What is EDT?
Excelerate Discipleship Training (EDT) is offered as both a full-time and part time course that trains Christians how to be biblically accurate disciples of Jesus Christ.
The word ‘Excelerate’ reflects the heart and intention of this discipleship training; to enable a person to have and operate out of EXCELLENCE in all that they do for the Kingdom and in life, as well as ACCELERATE their spiritual growth so they can rise as righteous leaders, equipped to finish their destiny and impact the nations for God.
EDT Full Time
Excelerate Discipleship Training is a two-year course with a truly unique training approach that utilises a combination of formal theological instruction, practical experience, frequent learning and involvement with the local church and community, as well as personal mentoring and accountability. Additionally, students complete accredited higher education training and graduate with an undergraduate Diploma in Christian Ministry from the ‘Sydney college of Divinity’, which further enriches the EDT experience.
EDT is best undertaken as a two-year journey, although the option of finishing or deferring after one year is available. Each year possesses specific training aims and distinct measurable outcomes.
Excelerate first year focuses primarily on character development and the acquisition of foundational biblical knowledge and practice. Specifically, the first year of this training encourages students to forge a Christ-like character, establish their identity based on God’s Word, cultivate a lifestyle of following the Holy Spirit, and develop important life skills. All of these attributes are foundational for every future endeavor in the Kingdom of God.
Excelerate second year builds upon this solid foundation of character and identity by cultivating the leader in each student through leadership focused training and practical experience within the local church and community. Additionally, the second year of training aims to instill in each student an accurate Christian worldview and the responsibility and passion that accompanies this to influence culture with Kingdom principles that in turn will help transform nations for God.
Similar to the first year full-time program, the Evening Stream places emphasis on the development of a Christ-like character in each student. Evening Stream training provides each student with sound biblical teaching and revelation that can, in turn, be applied to student’s daily lives. The key outcome is the observed understanding in each student of what it is to live a disciplined Christ-centered life.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Stream
In 2018 we launched our first Deaf and Hard of Hearing Evening Stream. Covering all the same content as our original Evening Stream, this stream is run to equip the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, allowing them to rise as maturing sons and daughters of God, developing Christ at the centre. This stream is run over two years, allowing our students to take hold of all that is being offered to them.
What makes EDT unique?
EDT is designed to be different. It is not replicated on any other training organisation, Bible college, or university. It is modelled on The Model, Jesus Christ and the biblical pattern of discipleship. This makes EDT unique and is why students experience a powerful time of spiritual growth, personal development, and yielding to the Holy Spirit, all of which lay a solid foundation for a life-time of serving God well.
The combination of the distinctive features listed below is what enables students to develop excellence in their hearts and lives and accelerates them in their destiny with God. A time of focused and intense training is absolutely necessary for people to be discipled into men and women of God who are able to extend the Kingdom powerfully and righteously. After 3 1⁄2 years of Jesus’ ministry and His utter defeat of death, ‘120’ of His followers were praying in the upper room, ready and waiting to receive the Holy Spirit just 50 days after Christ’s death on the cross. The Holy Spirit came upon them and with just these 120 people the world was touched powerfully and has never been the same since. By partnering with the Holy Spirit and continuing to disciple people utilising the model of intense training Jesus Himself employed, the Kingdom will continue to expand powerfully and reveal to the world the only true source of freedom and life ‐ Jesus Christ.
John 13:15 (msg)- I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do.
8 Distinctives of EDT
- The high intensity training
- A strong focus on personal transformation
- A consistent trainer
- The focus on mentoring
- Living with a family in a sponsored home
- The small and intimate classes
- High involvement with the local church
- Five-fold ministry training
Rather than receiving training for fifteen hours a week over an eight month period as is common in other training approaches, EDT trains people twenty‐four hours a day, seven days a week for up to two years. This enables students to receive great depth in their training and acceleration in their maturity as followers of Christ. The discipleship program is not only intense in regards to the time devoted to training, but also requires every student to DROP THEIR NETS AND FOLLOW JESUS. The pursuit of God, the surrender to His will, and the denial of the flesh during this time of disciplined training is paramount.
