The vision for The Initiative Cohort is derived from a commitment to practice deep and growing friendships with God and others, that the love of Christ might exceed all divisions.
In order to live such a way of life, we first must totally abandon ourselves to a loving God. This requires that everything in us be energized under the power of the Holy Spirit’s gracious influence so that we are growing into mature love. This requires a deep understanding and commitment to the love of God. Second, we must love our neighbors in both word and deed. This is a difficult calling, indeed an impossible one except for the grace of God. The whole church has been given both tasks. We are designed by the triune God to corporately share in the life of Christ together in dynamic relational unity so that the world may know that the Father sent the Son to save it (John 17:23). When we gather as community it is primarily to love God and other believers. When we go outside the doors of our church gatherings we scatter into the world in order to become Christ’s missional people through loving our neighbors. We accomplish the two great commandments through the power of the new commandment; divine love revealed in Jesus (John 13:34-35). When we truly love one another with his love then we will seek the relational unity of all Jesus followers as a reality to be witnessed by the watching world (John 17:20-23). This will lead us into holy friendships/partnerships that will demonstrate Christ’s mission of incarnation. This is seen through the power of our divine/human presence which serves others by going into the world in much the same way that the Father sent Jesus into the world (John 20:21). This is what we call missional-ecumenism.
If the church in the West is to become God’s people in true missional presence then the unity of the Spirit in our relationships with one another must become a bold priority that is pursued in creative and fresh ways. Together we must learn how to truly follow Jesus from our congregational life back into the world. This will require the church to transform how it actually does mission.
The Initiative shares a conviction that the church will not pursue this simple, biblical way of mission unless gifted risk-takers grasp these truths and live them out in life together. This is why we created the first Initiative Cohort in 2012. After teaching this material in a graduate course, John Armstrong believed the best way to communicate this vision was in this kind of context, not in a classroom designed primarily for academic credit. These cohorts have always consisted of small groups of men and women, both lay and ministerial in background. Together this Cohort becomes an equipping model for showing followers of Jesus how missional-ecumenism can be artfully and creatively done. Each Initiative Cohort group accomplishes this goal by teaching, mentoring, relational networking and spiritual formation. Each Cohort is formed by gathering 8-20 people who commit their time, talent and treasure to follow Jesus into the 21st century world.
In the Cohort, Christians of all denominations and backgrounds actually learn how to be effective spiritual leaders in the world of our time; i.e., a world that no longer cares about what the church is doing and saying. Members of each Cohort will learn Christian life-skills and share personal experiences with each other. The Cohort will fundamentally attempt to alter your way of thinking about the gospel, the church and the world.