than anything.
In November of 2016, we were redoing our roof. Before we had time to get the shingles on, snow and rain started to fall. I watched the rain that was now forming in my uber expensive home. Drywall started to cave, and it was time to fix the problem. As I stepped out onto the roof, I swear I heard God tell me not to, but bold Kyle went out anyways. That was day one of a new journey.
Around 2018, I could not understand why I was studying at CLI/ CLI. My then current church was pushing hard against the schooling. The pastor refused mentorship, and this led to frustration. He does not have a degree and feels that it is unnecessary. He said that, “The Spirit will lead you to all knowledge”. My wife and I started praying to see if the Lord was leading us to serve elsewhere. Sure enough, one year after I started praying, he led me to the little Christian Reformed Church (CRC) across the street. In July of 2019, I was installed as their paid youth pastor. Not only was the pastor ecstatic with my schooling, he has also become my best friend.
God knew exactly where he needed me to serve, and the classes at CLI and CLI were a crash course. Everything I needed to know was right here. My pastor is a Calvin Seminary graduate, and he knows almost everyone who teaches here as well. However, I did not grow up CRC. I went to a Christian Reformed high school, but everything they did was foreign to me. My church when I was a child until now has been non-denominational. My studies here opened my eyes to a whole new line of thinking. I was not converted on every topic. I still believe in dunk baptisms and the sinner’s prayer, but I am not opposed to sprinkling baptisms or professions of faith.
Removing the Veil
My favorite class here was Hermeneutics and Exegesis with professors Dr. Jeff Weima and Dr. David Feddes. This class helped me to better understand how to read God’s word for all it’s worth. I was listening to one of the lectures while driving one day and it was like a veil fell from my eyes. In fact, I was so amazed by what I learned that I emailed professor Weima right away.
Here is part of the letter I wrote to him: “Today, I was listening to your video on “The Necessity of Hermeneutics” and started weeping at the end. The Lord removed a veil of darkness from my spiritual eyes. A veil that I have carried most of my life and one that Satan has poked at for years. The fear of inadequacy to preach and teach was removed. I am confident to move forward in growing and learning coupled with teaching, and I am not afraid anymore. I sent up a thanks of praise to God for you today.”
I am not sure what the Lord has next for me, but I am going to push hard to finish my studies here at CLI and CLI. With only eight classes standing between me and my Bachelor of Divinity degree, I hope to have that completed by January. I do want to move on. I am looking forward to a master’s program, but I am not sure whom I can take that with yet. The field of study is counseling and it needs to be a program that helps me obtain my state license. I am praying that CLI earns their accreditation, as this will open many doors for students to go into the master’s programs of our choice.
As he nears the end of the Bachelor of Divinity degree program, David Ewing reflects on how he felt unworthy of the calling God had placed on his life. Read his story to hear the ways in which he learned that God does not only call the equipped, but that He always equips the called.
Called Into Ministry
In 2018, I retired and began enjoying doing the things I said I would do if I had more time. The plan was to enjoy the fruits of my labor, so to speak. I dove head-first into projects around my home, lawn, and farm. I played a lot of golf, and even got my fishing boat back out. It was pretty great at first, but I felt somewhat guilty. I wasn’t sure why I felt this way, after all this was the plan, right? It was the plan, but it was way more my plan than God’s plan. He began instilling it on my heart that now was a time I needed to draw closer to Him, and to use my time in a manner that would bring Him glory. His plan went a little deeper, and I felt a tug – a calling to become involved in ministry.
He Always Equips the Called
The calling was there, and I couldn’t deny it. I did what any normal person would do. I began coming up with all the reasons why I was unworthy and incapable. What I needed was to possess the attitude of Joshua and Caleb, and use this is an opportunity for God’s power to shine through. After all, God chose Gideon from the weakest tribe and what’s more the least of his tribe. God didn’t need Gideon because he had great power, he chose Gideon so His own power would be perfectly evident. Not by my own might, but through the grace of God I could accomplish this new plan: God’s plan. I’ve heard it said God doesn’t always call the equipped, but He always equips the called.
The Seven Connections Philosophy
When I began courses at CLI, I was not sure what the Lord had in store for me. One of the first things I picked up on was the seven connections philosophy. I can honestly say it has changed not only my life, but the lives of my family and friends. Although it was a new concept for me, I started to put it into practice. The first step was a greater personal relationship with God. I began reading more scripture, studying more, and above all: praying more. Every instructor I’ve had at CLI stressed prayer as the starting point of everything. The focus on the connections is a personal relationship with Christ. As you move up to the next connection, you always do it to enrich and glorify the connections below it.
