Jesus started the greatest movement in history: over 2,000 years strong, billions of loyal people, and an assurance of salvation that can only be described as divine. While working as a very green church planter in beautiful Liberia, I asked myself the question, “How did Jesus do this?” Granted, he did this after 30 years of growing up and I’m sure incarnation helped, but he was as human as you and I, leaving behind “all that was accorded to him” and he did commission us to do the same. He even sent us the Holy Spirit to help us.
I was very new to church work and all I had in my pocket was a passion to see people grow and a felt calling to become a pastor. This was a very stretching experience for me. Thanks to the growth from deep, Christ-centered relationships I had back home, I wondered what intentional things can we do to aide the development of organic community and catalyze Christlikeness? Considering my affinity for community and relationship coupled with a felt calling, I started to investigate programs and theology schools that might equip me to cultivate this.
Thank God for Google because I honestly had no idea that a degree in Christian formation and ministry with a specialization in theology existed (or that Wheaton existed for that matter). The more I read about Wheaton’s program, the more it resonated with my heart and what I felt God was calling me to. I applied, was accepted, and so began my journey at Wheaton College Graduate School.
After completing my degree in Christian formation and ministry last year, I got to serve at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA, as the new Life Groups (Small Groups) Director. As a church worker, I have learned that we grow best in circles, and this belief has led me to do my best to catalyze Christ-like community in our small groups as part of the Small Groups staff. Being able to serve in this capacity gives me a chance to use so many of the things that I learned at Wheaton, from the creation of ministry plans and philosophies to the ability to preach and lead devotionals that inspire our leaders. All of that has caused me to lean into what I learned from Wheaton a lot more.
As part of our church’s culture, we work hard to lead using questions that aid reflection. One thing that stuck out from my Teaching for Transformation class with Dan Haase ’97, M.A. ’02 was that transformation is often caused by reflection. Reflecting on the right question can be a lot more valuable than the answer. Disciple-making, without asking the right questions, could be incomplete and this is one of the ways that Jesus did it. This underscores the need to lead with the right questions.
As a church worker, I get to see how the questions that cause us to align our lives with what God is doing around us strengthen Christ-centered relationships. I get to see how reflective questions form disciples who form other disciples through intentional relationships. I get to see how people love one another by actively embracing each other for the sake of the gospel, because they are courageous enough to ask themselves hard questions; moving a discussion from “what does this mean,” to “what does this mean for you?” helps facilitate more personal relationships and community. The opportunity to contribute to this endeavor because of my education is truly humbling.
I do admit that it is hard. Relationships are messy and we are all broken, yet, as Christ followers, we have been given the power to share the great gift of the Gospel. We are reminded to do this together and to depend on God. I know this too well because even though I got to study and am applying many of the amazing things that I learned, I still have the question I began this journey with: “How did Jesus do this?”
Muriu Makumi M.A. ’16 received an M.A. in Christian formation and ministry with a theology concentration at Wheaton College Graduate School. Photo captions (from top): Muriu with Abba Schwanda (Dr. Tom Schwanda – CFM Dept) who was his 2nd reader on his final project; Muriu guest preaching at a Sunday Night Service at Mariners Church in March 2017.
To learn more about Wheaton College Graduate School and to apply, visit their website. To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.