Hi, I’m James-Michael Smith (but you just can call me JM). I’m an Author / Artist / Martial Artist / All around Bible Geek. I founded Disciple Dojo as a way to equip the body, enrich the soul, and engage the world.
So why the name “Disciple Dojo”? Anyone who knows me knows that one of my lifelong passions has been studying the martial arts. And the place where martial arts are learned is a Dojo. Discipleship is similar to martial arts training (if you don’t believe me, just ask Paul–he says so himself in his letter to Christians in Corinth [1Cor. 9:26-27]!). We have a Sensei (teacher): Jesus. We have a katana (sword): Scripture. This blog, then, is intended as a virtual Dojo–where students of the Master can sharpen, challenge and encourage one another as we continue becoming more and more like the One whom we serve…minus the Tiger Balm.
My Training Story
Being a PK (Preacher’s Kid), I was raised with a familiarity and general understanding of the Bible. During my high school years I determined to read the Bible all the way through and study it in-depth in order to be able to know what it is I truly claimed to believe and whether or not I actually believed it all for myself. It was also during this time that I began regularly pillaging my Dad’s library for books on everything from the Historical Jesus, to Christian Ethics, World Religions, Theology and Apologetics.
By the time I got to college, I had a hunger for Biblical and Theological studies as well as Apologetics-based Evangelism. As an art major (AFA. – Reinhardt College, BFA-Painting/Drawing – University of Georgia) I had very little book study requirements…so I used those years to study on my own. By the time I graduated, I had decided that I would probably go into the ministry of some sort, but I wasn’t sure exactly where God was leading me. I spent a year working as the Campus Outreach Intern at the UGA Wesley Foundation where I did small group Bible studies, Apologetics training, and open-air preaching on campus (something I think every preacher and teacher should be required to do at least once!).
After my year on staff at Wesley, I headed north and began my M.Div studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. It was during my first year at GCTS that I fell in love with the Hebrew Bible (Thank you Gordon Hugenberger, Doug Stuart, Jeff Niehaus, Gary Pratico and Walt Kaiser!). After two fantastic years in Boston, I transferred down to GCTS’ Charlotte campus (Thank you Leighton Ford!) and began attending Good Shepherd. During my time as a member of GS I helped develop their young adult ministry that a couple had started just before I arrived (Thank you Don and Cheryl!).
In 2004 a position at GS opened up and I was eventually hired as Pastor of Discipleship where I served until 2009. During my 5 years on staff I oversaw all of the adult Discipleship, Teaching and Small Group ministries. This was an amazing time that allowed me to continue my Biblical Studies…not in an ivory-tower academic environment, but in the day-to-day life of the local church. The classes and small groups I was blessed to lead at GS were the perfect place to learn, grow and develop my gifts and calling as a teacher (Thank you, Good Shepherd family!!).
In 2009 I felt that God was telling me it was time to step down from my position at GS and into the unknown. I started Disciple Dojo as a place where I could continue developing resources for the Church worldwide and focus on my gifts and passions in a broader context.
I don’t know where God may lead me regarding further studies, but perhaps one day I will pursue a Ph.D study. In the meantime, I want to do everything I can to equip disciples, engage cultures and encourage souls.
Blessings from the Dojo,