As I progressed, I began bringing Christ into my marriage, to my family, and then to my friends and small groups. I needed to look at this area in my life. We are all members of many small groups, whether we realize it or not. I was a member of small groups through my church but I was also a member of small groups with my golfing friends, my hunting friends, and a few others. What I needed to do was make sure every group I was a part of enriched the connection below it, and ultimately brings glory to God.
Through prayer and a great desire to be led by the Spirit, built upon in the first three connections, I was able to do just that. I also became more active in my church, attending early morning prayer meetings and filling in as a Bible Study leader. I have also made plans to attend, for the first time, a retreat that many of my friends have been doing for years. This brings me to the seventh connection and where my experience at CLI comes even more into the picture.
Enriched Spiritual Life
CLI has been a blessing in so many ways. The classes I took in earning my Bachelor of Divinity Degree enriched my spiritual life as I gained knowledge and understanding of the Bible. The instructors are men committed to bringing high-quality education to those who have a calling and desire to walk closer with the Lord. Their passion for the Lord was evident in their teaching, and their insight gained from years of pastoral care for the church was invaluable to me.
These men were not only educators, they were mentors and role models. The emphasis was on discipleship and leadership and there were many times during the course of my studies that an instructor would point out certain aspects of life. They would remind us that if we are not competent in that area, or exhibit certain character flaws, we were not capable of leadership roles. I appreciated their honest approach, and was compelled to search my heart and seek the Lord through prayer. The Bible tells us that leaders will be judged more critically. To accept a leadership role, one must exemplify fruits of the spirit and be grounded in the word of God.
Gained Knowledge and Understanding
When thinking on some of the highlights along the way, the first one that comes to mind is the knowledge I gained in Bible Interpretation 1 and 2. This course featured a video series by Ray Vander Laan. I have never been to Israel and had never given enough thought as to the time and location of many of the scriptures. Mr. Vander Laan presented the word in a historical and geographic context that was incredible. His knowledge of the scriptures, languages, and historical significance made the Bible come to life. It was almost like going to the cities and seeing the actual remains of temples and city gates and their magnificence. I can say this was the most eye-opening class for me. I now acknowledge that I have a very Western view, and will be much more appreciative and willing to share my riches with others.
Sermon Construction and Preparation was another significant class for me. There are many different styles in which a sermon may be constructed. I think we had a pretty good overview on them and how each one can be extremely effective in conveying God’s message. There were videos of great preachers delivering their sermons, each with a unique style. It was an honor to learn from sermons preached by men such as Ravi Zacharias, Francis Chan, Max Lucado, and John Piper. Great preachers!
Thank you, CLI!
In conclusion, I would just like to express my sincere gratitude for all the experiences I had. There was so much valuable information and knowledge gained during my studies. There were also many great resources shared that will be invaluable as my call to ministry continues. One common theme I picked up on was the willingness to share. Most instructors encouraged us to use and build from material they had so laboriously put together. One of my favorite phrases I will remember is “if my bullet fits your gun, shoot it”. That speaks volumes about the selflessness and Christian attitude of the instructors and programs.
I appreciate the time and energy it took in developing these lessons and the commitment it took. Although I have obtained my degree, I plan to continue taking classes to further enhance my ministry skills. What a blessing it has been to learn from some of the best. Thank you, CLI!
Read Kelly’s story to hear how she is able to say: “God had not walked out on me,” even when she lost her faith through some of her darkest seasons. This portion of her testimony is a powerful picture of the Lord’s redemptive grace.
Struggles with Addiction & Identity
If someone would have asked me as a child what I wanted to be when I grow up, my answer would have been very different than what I became. If my parents were asked what they hoped for me to become their answer would never have been for me to become what I did. A Heroin Addict.
No parent wants to see their child suffer, and no person wants to be an addict. As I grew up, I became someone I am not proud of. I became a liar, a thief, someone I couldn’t even face in the mirror. Someone my family didn’t even want around. For ten long years, I struggled not only with the addiction but with my own identity.
