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A Taste of Discipleship: A Reflection on our Internship Program

Jun 27, 2019

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What has it been like working as an intern for Heritage? Not anything you would expect.

Before entering this role in 2017, I was under the assumption that this internship would be like any other: make coffee, sweep the floors, post pictures on social media, play guitar occasionally for the church’s worship team. I would be the church’s invisible assistant, a role I was happy to play for the sake of the church itself. I was willing to do what was needed, even if that meant working the jobs nobody else wanted.

But after I was accepted for the job that Spring, I came to realize that this internship held much more to it than its name would ever imply. Of course, I still had to do some of those “invisible” jobs, but my assignments soon became much broader and more creative. After accepting the position, I was assigned the role of “outreach coordinator,” and one of my first major tasks as an intern was to oversee a mission trip to an unreached people group. Around that time, Pastor Chuck gave me my first opportunity to preach. Later that December, I was allowed to preach again—that time on Christmas Eve. I have had the opportunity to teach Sunday school, train church members in biblical interpretation, organize prayer walks, and preach a four-part sermon series, which finished two weeks ago.

After years of working with Heritage, I have come to realize that this internship is far more than a collection of odd jobs; it is an opportunity to witness and participate in the front lines of church work. Instead of placing me on the sideline (as so many internships seem to do), Heritage’s pastors have dedicated themselves to training me up as a leader. Under their committed guidance and mentorship, I have been given a clear taste both of the ins and outs of ministry and the joys of life-on-life discipleship.

A Taste of Ministry

Every Friday, my wife (who is also an intern) and I always make sure to have coffee ready by 3:30 PM.

Once that time arrives, and once the coffee has been brewed, we sit near our window and watch as one car rolls up, then another. Every week, we greet our pastors with coffee and sit with them in our living room, debriefing the week’s successes and frustrations. Our conversation eventually turns towards our future plans, as we brainstorm and deliberate over opportunities for this little revitalized church. In every meeting we have, I know one thing for certain: my voice is being heard.

As I previously mentioned, far too many interns, especially within church contexts, sit on the sidelines, getting little chance for involvement and thus little chance to learn. Their interaction with their leaders may be nothing more than a boss saying, “get my mail for me, please.” As an intern at Heritage, I not only get to have quality conversations with my pastors on a regular basis, but I also have been given the freedom to add my own input regarding the direction of the church. I know I will always have the opportunity to share my voice, whether in a meeting or in the pulpit.

Why are we interns, who have so little experience, given so much involvement in the inner workings of the church? Because, according to our pastors, the greatest way to learn ministry is to march onto the front lines and play an active leadership role within the church. And after working with Heritage for over two years, I have come to agree with their philosophy.

A Taste of Discipleship

When I became an intern in 2017, I quickly learned the goal of this internship program. Its purpose, despite what I initially assumed, has little to do with learning leadership techniques or helping out the church in some way. Although both of those things have been significant factors in this job, they are simply means to an end. The main purpose of this internship, I realized, was to show me a picture of radical, ordinary discipleship.

The command to “go and make disciples” has never been an easy one. Our pastors recognize this. And so, instead of simply telling us to make disciples, they have sought to show their congregation how discipleship is to be done. Hence, the internship program.

If my internship has shown me anything, it has shown me that discipleship cannot be taught in the classroom. Discipleship must be lived out the way Paul worked with Timothy: partnering in the mission with training along the way.

I am so grateful for the way my pastors, Matt and Chuck, have poured into me, mentored me, and trained me over the past few years. They have shown me an incredible example of discipleship through their humility, service, and dedication. Their willingness to give up the pulpit, to delegate responsibilities to me, and to fix my mistakes has given me a wonderful taste of what discipleship should be like.

The mission of Heritage has always been to “radically love Jesus and our neighbors.” It’s a worthy goal—one that all Christians should strive for. I am thankful to be a part of an internship that teaches me how to live out that goal on a daily basis.