I’ve already posted short versions of these on Twitter, but I figured I would expand them a bit on my blog. Last year, I went through the Emerging Leader program of Downline Ministries in Memphis Tennesee. I went in not really knowing what I would think about it, and I came out absolutely having loved it. I would recommend it to almost anyone who is recent college graduate who wants to grow in their walk with Christ, no matter what field they plan on going into. At the bottom of the post is a video about the program. And now, here are my Top 10 Reasons why I like the Emerging Leaders Program.
10: MEMPHIS. I never thought I’d miss Memphis more than Nashville as a city, but I do. God’s working there is great ways, and I think that is the main reason I find it so exciting. Obviously, Memphis has a reputation for not being a great city. There is crime and racial tension and education problems, but when I lived there, the atmosphere was thick with hope. People in Memphis want to redeem Memphis, and I think that made it a very exciting place to live. Thus, a plus of the EL program is that it takes place in Memphis.
9: IT IS NOT OVER-PROGRAMMED: I have heard of some ministries like Downline that can become so focused on programming and classes that they don’t allow people in the program time to really live out what they are learning. Downline strives not to do this. I would estimate that I spent an average of 8 hours a week in actual Downline activities like class and my small group. That isn’t a lot. Additionally, Downline makes those activities at the strangest times, like 6am, specifically so it doesn’t interfere with other things. Downline doesnt want to stick you in a classroom for a year and THEN send you out. They want Emerging Leaders to be able to have a part-time job and to volunteer where they want to give their time and to actually form relationships with people around them. Emerging Leaders are busy, but they are busy with what they want to be busy with, whether that be their job or their church or their favorite non-profit or some other thing they are passionate about.
8: IT MAKES YOU “PUT YOUR BIG BOY PANTS ON”. I stole that phrase from Jamie Trussell, one of the leaders of the Emerging Leaders program. EL isnt there to produce immature 20-somethings. It isn’t the military, but they do expect you to go to class. They expect you to be financially responsible. They expect you to prioritize responsibilities over sports and video games. They expect you to be able to wake up and go to sleep at normal hours and thus get to places on time. It’s less about rules that Downline creates and more about an atmosphere that treats Emerging Leaders like they are adults.
7: GREAT TEACHERS: The main aspect of the programming that does exist, is the classes. Thankfully, they are great classes. Downline has recruited some top notch teachers to go through lessons about Discipleship and the Bible. I would say the goal of these classes is much more about life impact than filling one’s head with lots of information. Downline brings in teachers from all over Memphis and few from other parts of the country. You might not love them all, and they have a variety of teaching styles, but that is a good thing. I learned more because I was seeing these from several different perspectives.
6: DISCIPLESHIP. This is sort of the main theme of Downline, and more than any other place I have been it tends to become a reality through Downline. The leaders model what it means to make disciples, they teach how to do it, and expect the people in the program to do it. Honestly, the biggest perspective shift I had during my time in the Emerging Leader program was regarding my understanding of Discipleship and what makes effective ministry. The Emerging Leader program is especially good because it sets you up with someone who will disciple you.
5: WORLD FOCUS. Downline cares about the world and wants you to care too. They have several partnerships all over the world with churches and organizations and Downline sends short term teams all over the place. Though not everyone is called to be a missionary, having a world-focus helps keep everything we do wherever we are in perspective. But who knows? You might end up in Madagascar.
4: CHURCH. I think this is actually a huge and great thing about the Emerging Leaders program. Downline is a para-church. It exists to help churches, not to take the place of them or to keep people too busy to serve in their churches. Better than any organization I have seen, Downline does this, trying to partner with and unite churches in Memphis. And Memphis has a whole host of great churches. I personally was a part of Fellowship Bible Church in Memphis, and I honestly felt like I was able to be more involved with Fellowship Memphis because I was in Downline, not less involved. The leaders of the EL program want to help plug people into churches.
3: LOVES YOUR PASSION. I have already talked about this a bit, but one of the best things about Downline is that it is there to serve people from all walks of life. There are dentists, and doctors, and lawyers, and engineers, and educators, and all sorts of people who go through Downline. The Emerging Leaders program does everything it can to help people understand that you do not need to be in full-time ministry to serve Christ. If you love cooking, Jesus loves that and wants you to be a chef…for Jesus! And Downline can help you do that.
2: COMMUNITY. One of the best parts of the Emerging Leaders program is that Downline sets up housing. Emerging Leaders live with four or five other Emerging Leaders. When I entered the program, I didn’t know anyone else, and I don’t know if I would have picked everyone I ended up living with based on first impressions. But that is what made it such a great experience. I had a very different background and personality than the other five guys I lived with, but I learned a ton from living with them and spending time with them. Downline does not force the Emerging Leaders to hang out. There aren’t scheduled community events. But the potential is there for incredible community. The Christian life was meant to be lived in fellowship with other believers, and Downline gives the opportunity for that to happen.
1: JAMIE TRUSSELL. The picture says it all.