For the 2013-2014 Downline Institute year, I decided to come and be a part of the Emerging Leader program because I wanted to develop and mature in my faith as a believer. I had heard much praise about the program for about two years and greatly anticipated experiencing it for myself. I knew that another opportunity might not come, and God opened a door for me to arrive in Memphis. I eagerly waited to be bathed in God’s Word with like-minded people in my age group. My year as an Emerging Leader for Downline Ministries has been one enjoyable, sanctifying journey. The Emerging Leader program is true to its motto about equipping and unleashing students to make disciples of all nations. All in all, I can honestly say that the program has ignited a fire into my soul to live for God’s glory and not my own.
The Emerging Leaders program has changed my view of discipleship completely. Before entering Downline, I had as much deep, nourishing discipleship knowledge as a squirrel, which was the exciting challenge entering the program. I heard of discipleship when God saved me at Indiana University, but it did not really spark my interest initially because I thought that is what the “super Christians” do and not a new Christian as myself at the time. I have probably heard the word “disciple” at least 500,210 times during my EL year, however it is not a burden to hear, but becoming a joy. Downline has changed my outlook on how to live this Great Commission lifestyle by actions, and not mere words alone.
If I am not making disciples here in the USA, why should I feel qualified to make disciples in another foreign land? Discipleship is life on life, not simply Starbucks on Starbucks. Since we are always discipling someone, whether directly or indirectly, it is good to know how to be direct when God brings a younger person in our lives. The Emerging Leader program has also continually increased my affections for Christ in ways where “God as my Treasure” is not just Christianese or something to post on Facebook to see how many likes I get. In other words, Jesus is not an addition to my agenda, but He is my agenda. Jesus is not a part of my goals after Downline, but He is the goal after Downline. Since the depths of his love surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:19), I know my affections have zero limits since Christ is limitless.
Furthermore, Downline has shown me how much I need grace with our wonderful housing arrangements and roommates in the program. Living in a house with strangers in the very beginning was like entering into a television show The Real World: Memphis without the drugs, sex, and alcohol part of course. My roommates, myself included, practically represent the United Nations and I have been learning to love them well when it inconveniences me. Notice, I did not say that I love them when it is convenient, but learning to love them when it inconveniences me. It is easy to love someone when they remember to buy the toilet paper for the house, it is quite another if they didn’t. Thus, I see my sin of selfishness and control, which drives me to repentance daily and into the wonderful arms of the Savior. This not only sanctifies me, but prepares me for better relationships with people and marriage as well, Lord willing.
In conclusion, I would encourage others to come and apply for the Emerging Leaders program because you desire to learn deeply about the excellent worth of Christ and his call for discipleship. If you only want to do the program to impress others and cause strife, then this program is not the goal. Downline is not going to promise an easy road absent of trials, but it would be worth the growth and maturity in the end for your good and His glory.
Neven Holland is a current Emerging Leader for Downline Ministries. He is a graduate of Indiana University, go Hoosiers!! Neven enjoys Jesus, playing basketball, writing poetry, watching movies, and having a good time where laughter abounds.