Loss of Faith
I lost myself somewhere along the way, and I lost my faith too. In the past, I used to pray every night. I would kneel with my kids and pray with them as well. We went to church, and we lived accordingly. Yet somehow when my marriage took a turn and ended, I couldn’t handle the sorrow or the pain. I didn’t know what to do with all the guilt and shame. The hurt on the faces of my babies and parents was more than I could deal with. I found a way to make all the emotions that I didn’t want to feel anymore disappear. Or so I thought. Little did I know that those feelings and pain were still there lingering in the numbness, and would come out when the drugs were gone.
I finally woke up one day three years ago this past April, having a moment of clarity (a rare but amazing occurrence) and I begged for help. I realized I had stopped praying and I couldn’t remember the last time I spoke to God. So, I hit my knees and I prayed. Never had I prayed so hard in my life as I did at that moment. I begged forgiveness even though I felt in my heart I surely didn’t deserve for the Lord to even listen to me. I begged for his help just one last time, and I would never ask for anything for myself again.
God Had Not Walked Out on Me
The fog lifted inside me something shifted that day. I saw for the first time the person I used to be and the monster I had become. I felt in my bones and my soul that God had not walked out on me. He was simply waiting for me to see in myself what he had always seen in me. He never left my side all those years: he was there loving me until I could love myself.
There is a book called, ” The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery,” by David G. Benner. This book changed my life. I had to take a deep look inside of myself, and I realized so much of what I read has happened for me. Now any doubts that I may have had and any questions that I couldn’t find an answer to I found. It put my life, my experience, and my transformational growth into an amazing perspective. I know now without a doubt that my Lord has spoken to me in the depths of my darkest moments. He has walked beside me through the depths of hell, and helped me find my way out.
Purpose in Christ
Through my transformational knowing and finding of my hidden self in Christ, I know what my purpose in life is. I have seen in my everyday life what living for Christ is like. He has made it abundantly clear what my calling is. I was given this life because he knew that once I found myself in Him, I could let him in and fully accept the amazing things He has for me. I believe I am meant to be a Chaplain, and to counsel and help those who are suffering.
Also, to give back what I was so freely given, and to bring others to the amazing understanding and knowing of Christ and themselves. I am aiming to work in Hospice Care or as a Hospital Chaplain. However, I have also considered Life Coaching, because I want so badly to show others the way. I can’t wait for the next chapter in my life. Without my transformational knowing or finding my hidden self in Christ, I never would have known my true potential. I would still be lost, and still be trying to figure out why.
I thank God for Christian Leaders Institute and Christian Leaders Institute. With their guidance, I am now able to accomplish exactly what I know I am being called to do. I have loved every class I have taken thus far, and until I am able to pay CLI fees in full for Associates/Bachelors in Chaplaincy I am continuing to take classes with CLI. I have learned so much from the Counseling and Life Coaching classes, and I am so excited to continue to learn more on counseling those in need.
As a busy wife, mom, and ministry leader, Jessica Cantrell says that when it comes to getting a Bachelor of Divinity degree, “I believe anyone can do it”! Read her story to hear how she obeyed the Lord when He called her into ministry.
The Power of Prayer
One of the main lessons that I have learned through my time at Christian Leader’s College has been the importance and power of prayer. In both the Prayer and Missions and Revival classes we learned what an important role prayer has in the Kingdom of God. We tend to underestimate the power of prayer, especially in the Global North. Here in the United States where I live, there is an apathy about prayer. It tends to be an after thought.
Another of the most helpful lessons I learned was in the Ministry Conversations class. I really enjoyed and took to heart the concept of authoritative parenting instead of authoritarian or submissive parenting. Authoritative parenting is what is in scripture. And yet, as believers we don’t tend to see that. We often define parenting success by whether or not our child obeys, and not by whether their heart is God’s. A major oversight on parent’s part and yet something that is fixable if one is willing to put in a little hard work and use an authoritative parenting style. The reality disciplining was so helpful as well. True to his word, Dr. Leman’s techniques gave me a “New Kid by Friday”.
Suffering and Persecution
A quote that stuck out to me showed up in a couple of classes but most notably the early church history class. Tertullian said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. While this was not woven through a majority of the classes martyrs were spoken of in several of them. I will never forget their sacrifice or how I would cry reading their stories. While it is clear that the church does indeed grow most when there is persecution, I do believe that hearing the stories of persecuted saints and martyrs strengthens the faith of those who hear them. Because of this class and this quote, I pray fervently for our brothers and sisters who face persecution.
