For those who made decisions at the WCCCC altar call, below are some useful resources to make good on your commitments, so that you finish the tower you have set out to build. As John Williamson Nevin wrote in The Anxious Bench (1844) about the opposite tendency,
False views of religion abound. Conversion is everything, sanctification nothing. Religion is not regarded as the life of God in the soul that must be cultivated in order that it may grow, but rather as a transient excitement to be renewed from time to time by suitable stimulants presented to the imagination. A taste for noise and rant supersedes all desire for solid knowledge.
Bible reading and Bible study
Our faith is based not on our own fancies, or on the private judgement of one pastor, but on what God has revealed about himself in the Bible. Pick a Bible reading plan for 2018 that’s right for you.
Join an inductive Bible study like the ones you took part in at WCCCC. If you are able to meet online, write to Erik Lui to learn more about W4CAA’s online Bible studies.
For both discipleship and evangelism, also learn to lead an inductive Bible study through our program in order to help others investigate the Scriptures. As we hope you have experienced at WCCCC, this method of Bible study aims to draw conclusions from the text itself, not from the opinions of the leader or the other participants. Trained to use this method, you can lead Bible studies at the next WCCCC, in December 2018, and be certified as a Bible study leader.
For learning more about the theory of Bible interpretation, one useful book, recommended by American theology professor Kevin Vanhoozer, is Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (2012, 3rd edition).
Learn the doctrine of three basic texts used universally in the Church:
- the Apostles’ Creed,
- the Ten Commandments, and
- the Lord’s Prayer.
An elementary understanding of these three texts, suitable even for small children, is taught in the short catechism in the Book of Common Prayer (1662); a more advanced understanding is taught in the Heidelberg Catechism (1563; see also 中文), of which a book-length commentary for theology students was written by the Heidelberg Catechism’s author, Zacharias Ursinus.
Of the Apostles’ Creed, the most expansive and learned explanation is An Exposition of the Creed (1659), by the Right Rev. John Pearson, Lord Bishop of Chester. At more than 500 pages for the Creed’s twelve articles of faith, this was the standard text on the Creed for more than two centuries in England.
Following Jesus requires prayer with the rest of the Church, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, because we share in the everlasting life of Jesus as part of his one Body, the Church. The public prayers of the Church, in which Christians can take part in spirit (that is, in the Holy Spirit) even if unable to meet with others physically, are the fountainhead of private prayer. At the center of the Church’s public prayers, for those who believe and are baptized by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the sacrament of Holy Communion established by the Lord for fellowship with him and his Church. In this sacrament we are continually united to Jesus’s own body and blood by faith, and thus we receive his strength from the Holy Spirit to offer up all our other sacrifices of prayer and obedience. In the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, because Jesus is one and has died once for us all, the whole Church together offers up our bodies as one pleasing sacrifice to God (Romans 12.1–2):
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
For conferees who have responded to the altar call, or who have decided to make commitments during or immediately after the 2017 Winter Conference, WCCCC and W4CAA will organize discipleship training during 2018. Please sign up so that they can arrange this training.
Being a disciple
If you have committed to finding a discipler, pray for God to send a spiritual mentor (of the same sex) to guide you in the way of Christ. As Symeon the New Theologian, a medieval Byzantine monk (c. 949–1022), once wrote,
For this reason, therefore, we have need of much earnestness, much keeping of vigils, and of many prayers, so that we do not fall in with a deceiver, a cheat, a false brother and false Christ, but meet a teacher who is genuine, and who loves God and bears Christ within himself – a man with accurate knowledge and understanding of the apostles’ preaching, of their Canons and Commandments, of the doctrines of the fathers, and above all of the will and the mysteries of Master himself, who is also the apostles’ teacher. It is, then, a teacher like this that we must search for and find – a man who has first listened and been taught these things in words, and then by his actions and experience has in truth been mystically and mysteriously initiated by the Spirit, the Paraclete himself, so that he too has been made worthy to hear said by that very One who mysteriously initiated the apostles: ‘My mystery is for me and for mine,’ and: ‘To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.’
If you have committed to making disciples, gain a good grasp of the other things on this page, and of the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is from your own practical knowledge of these things, and your living communion with God, that in the way of Christ you will guide others toward knowing God. As Symeon the New Theologian wrote to another brother in Christ,
Therefore, spiritual father, one must first become a disciple of Christ, and not only that, but also be rightly taught by him about his mysteries, and so set to work to teach these things to others. Without turning back, one must follow a spiritual father and travel on the road which leads to Christ, and take hold of him or, to put it better, be taken hold of by him; and one must accurately record the turnings and signs along the road, and contemplate Christ through the Spirit without going astray, and so guide others to him; one must first be enlightened by the true light, and so lead others to the light itself; one must be first set free, and so promise freedom to others, for it is utter obtuseness and presumption for one who is himself a slave to bestow freedom on his fellow-slaves by usurping his master’s authority
Beware, and seek to know God yourself. Pray for God to show you whom he would have you guide, that you may say as the Apostle Paul did, ‘Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.’
Evangelism and Missions
Learn to integrate personal evangelism into your whole life. One helpful book for learning to discuss the gospel is Evangelism Made Slightly Less Difficult (1998). W4CAA also offers training in personal evangelism.
If you’ve made a commitment to evangelistic missions, make sure you have mastered the basics of personal evangelism, including the constant use of intercessory prayer.
To gain missions experience when you have a robust practice of personal evangelism, consider going on a short-term missions trip within your own country, serving those at home who have not heard the gospel. For most of us, responsibility for proclaiming the gospel to those at home, and close to ourselves, exceeds responsibility for proclaiming the gospel abroad, just as we have a greater responsibility to provide for our own families (1 Timothy 5.8).
If you feel a greater burden for those beyond the borders of your own country, begin praying for the nations (with, say, Operation World); as you learn about these peoples of the earth and about God’s heart for them, through research and prayer, you may feel God leading your heart toward serving a particular people, region, or religious group in the long term. If so, prayerfully seek ways in which you can help empower the churches already in that place to work together to fulfill the Great Commission given by our Lord shortly before his Ascension into heaven.
Urbana ’15 has, under the ‘Word’ category, a listing of ‘organizations that focus primarily on evangelism, church planting, Bible translation, and discipleship’. May the Lord guide your steps.
If you feel called to work that would benefit from some formal training in theology, we highly recommend discussing the matter prayerfully with your own pastor, other clerics, and divinity professors, taking care to understand accurately whatever requirements are set forth in holy Scripture. Especially for undertaking holy orders as a pastor, it is essential to seek counsel to discern God’s will through the consent and commission of the Church.
In view of the commitment of time and money, cost is a significant consideration, which good stewardship requires us to account for. Nevertheless, academic rigour and theological commitments are no less important, and often a good deal more important. To avoid an overly narrow or even sectarian training while also stedfastly holding to the doctrine of ‘the faith which was once delivered unto the saints’ (Jude 1.3) is no light matter. Below is a list of institutions you might consider (neither exhaustive nor an endorsement).
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois
Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, Pennsylvania
Reformed Episcopal Seminary, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania
Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, La Mirada, California
Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Homewood, Alabama
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
China Evangelical Seminary North America, West Covina, California
Dallas Theological Seminary, Texas
Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, Canada
Regent College, Vancouver, Canada
St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland
University of Aberdeen, Scotland
Oak Hill Theological College, London, England
Edinburgh Theological Seminary, Scotland
Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, England
China Graduate School of Theology, Hong Kong
China Evangelical Seminary, Taipei, Republic of China