Testimony: Discipleship as a LifestyleWritten by Clay Horton on April 23, 2013 | Found in: New Day, Epworth
Editor's Note: As we are in the process of raising funds for the Foundation, we have reached out to our participants to help us tell our story. We are grateful to Clay for sharing his testimony.
I was blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in the Epworth Project and New Day for two years. During this time, my love for God and neighbor grew more than at any other point of my life. Through participating in the Epworth project, I began to understand discipleship as a lifestyle. Living by a rule of life helped give my life a holy rhythm. This rhythm began first thing in the morning and continued until bed time. It taught me how to walk through the day in communion with God. The habit of reading scriptures, sharing meals, and praying with the other people in my house brought me closer to God in more ways than words can ever express.
Living intentionally in a neighborhood changed the way I understand mission and evangelism. Mission and evangelism simply became a part of my lifestyle, not something from a committee at a church. Not only did I pray for my neighbors daily, but I had the opportunity to form genuine relationships with the people in my cul-de-sac. Taking my dog on a walk or even checking my mail became opportunities to share the love of Christ.
One summer, I set up a basketball goal outside my house to provide a safe place for the neighborhood kids to play. I happened to be working at a children’s hospital as a chaplain and one of the neighborhood kids ended up in ICU due to a heart condition. We were unsure whether he was going to survive. During that time, I was the pastor for the child’s family and my neighbors, not because I was the chaplain at the hospital, but because I was their neighbor and friend. During my time in the Epworth house, I took a different family to the ER to visit their mother who had just been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. I also helped other neighbors move out of their house after it caught on fire. Living intentionally in my neighborhood allowed me to be the hands and feet of Christ when the troubles of life arose.
New Day deepened my understanding of ecclesiology. The church to me is no longer limited to a building. Church, the communion of the saints, happens where believers gather to worship God. Some of my most intimate and powerful worship experiences happened in the living room of an apartment in a low income part of Dallas. Surrounded by people from all around the world, I sang praise songs in Swahili, Korean, and Spanish. I worshiped the God who created all people.
Our times of study at New Day were also life changing. Although I’ve completed seminary and had the chance to learn from world renowned professors, some of the most profound things I’ve learned about God have come from African refugees with little formal education. God speaks through all people and the church should be a place where everyone has an opportunity to share their experiences with God.
My first assignment out of seminary is to help start a new church. The Epworth Project and New Day have certainly prepared me for this ministry opportunity. I’d even be as bold to say that this part of my seminary education prepared me for ministry just as much, if not more, than my time in the classroom. When we purchased a house in our new town, our first priority was to find a house where we could live intentionally in a neighborhood. The covenant group questions that guided us in our rule of life will be a crucial part of the small groups that I form in the new church. The spiritual disciples and holy habits I developed will sustain me throughout my ministry. I am excited to be a church start pastor because I will have the opportunity to help build a missional church using the spiritual and missional wisdom I gained in the Epworth Project and New Day.