“I do not believe the Church can offer much hope to the world unless we learn to live differently as we follow Jesus in his way.”
—Michaele LaVigne, M.Div, Ashland Theological Seminary, 2008
Michaele LaVigne credits her time at Ashland Theological Seminary as a significant leg on her journey to living a truly different life, an “incredibly formative” education that “set [her] on a trajectory that [she] could not have anticipated,” nor made happen on her own. As a recipient of the Kern Scholarship, LaVigne benefited from the vision of the Kern Family, who wanted to invest in pastors so pastors could invest in others. “This intention has not been lost on me,” says LaVigne, “and I now fully agree that the lasting change our culture, our nation, and the Church itself so desperately needs will only come from the deep inner place of character formation and transformation in each individual. There is no shortcut or substitute.”
Since her graduation, LaVigne has served in a variety of ministry contexts including an under-resourced neighborhood in Ohio, a developing country in Southern Africa, a large suburban church, and now an urban church plant in Oklahoma. Within her various roles, she has always given her energy to guiding people into deeper relationship with Jesus. Her belief that what we do is a direct result of who we are has fueled her own journey of spiritual formation, and her work to aid the formation process for others.
Now, LaVigne has put that philosophy into print with her new book, Living the Way of Jesus: Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time, just out from The Foundry Publishing. As Pastor of Spiritual Formation at 8th Street Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City, LaVigne wanted to find ways to help her congregation “live the way of Jesus beyond our time in worship and small group.” How could she encourage them to be more Christ-like, say, during an ordinary morning at the office, a quick family meal, or a Tuesday night trip to the grocery store?
The results were anything but normal. LaVigne admits she was surprised by how eagerly her parishioners took on these practices week after week. By putting the words of sermons into everyday use, the congregation began to form new habits that opened them to the transforming work of the Spirit in their lives. Once a group of people who didn't know one another or their urban neighbors, 8th Street Church is now a vibrant community of hospitality, generosity, and hope.
While on sabbatical in the summer of 2018, LaVigne began to think about how she could share these formative practices with other pastors and congregations so that they, too, could experience the same growth. The result is her book, which offers three years worth of weekly practices following the Lectionary cycle. Her hope is that these gifts that have richly blessed her congregation might be a blessing to others as well.
There may be no shortcut to character transformation, but the right Spirit-led tool can give a believer the direction and support they need to start. Living the Way of Jesus: Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time, is a way to begin that transformation.