‘Stepping stone to grow my faith’

A New Wine Discipleship Year student shares some of what he’s learned so far this year & how his spiritual life has grown & matured

So far the Discipleship Year (DY) has been brilliant and I have been able to fully embrace my faith more than ever and with a great support network around me. If I think back to September, I was coming into the year with New Wine having little to no expectations for what might happen. I found out the information I needed to sign up and get ready but I was trusting that God had a plan. I was also looking forward to a bit of surprise!

The first surprise hit before we started the DY due to the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. We were very lucky to be able to meet in person at the start of September.

We started the year looking at our own secret life with God and how our prayer lives away from others is so important and needs to be our foundation in order for our faith to grow. Chris Fox, who oversees the DY, came and led some of those sessions with us and he was able to help us reflect and question what we were currently doing and then help us to think and plan new ways of making sure our secret life with God can be the foundation that it needs to be in our faith. I found that this really challenged me to look at my own secret life with God and actively find ways to change and improve it. This has now meant I am finding more time in my day to be praying or reading the Bible which has really begun to bring me closer to God.

In the first term, we were reading a book called The life you’ve always wanted by John Ortberg about living a deeper and more spiritual life, which linked in perfectly with the teaching each week on our own personal walks with God. This book was full of spiritual disciplines and active ways that I could test out and try for myself if I wanted to. I did. I’ve always found myself rushing around to get on with the day but then so quickly wanting to get it over and done with. Maybe you might feel the same? So, I took on board one of the disciplines in the book which was to try and live an ‘unhurried life’.

Through my accountability small group, I was able to slow down on my daily tasks and to just be as present in the moment as I could. It was also the simple things. For example, I no longer wear a watch however rather than checking my phone constantly I plan my day ahead and enjoy the tasks of the day checking in regularly (e.g. checking at start and finish of tasks) to keep myself on track.

I quickly realised that it isn’t as straight forward or positive as I have made it out to be but that is the reason why we have a gracious God. Spiritual disciplines aren’t easy and we will come across challenges. I know that it is okay that I might not get it perfect all the time, but I have a God who is all for giving me another chance. I am learning to slow down more in my everyday activities and also to spend time in meditation with God.

Going into this term, we have started to look at the different aspects of the Kingdom of God and how we see that in life and the things we do. From my experience with it so far, I have found that the Kingdom is so much of what we do and we can see God’s beauty and divinity all around us. I have been discovering a new level of faith and I have already learnt so much from our teachings and just diving deeper into God’s word.

The group of us in the Ealing Hub are such a nice close-knit group and we have some great laughs but also, they are a group of people who you can have some really good DMC’s (deep and meaningful conversations) with which can be really beneficial. Our accountability groups are so helpful, where we can spend time praying for each other and building the friendships we have to another level.

My placement church was my former church before moving away to Cambridge about six years ago. I was so grateful to be able to come and do a placement with the church as I am surrounded by such a gifted team in many different areas which has meant I have been able to get involved with all aspects of the church. I can see (through Zoom!) that God is really working in the young people’s lives in this area, from the questions they ask and the way that they talk about their faith. It has been a pleasure to be a part of serving and providing them so far.

One of the main ways I have been able to use my creative gifting is through all the online sessions and events we have changed to during the pandemic. I’ve found a new passion for videography and how you can be creative through worship in that way. This has been something you too may have had to become dependent on in this time and I am grateful to God that he has given me this drive and passion to see a new revival in the church and among young people!

The DY has been a stepping stone and platform for me to grow in my faith and explore new opportunities and has helped me form that stronger foundation in my own faith to carry with me going forward. But don’t just take my word for it, here are some thoughts from others in my Hub about how the DY has impacted them so far:

‘DY has been great this year for building friendships with other Christians along with some lovely memories of being able to connect outside of DY session days.’ ~ Jack

‘DY so far has helped me push myself out of my comfort zone and further towards what God has planned for me.’ ~ Heidi

‘Great experience with a fun community.’ ~ Josh

Joel Thomas is a New Wine Discipleship Year student in the Ealing Hub. His placement church is St Mary of Bethany in Woking, Surrey.