As student’s answer the call of Jesus to come and follow Him, they put aside everything that they need to in order to follow Him whole heartedly. Student’s often defer university, take leave from employment, and lay down romantic relationships if not married in order to focus on God and respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit to be prepared for an influential destiny in God. This intense training approach in EDT has proven to be incredibly valuable in cultivating student’s integrity and character as it encourages students to live by Kingdom principles at all times and in all situations and follow Jesus with all their hearts.
Personal transformation and the increasing manifestation of Jesus Christ in the hearts and lives of each student are a hallmark characteristic of EDT. Regardless of the skill, gifting, personality or training a person may possess, unless the heart and character of that person is pure and Christlike, they will be unable to be a true ambassador of Jesus. EDT provides an environment of love and freedom where the Holy Spirit is able to fashion students according to His Truth. Enveloped in the presence of God, students are enabled to be honest, vulnerable, and receive truth that leads to breakthroughs and a victorious life. It is pivotal that Christians are not just able to hear and communicate a message, but that they are the message and a true testimony of Jesus. These are the Christians that will remain in Jesus for a lifetime and influence the nations for God.
During His years of ministry, Jesus spent the majority of His time with His twelve disciples. As such, EDT employs this same model in training and inspiring students. It is impossible to form the bond and relationship with a student that Jesus formed with His disciples from seeing them for a short few hours each week. In turn, just as Jesus stayed with His disciples, students stay with their respective trainers and personal mentors. EDT trainers are highly involved in all training the students receive and journey closely with the students for the entire year ensuring that all areas of the students’ lives are maturing and they are appropriately supported and inspired.
Jesus was the ultimate friend and mentor. He was deeply invested in His disciples because he loved them unconditionally and he knew they were the future catalysts of the Kingdom of Heaven. EDT believes the same of each student. Due to this, a great deal of mentoring is made available to each student so that they are able to receive the focused attention they require and self-sacrificing interest from a number of people. Students each receive mentoring from fathers and mothers within the church, mentoring from EDT trainers, expert mentors in a variety of fields, mentors in the home environment and also a personal mentor to journey with them throughout the year. All this assists in cultivating an environment that is safe, supportive and conducive of growth for each person.
While the occasional student may continue casual employment and arrange their own accommodation and financial support for the duration of the course, many students elect to receive sponsorship throughout the year. For students who apply and are accepted for sponsorship, a dedicated and experienced group of families in the local church open their homes and welcome students to live, eat and board with them without seeking financial compensation. Students in this fortunate position pay a small sponsored student levy each term, which is utilized to thank houseparent’s during the year and enable sponsorship to continue. This allows students to focus all their time and energy into their training rather than acquiring finances. Furthermore, living in a safe and loving home with a strong Christian family provides students with a different experience of family than what they may have had previously and also contributes towards the full-time intense nature of the program. The house parents act as life mentors for the students and provide training in daily living skills such as cooking, serving, cleaning, managing finances, and the development of interpersonal skills in a wholesome home environment.
It is considered a valuable and necessary component of EDT to experience all training in small classes in order to foster intimacy amongst students, encourage openness and acceptance within the class, and ensure content taught is directly applied to student’s lives. A great deal of growth and development in students occurs in learning to work together as a team, support each other in various activities, and open their hearts to one another in a Christ like manner. Furthermore, just as occurred with the disciples of Jesus, the small and intimate classes allow areas that require greater maturity to be highlighted through their interactions and attitudes toward one another.
EDT recognizes that the church is God’s key tool for Kingdom expansion on the earth. In Matthew 16:16-17, Jesus affirms Peter’s revelation of Jesus as the Messiah, the son of God as the rock upon which the church is built. EDT students are trained that the church, the body of Christ is responsible to reveal Jesus as God’s own Son to the world, the answer for all peoples and all nations. The training writes this revelation on student’s hearts by saturating them in the life, culture and vision of the host church, Southern Lights. Southern Lights as a local church is a key to the success of the training because it has positioned itself to help train every EDT student by providing homes to live in, ministries in which to gain hands on experience in, church services to worship corporately and participate in sermons, and a network of local and international churches to go on ministry trips to. Often it is the simple presence of God in the Southern Lights church building, the culture amongst the congregation that impacts and transforms the hearts of EDT students.
One of EDT’s most successful outcomes is the maturity (strength, wisdom, devotion, capacity, character) it develops in all areas of the believers it trains. There is a difference between immature and mature Christians, those who endure because they are built to last and those who come and go, rise and fall. The difference between the two is training. Ephesians 4:7 tells us that as Jesus ascended to heaven he left grace to men in the form of what have come to be known as the ‘five ascension gifts.’ EDT believes that the equipping of the saints to be effective in service to God and built up into maturity and unity is reliant on the training from those who carry an ascension gift grace on their life. EDT students are continually exposed to these gifts in a balanced amount so that their spiritual growth is well rounded and not unbalanced with just the prophetic or just the evangelistic graces. As Ephesians 4:12 tells us the grace of the five is for equipping not for merely sharing information. The aim in EDT is that the grace on the trainer is imparted into the life of the student and that the fruit of mature apostolic paradigms, prophetic insight, soul-saving evangelism, biblical teaching and pastoring manifest through Christ in each student.
A Brief History of EDT
In 1991, the founder of EDT, Pastor Peter Nicholes experienced a godly dissatisfaction, which caused him to fast and cry out to God for greater revelation on why the church was not advancing. Following this, Pastor Peter received a prophetic word that God had called him to “disciple people into sons and daughters”, which motivated him to visit a discipleship training program known as Master’s Commission in Spokane, U.S.A. This visit in 1997 proved to be a God ordained appointment as Pastor Peter experienced a powerful three hour encounter and impartation from God regarding the discipleship training of adults. With a clear word from God and His subsequent grace, discipleship training began the following year with a one-year part‐time program called Covenant Call. This, however, was just the beginning of what God desired to do. In 1999, a full time discipling course called the Australian Master’s Commission was planted with six students completing the inaugural year.
From this time, the discipleship training has continued to mature and develop as each year passes and is always in the process of being refined and upgraded according to the word and leading of the Holy Ghost. In 2003, the part time training program Covenant Call was renamed Called to Discipling and the Master’s Commission discipleship training launched a second year of full time training in 2012. At various times, the full time and part time discipling programs have been undertaken in different locations in Australia in partnership with local churches. At the present time all discipleship training is hosted by Southern Lights Church in Skye, Melbourne, and the transformative training that God has desired and inspired is currently known as ‘Excelerate Discipleship Training’ (EDT). EDT is the culmination of many years of expertise in discipleship training and has seen over 400 students graduate, experience remarkable transformations and many go on to undertake incredible endeavours for the Kingdom of God. More than ever this training is maturing people into accurate and powerful sons and daughters of God who are true representatives of Jesus, equipped and prepared to finish their God-given assignments and advance the church
Southern Lights Church Skye
EDT is a gift to the body of Christ across the nations, it does not serve one single denomination, network, church or man but exists to serve any believer who wishes to be trained in how to follow Jesus Christ better.
EDT is hosted by Southern Lights Church in Skye, Melbourne, Australia. Southern Lights began its relationship with EDT in 1999 and has since become renowned as a “training church.” Discipleship training is one of the churches seven foundational and essential facets or pillars. In turn, every pastor, leader and department within the church is positioned to facilitate the training of EDT students. EDT uses Southern Lights church leaders as student mentors, Sunday sermons for mid-week training content and church conferences as an opportunity to develop the students in servanthood, leadership and management skills.
