Spiritual Formation and Christian Ministry

Dr. Daehnert

Dr. Jan Daehnert has many years of experience ministering in and working for the local churches of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He currently serves as Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Ministry and as Director of Ministry Guidance in the College of Christian Faith at Dallas Baptist University. In these roles, he serves more than 500 students who are sensing the Lord calling them into vocational ministry.

"Since spiritual awakening in America has often been led by college students, I am waiting to see how the Lord will move--first with me, then DBU."

Recently, we had a chance to ask Dr. Daehnert about a popular course he teaches every semester to undergrads entitled "Spiritual Formation and Christian Ministry."

Apart from just theorizing intellectually about spiritual formation, students actually practice the disciplines they read and learn about in class. "My goal is for our students to get to know and love Jesus on a deeper level than ever before. In order for that to occur, the primary context takes place outside of the classroom and online discussion boards. I want students to build into their lives new disciplines in order that this goal might be reached."

One of those daily disciplines he encourages is journaling their faith journey, pointing to Jesus' call of discipleship in Luke 9:22 as requiring a daily commitment.

Dr. Daehnert's approach to the course is inspired by Richard Foster's highly acclaimed book The Celebration of Discipline, which describes four Inward, four Outward, and four Corporate Disciplines, which include among them prayer, fasting, service, and confession.

"I mix these up. One day they might study Scripture about one of the 12 disciplines. Another day they might write about fasting and how they understand and/or practice it." One semester, the class even chose to fast twice a week until finals week to express dependence upon God and experience spiritual renewal.

Another text that influences Dr. Daehnert's class is Donald Whitney's Praying the Bible. "This is such a practical book, and they particularly enjoy working through the Psalms and Proverbs." Along with praying through the Bible, students also memorize Scripture, a habit Dr. Daehnert observes many often lose after outgrowing AWANA clubs.

"I ask each student to begin working on the Sermon on the Mount - the greatest sermon ever preached. We look at the Beatitudes first because they form the spiritual principles for life. Students will come to class on three different days and quote the chapter for that day -- 48 verses in Chapter 5, 34 verses in Chapter 6, then 29 verses in Chapter 7."

Dr. Daehnert then has students recite these verses from memory with others outside the class as well, although he is quick to explain that he discourages any comparison or competition between students regarding the keeping of the disciplines. "This is not a class of guilt," he says, "but of trying new disciplines to know Jesus better."

Lastly, what has become Dr. Daehnert's favorite assignment in the course, is an eight-page spiritual autobiography that students share with the entire class. "I finally realized students are hungry to hear each other's story. Seldom do we ever have laypersons share their story from the pulpit unless it's the time to pledge the budget. I find the students are transparent, vulnerable, and absolutely blown away with the honesty they hear from each other." Students are welcome to open up about struggles but promise to keep these stories within the classroom.

"I began to invest so much more in my prayer life and also began to prioritize solitude and meditation with the Lord," says Maddie Dayberry, a former student in Dr. Daehnert's class. Not only the course content but also the pastoral approach Dr. Daehnert adopts as a servant leader toward his students left an indelible mark on her faith formation.

"In that class, Dr. Daehnert also took the time to invest in me individually. He took the time to get to know me and as I shared more and more of my story with him, he advised me to meet and speak with his wife. He has challenged me in my faith, in my theology, in my discipline, in my heart for others, and even my influence in the world. Dr. Daehnert is a world changer and I am so thankful for him."

Written by Dr. Michael Whiting

Dr. Michael Whiting is the Director of Written Content in University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.