Monday, April 28, 2008

Church Camp for Pastors

Erin and I got back late last night from an incredible week. We spent Tuesday - Friday at Tan-Ta-Ra in the Lake of the Ozarks for our District's Pastors and Spouses retreat. Friday - Sunday we were at my parents, where I helped with the dedication of my niece and preached at my home church, which is its own blog entry.

The best way to describe Pastors and Spouses retreat is that it's church camp for pastors. Church camp was a great experience when I was a kid. Although I realize that if you've never been, church camp sounds like a step below band camp, but it was a good time!

Our speaker for the week was Ron Salisbury; pastor of New Life Community CON in Pismo Beach, CA. When I read the bio about Ron saying his church had a 60% conversion rate, he immediately had my respect and attention. I can't overstate what a godly, humble, sensitive and wise man Ron is. A lot of his wisdom and sensitivity came as a result of his 2 year battle with prostate cancer. Ron's messages were challenging and inspiring.

A great part about the retreat is relaxing and hanging out with other pastors from the Kansas City District. Unless you've been a pastor, it's impossible to understand what it's like to live this role. Other pastors understand each other and there's an immediate connection.

Another great aspect is the Tan-Ta-Ra resort. The place is just beautiful, especially with all the spring blooms. On Wednesday morning, I jogged four miles through the hilly campus. It was a good run, the hills didn't whip me as bad as I thought they would. At least, not at the time. But I could barely walk for the next three days. My hip and foot muscles were in serious pain. I'm accustomed to the flat landscape of Gardner, not the hills of the Ozarks.

We also spent some time racing go-carts and bowling. A few of these pictures show my battle with Clark Armstrong. Clark and I have a rivalry going back to last year. Clark hates it when I pass him and I hate it when he spins me into the wall. You can also see our District Superintendent riding his go-cart, even yawning a bit. Joel Atwell has some serious bowling form.

I spent a lot of time reflecting upon where our church was last year at this time. I came into retreat last year very frustrated with our progress as a church. Even though I'd spent all spring talking about it, we'd had very few unchurched families connecting with TF a year ago. I knew that reaching the unchurched was God's vision for TF, but I was really struggling with the reality that it wasn't happening very much. Last years' speaker challenged us to get serious in our prayer for lost people. Which prompted me to commit to praying during worship for lost people every Sunday during the summer. Just before I left for retreat, I counted the number of formerly unchurched families that have started calling TF home since last September. 10 families!!! Wow, that's incredible. I don't just think, I know there's a direct connection between our intentional prayer for the lost and the number of unchurched families we've reached. We were also just starting to dream about Love Wins last year during retreat. A year later, we're blown away by what God is doing through this ministry. There's just no way any of this is coincidence. God laid a burden for prayer on my heart and he's now producing amazing fruit.

I spent a lot of time out on the deck of my room, thanking God for what he's been doing through TF and asking his guidance for the future.

No comments: