For us at the School of Ministry, it’s our motto: Encounter God. Be Transformed. Change the World.
Everything we do at the School of Ministry is intentional. With each batch of students we see a flood of new testimonies: students set free from depression and anxiety; beautiful, supernatural physical healings; deep, intimate encounters with the Holy Spirit; bold equipping in the spiritual gifts. Everything we do is geared towards Presence. Encounter. Transformation. These are the central tenets of Catch The Fire and we pursue them fervently.
But we’ve recognized over the years that a desire for intentional growth isn’t enough on its own. Values need a vision and success needs a strategy!
Inspiring lasting change in a generation - transforming the world - comes secondary to encounter and transformation. But in the triumphant, glorious momentum of the School, there is a hidden warning not to ride the wave of the ‘corporate anointing’ that rests in this place. It’s hard not to. The worship is outstanding. The teaching is out-of-this-world. The presence of God is thick and it’s powerful. But it’s all too easy to misattribute a corporate encounter as an intimate, personal exchange with the Father. Those moments on the school are a dime-a-dozen. But once one exits the bubble of such a culture, returning to the normalcy of outside life devoid of that corporate anointing, where is the wave that once so nourished? How do you inspire lasting change in a generation?
The answer is lodged squarely in a simple principle: the cultivation of a personal, intimate relationship with God.
Two-Way Journaling is the primary tool we use at the School of Ministry to empower students in their relationship with God. Hearing God’s Voice is the very first topic we teach each school (two to four days immersed in the wisdom of Mark Virkler’s four keys!) and, following that, we use journaling to encourage personal encounter and transformation among all of our students.
Journaling is foundational in our five-month programs. Each week of the school has a different theme and we set weekly “Journal Assignments” in concert with that theme. “Father, how do you see me?” might come with Identity week. “God, what does it mean to be made in your image?” might accompany Genesis week. “Holy Spirit, what is your plan for restoration in my heart?” augments the work of Inner Healing week. “Jesus, how can I be a light to my generation?” equips during Prophetic Evangelism week. Each of our modules has their own set of questions each week - usually three - with a creative task included as one of them and this continues for the whole five months of the program. We also encourage them to take ownership of their own journaling and hear countless testimonies of intimate encounters, answered questions and deep revelation through the process.
Each week, students share their journaling with a trusted Small Group Leader, the primary pastoral interface of the School. Set in a dynamic of deep trust and vulnerability, our Small Group Leaders are a voice of encouragement, care and guidance as students venture into inner healing. The team, all of whom are graduates of the School itself, are there to nurture and refine students as they learn to hear His voice, and provide a useful framework of accountability and guidance for growth. As such, journaling also provides a beautiful and clear window into the pastoral needs and growth of students at the School.
We have witnessed journaling change the lives of countless students.
One student several years ago came to the school battered and bruised by a lifetime of bullying, his identity in tatters. Deep at the core of his being was a life-defining ungodly belief: “I am not worthy of love.” Every day, plagued by depression and anxiety, his mind was in turmoil with a multitude of questions. During the course of the School he was encouraged to journal every day “Father, what do you have to say to my heart?” and to make space for the Holy Spirit to breathe life into that area. One day he approached his Small Group Leader, full of frustration. “I’ve been asking God questions in my journaling every day but the only thing he tells me over and over is ‘I love you, son. I just love you.’ I must not be hearing God right - he’s not answering all the important questions I’m asking!”
But just a few weeks later, the message that the Father had been tenderly pressing into his heart found its way in. The student came to his Small Group Leader in floods of tears; he had finally got it: he was passionately, all-consumingly loved by his Father. High walls thrown up in response to hurt came tumbling down, all from the freedom of the power of the word of God. In the wake of that revelation the student became a fervent advocate for journaling, writing dozens of pages each day, pouring his heart out to God and radiating transformation in the process.
The process was a night-and-day transformation. Through his journaling God began to show him answers to problems, gave him strategies, revelations and wisdom, and cultivated a deep, intimate process of restoration from the trauma of his past. The depression melted away and he blossomed back to life, a bubbling ball of laughter and hope. Eight years on and two-way journaling is still a foundational part for him; his 22 journals written over those years are proof of it! And it wasn’t just a deep heart journey: the Holy Spirit even began to show him inventions, technologies and breakthroughs relating to the field of science he worked in!
Why is journaling so effective?
Put simply, journaling empowers consistency in relationship with God. It provides a tool for all times and all seasons. A good habit. A focal point for connection with the Father each and every day. And, encouragingly, a written record which can always be returned to in times of testing.
The simplicity of the four keys means that anyone can do it. Anyone can encounter God and find breakthrough through the process of journaling. No matter where they are at, journaling is an accessible tool for all of our students which cultivates a deep and long-lasting relationship with God that embodies Encounter, Presence and Transformation.
Utterance of the phrase “Go and journal about it!” has become somewhat of a hallmark among our graduate family and wider team. But it carries immense gravity in the School: each one of us, and the stories of a thousand students, are living testament to the power of an encounter with the word of God.