Excellence in All We Do

I can’t claim the honor of being an alumnus of TwentyFourSeven Leadership Academy, a full-time New Life Church missions/discipleship program celebrating its 10th year.

But when I first came out to Colorado Springs in Fall 2003, a brother of mine joined 24/7 and I felt a part of it as he shared about 24/7’s drills, classes (for the mission field, the program insists students learn economics as well as the Bible), early-morning workouts, trips to hostile countries, etc.

I stayed at New Life, getting more involved — he moved on to being a 24/7 team leader, then graduated from two years in June 05. Lo and behold, another younger brother joined TwentyFourSeven in Fall 05, became a leader in Fall 06, and will graduate this June.

All that to say: it’s been a privilege being a small part of this family.

Which I why the recent news of the transition facing 24/7 — founding director Christopher Beard leaving — has been in my prayers often these past weeks. The word came immediately before watching a performance of Wonderland, a Christmas musical that 24/7 plays a massive part in. Amidst all the spectacle, sets and elaborate production, I watched the 1st year, 2nd year, and 3rd year students — whose world had been turned upside-down in the past 24 hours.

Still they looked joyful, full of God’s life, and passionate for displaying His truth to those watching… by being a stand-out part of something bigger. I was teary-eyed at their strength. Following the “show,” all I could say to any 24/7 student I saw was, “You guys are amazing, you inspire me.”

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TwentyFourSeven really is a family, and Christopher Beard’s intensity has fathered it from day one. He’s irreplaceable, no question. The program will look and feel different under Aaron Stern, pastor of theMILL – not a bad thing, just different.

Some grieving should be expected (out of necessity, most current students are past that stage). The loss is felt not only by parents, host homes — generous New Life families who give up a spare room for 10 months to a 1st year student — but also by the other 24/7s.

Indeed, alumni of Colorado Springs’ twentyfourseven have gone on to start similar training programs in other cities:
– 24/7 Birmingham, Alabama
– 24/7 Conway, Arkansas
– 24/7 Mexico City, Mexico

When one thinks of the alumni who are pastoring, who are missionaries overseas, or studying to be a doctor (like my bro)… this vision really is making a global impact. The media, of course, has made this story something it clearly isn’t. I’d encourage anyone to carefully read the New Life statement and understand how different this is from what happened in November.

After a past year’s TwentyFourSeven banquet, I had this to write; hope it gives some context for the continuing strength of this family…

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Tonight I witnessed something so rare in today’s world that it’s nothing short of shocking. A few dozen college-age students celebrated. Actually, that part could be seen in lots of places on a summer Saturday night: bars, college dorms, the back seats of cars… it was what this group was toasting that ought to make headlines. These students had just spent one (or two) years being TwentyFourSeven Worldwide.

24/7 is a little like the military, maybe a lot like Teen Mania’s Honor Academy. This year’s class had its own set of images and moments — not to mention intense personalities — that set it apart…

– “With all your heart, take one step at a time.” Tonight John Bolin outlined some of the steps taken by 24/7 students: risk, discipline, servanthood. It occurs to me that these young adults couldn’t make up their process as they went along. Each one had to take ownership of each step, exactly in the order and at the time they received it. That’s gutsy.

– My brother was awarded the title of “Most Likely to be on The Bachelor.” In a leadership academy where dating is not allowed, go figure. : j

– With any graduation ceremony comes the requisite video montage. Only these videos were wilder than what you’d see at other such formal occasions, with clips from perhaps eight  nations covering their past 10 months of journeys.
A certain training recap video had me perplexed, even after I understood what the images were. In waves, the twenty-somethings were rolling down sand dunes. Many of them shirtless on their bellies, 24/7 students pushed themselves down the white-hot hill. Most amazing to me–they saw the point of what this was accomplishing.

– 2:47pm. We learned that every student takes that one minute, everyday, to reflect (which ties into a curious slogan they all know: “Leaders reflect.”)

– Almost as telling as what we did see and hear is what we didn’t. 15 minutes after the banquet ended, Christopher got on the mic and asked all the students to gather immediately for a picture. Some slowly meandered there way there; most just kept talking and taking their own private snapshots.
Now, these are students who’ve had to sometimes do 6,500 push-ups because of this man. But, in this late-night party atmosphere, they did what all other college kids would do. TwentyFourSeven doesn’t create pandering, order-obsessed robots. Just solid leaders.

– I think I’ve got the motto down now: “God first, Others before self, Honor, Character, Discipline, Excellence in all we do.” That last bit, “all we do,” is perhaps a case of reverse syntax that should read “we do all.” Because when it comes down it, twentyfourseven gives its students 100% of the tools they need to succeed. God must love these crazies.

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Last remarks… having known the past four TwentyFourSeven classes to some extent, clearly there’s something special about the 2006-07 group. They were chosen from a larger group of applicants. But more telling, only a handful dropped out during the “boot camp” that is the first two weeks (compared with the usual 10-15).
Even more revealing: every single student returned from Christmas break. God only knows what this time of character-building will mean later in their lives.

Psalm 119:31-32 says, “I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame.

Some Christians walk in God’s ways, but TwentyFourSeven? They run, as an example to us all.

One response to “Excellence in All We Do

  1. As someone who attended 24-7: the beauty of discipline, is that it reveals character, which in turn is meant to create hope. The intensity of 24-7 revealed a lot of good character, and in the same capacity, it revealed a lot of bad character. I for one, can not endorse this program to anyone, in good faith. I believe that, as Christians, we are not necessarily called to intense experiences. The experience of God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness doesn’t require us to concentrate it into nine months. I think that that is the fallacy of programs like this, and Teen Mania. It’s suggestive of the reasons why many graduates become disillusioned with Christianity, after seeing the failings of their leaders, and being subject to mistreatment, in the name of discipline. While there, I grew strong in the rhetoric of the faith, but callous in the compassion of the faith.

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