My 10-year-old daughter, upon seeing and hearing me talk of these fellow persecuted saints also started showing an interest. Together we are now reading Jesus Freaks by DC Talk. We are also talking about what it looks like to have such a deep faith that you would be willing to suffer and die for the Cross of Christ. This one quote sparked many conversations and stories and even came up in our church staff meeting. This gave way for an opportunity to express the importance of sharing such stories with our congregation. Also, it encouraged them to develop a faith that would be willing to stand that kind of persecution.
In fact, we have even considered adding a question to those we ask at baptism. We would ask, “would you be willing to suffer or die before you deny Jesus”? While in our context this question may seem extreme, there are still ways that people suffer for the cross in America. Although it may seem slight in comparison to other countries, it would allow them to be able to stand for the cross of Christ; knowing they stand for righteousness and to not fall because of fear.
I had several favorite classes. One of them was the Ministry Conversations class. I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Gunger’s “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” material. I enjoyed it so much that I would watch the lectures with my husband. A few of them that related to dating I watched with both my husband and my eldest daughter who is currently in college. I also really enjoyed Dr. Kevin Leman’s parenting helps. The information that he shared has greatly helped me to be able to better parent all three of my daughters and to help other parents be more confident in their own parenting abilities.
One of my favorite classes was the Old Testament Literature History and Theology class with Ted Hildebrandt. I loved listening to his stories and the information he shared in his lectures. Many of his lectures I watched with my, then, 8 year-old daughter. She would be captivated learning about the heroes of faith with new insights. Dr. Hildebrandt made his class both fun and informational which also made it memorable.
There have been many ministry applications throughout my time studying at Christian Leader’s College. So much of my studies I have already been able to apply in ministry settings. For example, from the prayer class we were able to start new prayer groups. I have used information from the Missions and Revivals class as examples and as a catalyst to help start those very prayer groups. The Sermon Construction and Presentation class was extremely helpful as a jumpstart to preparing sermons for our youth group. I had just finished the Hermeneutics and Exegesis class before taking it. I found it to be helpful in both the classroom and in my ministry setting. In particular, I enjoyed that the Hermeneutics and Exegesis class focused on being led by the Holy spirit in one’s study of the Word of God.
I have also noticed many applications from both the People Smart for Ministry class and the Pastoral Care and Marriage class. As a result of these classes, I have been able to apply many of the principles in ministry. I believe this is one main reason that I have been able to advance in ministry.
Obedience to the Lord
Throughout this process I have advanced in ministry in ways that have been unexpected and wonderful. When I began at Christian Leader’s College in 2017, I did so out of obedience to the Lord. I had no idea where it would lead me. At the time I had recently been healed from a chronic pain disorder that I had had for twelve years. This disorder had kept me from being able to go to college. The Lord healed me from it in the summer of 2016 and after a time of prayer and submitting my plans to the Lord I knew that the next step for me was to go to college.
After doing some research I enrolled and began pursuing a Bachelor of Divinity. At the same time I was involved as a youth leader in our church’s youth group. Shortly after beginning the degree program I became a volunteer assistant for our current youth pastor. In 2018 that youth pastor announced that he would be leaving and planting a church in two years. This gave us plenty of time to prepare for the transition. I applied for the position and this past March accepted a part time position as the Youth Pastor of Spiritual Formation at our church. I am looking forward to shortly being licensed by our denomination and subsequently ordained.
Anyone Can Do It
The most challenging aspect of Christian Leader’s College for me was having the self-discipline to sit down and do the work. I am a busy mom of three, one of which was adopted during my studies at Christian Leader’s College. I am a wife, a Girl Scout leader, Youth Leader, and hold down a part-time job. If I am able to do all of these things and manage to graduate from Christian Leader’s College with a high GPA and highest honors in less than four years, I believe anyone can do it. It was challenging but part of the satisfaction of finishing is the very fact that it was a challenge. If it were easy then there wouldn’t be any pride in saying, “I did it!”.
When I began at Christian Leader’s College my goal was simple obedience to the Lord. I only knew that the Lord was calling me to ministry. I could pursue that by enrolling in Christian Leader’s College and serving our youth group. As I finish my degree I reflect on all the Lord has done over the past four years, I cannot stress enough the important role that Christian Leader’s College has played in my ministry development. I would not be where I am without Christian Leader’s College. Not only have I learned so many valuable lessons, but have also had many occasions on which to share and use the information from classes.
I would like to thank the staff and professors at Christian Leader’s College for their time and energy because I recognize that each class and course of study took hours of preparation, research, filming, and so on. I am so grateful for each and every class and even though I did not mention many of them, I greatly appreciate each and every one of them. Thank you.
