As “a pillar and buttress of the truth,” (1Tim.3:15) the church’s purpose is to embody the gospel before a watching world, showing as well as telling the good news of the kingdom of God, and so making visible the invisible glory of God revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In order to be this kind of community, we need to be a people who “love from a pure heart, a clear conscience and a sincere faith,” (1Tim.1:5).
But how do we produce such a people? How do we become such a people? The short answer is: we don’t and we can’t. Jesus does through the Spirit and the Word (e.g., Eph.5:25-27). But the long answer is: Jesus does this through us and in us as we apply the gospel to our life together in dependence upon him. As we consistently and intentionally “speak the truth in love to one another,” we find our community “growing up into Christ.” This happens organically as we share our everyday life together in Jesus. But it is also happens through structured times of study, training, reflection and deliberate practice.
To this end, the leadership at Riverside Community Church has designed a new series of co-ed discipleship intensives to further equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph.4:11) and enhance our life together as the church. In particular, we have currently planned two intensives, with a third in the works (regarding ministry in the marketplace). The first intensive is called “Doctrinal and Spiritual Foundations,” and will serve as the entry way to further training at Riverside. It will be offered this spring (March 6th – April 17th).
This intensive will be broad and basic, but also deep, designed for anyone at any place in their spiritual journey with Christ – from a new believer to a seasoned follower of Jesus. Specifically, it will involve a six-week long commitment of study, reflection, and prayer. The doctrinal component will address the most profound theological questions of God’s identity as revealed in Jesus, as well as our identity as children of Adam and adopted heirs of God’s family. We will use the Heidelberg Catechism to frame our curriculum, which will be variously informed by writings from the early fathers and 16th century reformers – being among the most celebrated voices of the church. The spiritual practice component will entail a simple regiment of spiritual disciplines in order to assist Christians in learning how to live more deeply in intimacy with God. This component will focus on fixed-hour prayer and regular, selected fasting. Further details are included below. If you are interested in participating in our first intensive, please email pastor James by February 26th.
The second intensive will be focused on Small Group leadership specifically, and will be offered in the fall. More details to come!
Pre-reading: Heidelberg Catechism: Q1-11, 21-23 (assigned February 28th)
Read chapters 1 & 2 of Book I of John Calvin’s Institutes and chapters 1 & 2 of J.I. Packer’s Knowing God
March 6: I & Thou: Knowing God and Ourselves (Introduce HC Q1-11)
(HW: Heidelberg Catechism: Q24-28, 33-36, 47-48; Nicean Council Statement & Creed, and the Chalcedonian Definition; Prayer: HC Q116-119)
March 13: He & They: Trinity & Christology
(HW: Heidelberg Catechism: Q12-20; Athanasian Creed and Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, 6-9; Prayer: HC Q120-21)
March 20: He & Us: Redemption & Atonement
(HW: Heidelberg Catechism: Q34-43, 45-46, 49-50; meditate on the Apostles Creed, i.e., Heidelberg Catechism Q 23; Prayer: HC Q126)
March 27: [Easter – No Meeting]: Read excerpts from Donald Fairbairn, Life in the Trinity, chp.1, 9-10.
April 3: We & They: Union with God
(HW: Heidelberg Catechism: Q59-65; 86-91; excerpts from the Council of Orange and Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation [1, 2, 16, 17, 18, 25, 26, 28]; Prayer: HC Q122, 125, 129)
April 10: Us & Them: Grace & Works (Introduce HC Q92-115)
(HW: Heidelberg Catechism: Q66-73, 75-85; Letter to Diognetus, excerpt from Everyday Church; Prayer: HC Q124, 127)
April 17: We, Them, All: Church & Mission
(HW: Heidelberg Catechism: Q92-115; Prayer: HC Q123)
Spiritual Practices: Daily offices/hours of prayer, selected daily readings from the Catechism, and fasting (suggested: one day or two stations)