In September 2013 we started our internship programme. We were just a very small house church at that time and one brave soul said he’d commit a year to the church and our internship. Since then we have had five others do our internship (three currently half way through) and we’re now taking applications for September 2017.
As this blog post outlines, the internship is focused around three areas: (1) Biblical Studies (2) Character Growth and (3) Gift Development, and is usually done part-time alongside another job.
In this post I wanted to make five observations of the benefits/challenges of the internship. I deliberately align the benefits and challenges as it seems that the two go together; and together these challenges/benefits reap fruit in our lives.
(1) The discipline of Bible reading
During the nine months each intern has to read the whole Bible, and we break it down for them with six essays that they hand in through the year. Reading the whole Bible in nine months is not easy and requires discipline. Of course this can become drudgery and at times interns resent the reading. However each intern has spoken of the benefit of doing so and persevering when “they weren’t getting much from it”, so to speak.
One of the (many) challenges modern people can have with the Bible is that we don’t treat it as a whole book; we just dip in and out of it. We have no sense of the big story that runs through it or how each part points to Christ. Very often, we ignore the passages that challenge us, upset us, confront us or disturb us. We just pretend they are not there or figure they don’t apply today.
Reading the whole Bible through in nine months means you can’t dip in and out, you have to deal with God in all his glory, holiness and splendour, even when he challenges your misconceptions of him. You’ll have more questions coming out of the year than when you went into the year… and that is a good thing. Maybe most importantly you’ll learn to relate to God as he really is, rather than a god you had imagined him to be.
So reading the whole Bible in nine months is a challenge, but it reaps great fruit in your life. And if you can learn to not see it as a discipline but a rhythm (a habit!) then you can lay a foundation in your internship that will stay with you for life.
(2) The importance of team
God made us for relationships and he made us to do ministry in teams. We are not meant to live or work alone. This is the message of Genesis 2; this is what we see in Jesus’ ministry and what the Apostle Paul also demonstrates. As the internship has developed we have realised the importance of team on two levels.
Firstly, we must operate as a team with common goals and objectives which we work towards. Both the process of working together and the results we achieve are more satisfying and rewarding when done alongside others. Secondly, one of the ways God wants to shape us is through our participation in a team. Inevitably, as we rub alongside each other, feathers can be ruffled! Some of us might be tempted to think we’re not suited to the team or the task at hand and resist committing or resent having to participate. Sometimes, working in a team reveals some shadow sides of our character which can be uncomfortable and we’d rather just avoid dealing with them.
One of the great benefits of the internship is forming close friends with 4-5 others and feeling caught up together in what God is doing. You’ll certainly make life-long friends and your character will grow through the process.
(3) Character trumps gifting
This theme runs throughout the whole of the Bible. God is not so much looking for gifted people but people of substance, character, humility and love and people who are reliable. You can be the most gifted person in the world but if you haven’t spent time with God, allowing him to mould you, then that gifting will at best be wasted and at worst become damaging (to yourself and others). History tells a sad story of gifted people who never made a difference because they didn’t work on their character, but it tells a wonderful story of ordinary people who did great things because they fully surrendered their lives to God. God normally has to work in us before he works through us.
Each intern will testify to how their character has been stretched, pruned, moulded and shaped. They will tell of challenges, trials, set-backs and suffering they have faced through the year and how, as they look back, this was God’s gift to them because they had to examine themselves, be vulnerable with others and open to the Holy Spirit’s work. Again, this is something that will reap fruit in your life, not just for the nine months, but for your years to come. As Galatians says “you reap what you sow” and if you sow the seeds during the nine months you’ll reap a wonderful harvest which can set you up for life.
(4) Organisation matters
I think each intern has realised that in order to make the nine months as fruitful and successful as they can be, they need to take responsibility, organise themselves and use their initiative. As the old adage goes “the more you put in, the more you get out”. This is particularly important as each intern will either be doing part-time paid work or part-time voluntary work. We deliberately want each intern to not be completely consumed by the internship but to be contributing to the City of Dublin in some very tangible way (whether through paid work or through volunteering) and meeting people who are not part of the church.
Therefore time management and organisation are two skills that each intern will learn throughout the year. We will not spoon-feed the interns, but expect them to be self-starters, and particularly after the first term, start to take more control over the shape and destiny of their internship. Of course we’ll guide, coach, mentor, encourage, critique and a whole lot more but part of growing in godly character is growing in our ability to take responsibility for our lives and our time.
Whether you want to remain in Christian ministry, start working elsewhere or start a family after the internship, learning time management and learning how to organise yourself will only stand you in good stead.
(5) Faith is spelt R-I-S-K
I am not sure who said this first but I’ll attribute it to John Wimber. Learning to trust God means learning to step out and take risks. It means wrestling in prayer for something you have committed to and want to see come to fruition. It means relying on him for finances and friendships and it means going out of your comfort zone and doing things you wouldn’t normally do, wouldn’t naturally do and wouldn’t want to do either. But as we step out in faith we learn to pray, we learn to trust God and we start to build up stories of God’s faithfulness… and all this stirs up more faith.
So each intern has had to take risks. The risk may have been doing the internship in the first place against the advice of family members who don’t follow Jesus. It might have been the risk of trusting God for the finances to cope with the year. It might have been the risk of leaving another country and coming to Ireland and Christ City Church because someone recommended it.
But these risks have all been important and all been part of the interns’ testimony as to why the internship has been important.
I am sure there is more to say, but these five things felt important when considering the challenges and benefits of the internship, and thinking about five ways God bears fruit in our lives.
If you’d like to consider the internship for September 2017 then do have a read over the all the relevant material,the handbook and fill in the application form. Or if you just have some questions, email email@example.com.