In reflection on how he knew it was time to get his Associate of Divinity degree, recent graduate Timothy Richards says, “God spoke to me” both through the people in his life as well as a feeling in his heart. Read his story to hear the ways in which God continued to speak to him and affirm him in his calling.
God Spoke to Me
It took me a long time, many years in fact, to actually understand that I should pursue a degree. I had resisted it for all those years, because I didn’t see any reason for me to get a degree. But God spoke to me through my mother and my wife, as well as through a feeling in my heart. He made it known to me through them that it was time. I prayed to Him to give me the time to be able to dedicate myself to university level studies. In February of 2020, God gave me the opportunity to get started on this journey.
Preaching and Teaching
He also indicated to me that I needed to be more involved in my local church. The Lord impressed upon me that my area of ministry in my local church is to preach and teach. I preach once a month, but felt that I needed more instruction so I could give more effective sermons. I started looking for online seminaries, and found Christian Leaders Institute as well as other institutions. After careful consideration, I decided that Christian Leaders Institute was the perfect school for my needs. A degree in divinity seemed like the right one for me. In my opinion, Associate of Divinity Degree has all the core classes for most ministries.
Learning New Things
My favorite classes were Church History and World History. History is one of my favorite subjects, and when you talk about history you can not leave out Christianity. There are two time periods in history: before Christ and after Christ. So Church History was a mix of two subjects I like. And World History, which talked about different world civilizations, was by far my most favorite. It was interesting to see what the different cultures and civilizations built. Also, to learn why they did the things they did, and why they believed what they believed.
There were also classes from which I learned some things I did not previously know. One was Sociology. I had no idea that all of the founders of sociology were atheists. It was surprising because in other areas of science and study there were many Christians. Another class that I learned a lot from was Economics 101. I always thought I knew about economics, but it turns out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. I learned capitalism is motivated by self-interest and is squarely based in private property rights. Self-interest is actually a good thing, because in looking out for our own self-interest, we help others in the process. Also, private property is a biblical principle. The Lord made us stewards of creation, and gave us dominion over it as we see in Genesis 1:28-29. And in Exodus 20, verse 15 says, “You shall not steal” and verse 17 says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s,” which reinforces the principle.
Helping People Along the Way
Some other useful classes for working in ministry were Pastoral Care and Marriage, People Smart For Ministry and Church and Ministry. Although my ministry is preaching God’s Word, these classes helped me to understand that we must also deal with and help people even if we consider it out of the scope of our primary ministry. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”. Of these classes, the one that helped me the most was People Smart For Ministry. This class had great tips on how to handle people in different situations, particularly difficult people.
The biggest challenge for me in the process of getting my Associate of Divinity Degree were the different types of classes. It’s the old debate of why do I need to study math if my major is in literature, or, in this case, biology if my degree is in divinity. The answer is to be a well-rounded individual. Before you study the courses outside of your main area of focus, it seems like a waste of time, and even daunting. But in this journey of acquiring a college degree, we pick up valuable pieces of knowledge in those courses. And those little tidbits can help us in different ways and moments in life.
Impact on Ministry
Finally, getting the Associate Degree will have a huge impact not only on my life, but in the lives of my wife, my family, and my ministry. It’s the first part of accomplishing my goal of getting the Bachelor of Divinity Degree. It’s a stepping stone to that goal, but this stepping stone is made up of many little steps. And I am learning more and more with each one. My wife and mother are the main ones supporting me and helping me, with the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Their belief in me and the guidance of the Lord have motivated me to get this far.
This degree will also impact my ministry by helping me develop better sermons. Also, in being more effective in how I deal with people, and having a better overall knowledge of the different aspects of life. God places us in different circumstances and situations so we can testify to others who might be in a similar one to ours some day. Then, we can help them through those moments. Getting this degree will be a great blessing in my life, and one that I hope to use to be a blessing in the lives of others.
Read Ivan Sharp’s story to hear of the many ways in which Christian Leaders Institute and Christian Leaders Institute both encouraged and prepared him to serve the Lord for the rest of his life.
Come So Far
In June of 2014, I first became aware of Christian Leaders Institute. As I sat in a coffee shop searching online for a Christian University, the Lord pressed in with His call on me to pursue ministry for Him. It was during this search that I found Christian Leaders Institute. At that time, there were no degree programs and no coaching certifications. Christian Leaders Institute did not exist yet, nor did the online presence of Christian Leaders Alliance at that time. It has all come so far from that point in time.
