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Spiritual Formation through Missional Communities

• Equipping Leaders

Spiritual Formation through Missional Communities

by Gabe Smith, Co-Founder of the East Mountain Society
Rodney and I squeezed into the yellow 1974 Volkswagen Beetle. The tires screeched and the engine rumbled like it might quit any minute as we meandered through the old streets of Stellenbosch. It was a glorious spring day in the Western Cape (of South Africa) and like most days, we were on our way to meet a potential resident for our East Mountain leadership development program.

We traversed most of the Cape Winelands in that little car, building our friendship as we built partnerships with churches, schools and non-profit organizations. Years before, the Lord gave us a vision to build a missional community focused on developing leaders. The dream was to find organizations already doing great Kingdom work and partner with them to invest in leaders so that the Church is strengthened for its mission in the world.

On that particular spring day the dream became a reality as one of our church partners introduced us to a slightly built, nineteen-year old named Lorenzo. He didn’t look like much of a leader sitting with his mother that day, but there was something about him that caused us to extend an immediate invitation to join the new residency.

Over the next year, the East Mountain Community, made up of full time United World Mission missionaries, local pastors and volunteers, invested their time and resources into Lorenzo and the other residents. Lorenzo grew spiritually as he processed his own story in the context of a multi-ethnic community where he was known and loved. He grew theologically as he participated in a read-through-the-Bible cohort. And he grew in practical skills  as he used his gifts to do ministry with one of our partner churches.

Fast forward four years and Lorenzo is preparing to graduate from seminary and be ordained as a minister. He is a mature, equipped leader who, by God’s grace, will be a leader in the South African Church for decades to come.

This is the vision of East Mountain – to partner with the Church to see leaders discipled and deployed for a lifetime of service for the Kingdom. Last year the Community in South Africa invested in over 270 leaders from 19 nations through the residency, theological cohorts, workshops and a variety of other initiatives.

The little yellow Beetle died some years ago. The East Mountain dream didn’t. Today East Mountain Communities in South Africa, Thailand and Scotland serve hundreds of Christian leaders each year. This year, United World Mission launched the East Mountain Society as a new non-profit to continue the work of launching, supporting and connecting East Mountain leaders and communities globally. By God’s grace we hope to see thousands of leaders equipped, encouraged and launched to serve Christ among the nations.

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