Dr Zoe Nicholes
EDT DirectorDr Zoe Nicholes committed her life to serving Jesus Christ when she was 20 years old at a revival crusade held by Franklin Graham. She joined Southern Lights, where the Holy Spirit lead her into ministry. For many years Zoe led the youth ministry as well as coordinated young adults, new people ministries, and pastoral care. She married to Caleb Nicholes in 2010, whilst also completing her PhD in clinical psychology. Zoe became a pastor in 2012, the same year that she and Caleb became the senior ministers of Southern Lights church, succeeding pastors Peter and Karen Nicholes. A few years later Zoe’s passions for training led her to becoming the director of EDT, hosted at Southern Lights Church in Skye. Zoe is passionate about equipping people to become lifelong, influential followers of Jesus, who are able to live out their faith in such a way that redeems the culture of today and reconciles all people to Jesus Christ. Zoe and Caleb have three children, Aurora, Eva and Jedidiah.
Ps Peter Ingram
EDT Head TrainerPeter grew up in a Christian family in South Australia and in 1981, when he was 16 years old became a Christian at a local youth camp. He is married to his wife Dee and has two children. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1983 and served his country in defense until 2007. The latter part of his career was heavily involved in training, equipping sailors in readiness to fight on the frontlines of the battlefield. He has used his experience with disciplined training in the defense force for equipping the saints for the work of ministry. Hehas been involved in leading the part-time discipling course since 2003 and full-time EDT since 2007. He is passionate about encouraging people in their relationship with God and supporting them with truth and love as they allow the Holy Spirit to transform them from the inside out. He is gifted in training people and desires to see people’s lives set free to passionately follow their God-given destiny as they advance the Kingdom of God.
Ps Leanne Tanner
EDT Student SupportLeanne grew up in a Christian family in the Adelaide Hills and gave her heart to Jesus when she was seven years old. She is married to Phil and together they moved their three children to Southern Lights Skye in 2010. Since that time, both Phil and Leanne have been trained through EDT. Two of their three children, Renee and Josh have also been trained through EDT with their youngest child, Luke keen to be discipled, trained and empowered also when he completes high school.
Administration and connecting with people are Leanne’s forte. She is passionate about seeing others step into the freedom that she has experienced as a result of encountering Jesus. Leanne has been involved with EDT since 2012 and has a heart to see people reach their full potential through discipleship training. The nurturing mother’s heart of God is displayed through Leanne and she is delighted that two of her three children have journeyed the discipling process.
Ps Andrew Cavanagh
EDT Higher Education CoordinatorAndrew was born again at the age of nine, when his family was impacted by the Charismatic Renewal in the Anglican Church in the late 1960s. Andrew and his family became part of a new church being established in Melbourne’s outer Eastern suburbs, where Andrew remained until after his marriage to Susan in 1982.Shortly after this time, Andrew commenced attending Southern Lights church and felt the call of God on his life to become a pastor. He left a successful retail career to study at Tabor College and soon commenced teaching and developing training courses within the church. After a period of six years of working for Monash University, where Andrew was able to combine his passion for training others and his experience in retail, God gave Andrew a business plan and since 2009 he has been training retailers under his own business.
Ps Caleb Nicholes
Senior Minister Southern Lights Skye
Caleb grew up attending Southern Lights church, he was present at its inception in 1987 as a 4yr old and is the eldest son of Peter and Karen Nicholes. In 2012 he succeeded Peter and Karen as the Senior Minister of Southern Lights alongside his wife Zoe Nicholes.
Growing up in the church Caleb had the privilege to know God all his life but at age 16 he made a strong and independent decision to consecrate his life to Jesus. In 2000 he entered full time discipling for one year and upon graduating became involved in the youth ministry of the church eventually becoming the youth pastor. This time developed Caleb’s ministry and he became a pastor and Elder at Southern Lights in 2007. During this period working with young people Caleb pioneered FORCE youth camp, ENGAGE conference, a young adult ministry called Synergy and the UNLEASH young adult camp.