I began my basic studies right away and went on to complete both the Old and New Testament Survey courses. However, in my earlier studies, the course I really enjoyed was Church History. To understand our Christian Roots was transformational. I especially made note of the period of Constantine when the church gained relief from much persecution, and how this was reflected negatively in the advancement of the church. This helped me to understand that sometimes the tough times are good for us. Tough times can force us to be committed and to live out what we believe.
As I dug deeper, the Lord provided me with an education through CLI. As the Lord was building me up, He was also building up CLI. Over the time that I have been studying, I have also been listening to and remaining obedient to the Lord. He has used me in the coaching and counseling of many individuals since my CLI journey began. This has especially been with those who have experienced broken marriages and difficult family situations. Most recently, I have found that the new coaching certification was quite beneficial to this part of ministry. I continue to work in this area of service.
It was not long after the degree programs were offered that I decided to make this investment in my education. I believe that these credentials will be quite helpful in providing valuable understanding and formal credentials that can bring credibility. I did have a temporary period where I was not able to complete courses due to my employment workload. However, the flexibility of completing courses online has also been a great blessing. Over the years, God has adjusted my employment workload and my studies have been able to ebb and flow accordingly. I have now completed all the requirements of the Associate Degree and I am moving forward on the requirements for my Bachelor’s Degree!
Another blessing has also been that I have found myself telling others about CLI as well. I have been able to encourage others to follow my lead: to complete their own studies with CLI as they prepare for what the Lord has called them to as well. This has been a valuable resource of encouragement and development of others.
I am not sure if I could pick a favorite class from all the ones that I have taken over the past six years. However, I did find the Christian Coaching classes to be quite interesting and valuable to me. I think my favorite epiphany as I took classes was the realization that the Lord was directing my path in the order in which the classes came. This was particularly clear toward the end of my Associate Degree requirements. I had left a core course decision to the end and had to select between Astronomy or Biology. After much consideration I decided to take the Astronomy course.
I found this extremely interesting and realized I would never have ventured into this arena without the course requirement. My final full course was “Old Testament Literature, History and Theology. It was so rewarding and revealing to have taken these two courses back-to-back. To consider what I had just learned about the cosmos as I studied Scripture was an absolute wow-factor for me. I remember my comparison of the content as I considered the idea of the Big Bang Theory and an expanding universe, and then lined it up with scripture. It caused me to be in awe as I read the story of creation in the beginning and saw how consistent it was with the things learned in the astronomy course.
I really enjoyed my recent Christian Coaching studies. I believe these courses as well as my certification and ordination in Coaching will be extremely helpful and impactful to my ministry with others. This has been an area of calling and passion for awhile now. It has been an answer to prayer to have these added to the CLI curriculum. I view the coaching approach to be essential to my practice, and I have begun to take this approach in my mentoring ministry as well. I look forward in anticipation as I watch and am directed in this area by the Lord.
The most challenging task for me has been to stay focused on my studies during parts of my journey. It is not always easy to find the time to keep going, especially when having to break from studies for a bit. Sometimes I have found it a little hard to start up again. However, I believe this is all part of the learning process as well. We need to learn commitment and routines in our continual studies and in our life too.
As I look ahead to what comes next, I realize the large impact that CLI has had on my life, both spiritually and vocationally. The doors that have already begun to open are numerous, and I can envision an enlarging of the territory that I will be responsible for. The Lord has used CLI in such a way that has encouraged and prepared me to serve the Lord. I can see ahead a ministry of helping others both in finding the Lord and helping to encourage others in their own walk and ministry for the Lord. As I begin to take the next steps toward my Bachelor’s Degree, I look forward to the hand of God leading me and His using Christian Leaders Ministries to be in partnership with me and others within the body of Christ. I understand that it takes more than good intentions to properly impact the world around us. We must prepare for the fight ahead, taking on the full amour of God. We must be committed, armed for battle – encouraged in our faith and obedience to the Lord.
I thank the Lord for His touch upon my life, His direction that comes from many places (including the large impact from being a student with CLI) and through the understanding that I do not stand alone. We are all a part of the Body of Christ and together we will be strong. I look forward to the ways that God will use me both in ministry here in Canada and potentially in support of by fellow CLI students around the globe. I continue to pray for Christian Leaders Ministries, its leadership, staff, volunteers, and students. May the blessings of the Lord flow to them and through them all.