Life Together: The Beginning of Good Thinking, Discipline, Growth, and Genuine Spiritual Community

Summit Semester Jeremiah MedleyI’ll be real honest.

Part of me was anxious about getting on that plane from Ohio to Colorado. While excited to be challenged, part of me was very anxious to be leaving home in the East coast for the West; where I would be doing life with 30 other students (most younger than I, at 22.). I would be laid bare in my logic by the rumored treacherous Dr. Michael Bauman with his Socratic method, scrutinizing one’s philosophies. Most importantly, for 3 months a group of people I hardly knew would challenge my sin and inconsistencies. I felt like I had good reasons to be a little anxious (take note that I said “felt”, not “knew”). I even considered not going after being interviewed, accepted, and getting the finances worked out. I confess, I was getting too comfy in my flesh. But alas, I went. I knew that, by God’s grace, I was getting an opportunity of a lifetime. By God’s grace, the Lord was giving me a chance to be disciplined that ultimately would produce fruit in my life. By God’s grace, I was getting an opportunity to be educated by excellent thinkers and defenders of the Faith, learn in a beautiful state, and meet like-minded disciples who were thirsty to grow in the world of critical, sensible reason and ultimately, in a knowledge and love of our Savior, King Jesus.

So, I found myself wandering nervously in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport. I would get up out of my seat next to the gate to get a drink of water every few minutes. I would sit in my seat with a little spring in my leg being dribbled up and down off the ground. I was thinking, “I’m about to place my life in the hands of a man, piloting a giant piece of metal flying about 30,000 feet above the ground. I feel great!” Finally, the airport employee announced the plane had arrived, I got on, and we were off. Within a few hours I found myself in the Durango Airport.

Obviously, it took some time for me to warm up to Colorado. It was new terrain for me. I was a city boy coming to a wilderness of mountains, pines, aspens, mountain lions, bears, and most importantly, legit cowboys. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, folks.

I continued thinking, “What exactly have I gotten myself into? What can I truly expect with this community of believers and with the professors? Will I click at all with this community? Will I learn anything new that I haven’t studied myself already in the field of apologetics and scripture?” I have found myself to be a natural skeptic and doubter to most things in life. This can be a blessing, but also a terrible curse. Doubt sometimes morphs into anxiety, and clearly, as you’ve seen, my own anxiety was equivalent to a small child facing the horror of eating his greens.

But, even the most worried skeptics can be broken by the true beauty and love of community centered on Jesus. Soon my worry and guard would begin lowering. This was not within a period of a week or a few weeks. This was in a matter of days, before the 3 months truly began.

I arrived at the Main Lodge, where my home would be for 3 months. I had dinner late, because I arrived a little later than the other students had, and I met my roommate, Alex. I found we were both seeking to grow in our thinking and discipleship with Christ. Additionally, we both appreciated good, deep conversation on the important things in life. Things were clicking a bit better, but still I was cautious. Eventually all 30 students met in the other lodge, Echo Canyon, to begin orientation. We gathered in a circle and began introducing ourselves. Many different walks of life were coming into this program. Some students had dreams of doing business and accounting. Other students were in school pursuing architecture, literature, or counseling. All coming together for a purpose: To grow as leaders and be salt and light in the culture for the glory of God. Eventually, we played a few games to get to know each other and our interests. Within the next few days, we began learning about one another and discussing our expectations, anxieties, excitement, and even some of our struggles.

We also started our journey with the classic literature that set the tone for the next three months. We read the first chapter of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. Discussing what true Christian community looks like, Bonhoeffer provides an exemplary, truly beautiful, and profoundly biblical picture. What particularly spoke to us was Bonhoeffer’s exhortation to be thankful for true Christian community. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to love our enemies and be in the midst of our enemies to see souls saved (Matt. 5:43-48). With this in mind, Bonhoeffer reminded us that when we are in the presence and fellowship of other believers, it is by God’s grace and a true blessing. These excerpts provided perspective for our time together:

“…God’s people remain scattered, held together solely in Jesus Christ, having become one in the fact that, dispersed among unbelievers, they remember Him in the far countries. So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in the visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament…. The believer therefore lauds the Creator, the Redeemer, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of a brother. The Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God…. they receive and meet each other as one meets the Lord, in reverence, humility and joy…. in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.”- Pages 18, 20, & 21

With Bonhoeffer’s words in mind, we realized our time together was valuable. The past week we began to serve and fellowship together with one another: cleaning the kitchen after meals, encouraging and challenging one another in our hardships and lives, laughing and being silly with one another, sitting around a campfire playing a diversity of instruments while singing hymns and spiritual songs, playing sports, doing work crews to assist in maintaining the property, and much more. The past few days were really beginning to paint the picture of a genuine, serving Christian community. No longer just an ideal but a divine reality, as Bonhoeffer put it (Pg. 26).

So, I was beginning to see my worry was highly mistaken. We hadn’t even begun classes and we were off to a great start.

Finally though, we had our first day of class with Dr. Bauman, our lead professor for the next 3 months. A lot of us were nervous about his demeanor, given what we had heard of the way he challenged his students. We were mistaken. He spoke with challenging conviction for us to think deeply about our questions and answers for the next 3 months, but spoke with a heart of compassion to teach, educate, and prepare us to think well and defend truth in a world of confusion and relativity. He wants to train us to fight for and defend the truth of Christ in such a disciplined way that we won’t end up casualties in the world of reason. Bauman’s introduction to the semester is best summarized with his observation, “[As Christ followers] you have the obligation to be the sworn enemies of nonsense.”

I dig that. A whole lot. And that’s the kind of aggression yet empathy we wanted in preparation for fighting ideas and loving people for the glory of God.

Needless to say, the anxiety for myself and all of us was beginning to wash away, by God’s grace. I’m truly excited to see how these 3 months play out. The life we will be living together will be fruitful, challenging, encouraging and fun, all truly centered around Jesus and our growth as good thinkers, culture-changers and disciples. The adventure, fellowship and growth has only begun!

Jeremiah Medley traveled from Ohio to join Summit Semester. Jeremiah’s education plans include pursuing Sociology on the undergraduate level and then tackling a Masters in Counseling. The goal behind these studies is to serve others in either a counseling or pastoral role. During his time at Summit Semester, Jeremiah is looking forward to growing in his communication and leadership skills, and resting in God’s grace. If you find Jeremiah with a bit of free time, you’ll probably see him making music, reading a good theological book, or enjoying sports and the outdoors.