Immerse continues to have a broadening ripple effect in the delivery of context-based ministry leadership development. What began as a vision for developing the next generation of leaders in Fellowship Pacific, has grown to become an expanding network of partnerships for making a kingdom impact across Canada and the US. With 28 churches and 54 mentors touching 34 students in Western Canada last year, NBS found itself entering the Fall 2015 semester with 51 students either returning, fully enrolled, or in various stages of preparation. These students join us from our primary partner, Fellowship Pacific, as well as five External Fellowship Agencies and four Third Party networks expanding our reach across Canada and into California and Texas.
One network in particular is the 17:6 Network: a group of churches in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and California that share our heart for context-based ministry leadership development. Rooted in Hope Church in Fort Worth, Texas, Hope has sent out men and women who have planted over 70 churches and catalyzed roughly 160 additional churches since 1978 (additionally several student ministries have been started and over 70 missionaries have served in over 30 countries). Several of these churches have banded together to create the 17:6 Network – These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also (Acts 17:6, ESV). By pooling their efforts and resources they strive to help “life changing churches multiply throughout the cities of the world.” One way in which they do this is through the Antioch Project.
The Antioch Project was developed as a five year, graduate level training program for rising leaders in their Network. The Antioch Project, like the Immerse program, focuses on training men and women in the context of the church, with hands-on skills and experiences in leadership, mentoring focused on developing the character and heart of students, and strong academic rigor of study.
For many years the 17:6 Network prayed for a way to partner with a seminary to add accreditation to the Antioch Project. In October, 2013 Dr. Kent Anderson was in conversation with Hope Church’s lead pastor Harold Bullock, having known him from the time he spent attending Bullock’s church while attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 90’s. Kent mentioned Immerse. In February of 2014, Kent met with Harold Bullock and the 17:6 Network leadership team to discuss the viability of the Antioch Project training program as a match for Immerse. Both programs seek to shape men and women of character who can have long-term impact in the Kingdom. Immerse seemed to be God’s answer to a long-term prayer, allowing them to partner with a seminary who shared a like heart and vision to see the Kingdom advanced through men and women trained in their program.
What captured the attention of the 17:6 Network’s leadership team? I asked Randy Lanthripe and Jessica Sturdevant, two of the 17:6 Network’s leaders, “Why add Immerse? What benefits are you envisioning in your partnership with Northwest?” They responded with these insights. “Immerse strengthens our credibility….the process has enhanced the academic aspects of our program and provided new insights as we aim to faithfully steward our version of Immerse.”
They added this statement. “It is encouraging and inspiring to think about what God could do long-term through this partnership between Northwest Baptist Seminary and the 17:6 Network. Our prayer is that God will use the similar heart and vision of our organizations to see many men and women of character and heart trained to be effective in long-term ministry to the glory of Jesus Christ and the expansion of His Kingdom on earth.”
The 17:6 Network’s Antioch Project Immerse is currently in its first year, with nine students registered in the program. They are anticipating many more in the years to come. Dr. Anderson and I recently visited the California churches that are part of the 17:6 Network, to provide New Student and Mentor Orientation. They are friends, both literally and figuratively. We are excited to work with these partners and friends to see Kingdom impact for God’s glory.
As you can tell, we are excited about Immerse. We have the opportunity to regularly see the positive effect it is having on our students, pastors, churches and ministries in BC. We are humbled to hear the buzz that the Immerse model is creating in the North American academic world and we are excited to explore the possibilities for kingdom impact that Immerse could provide for other like-minded organizations in a collaborative partnership with NBS.