I just returned from Trinity’s annual Staff/Elder and Spouse retreat. What goes on at this short retreat is not a secret, and I think that our church family will find it highly encouraging to know what their leadership team did. This is my seventh retreat, and it was fantastic, probably the best one I have been to. I say this because what we did together satisfied and even went beyond deep longings I’ve been feeling lately – longings to be leaders, united in prayer out of desperation to see God alive in our church body and out of love for the people we serve. To feel deeply about things makes life harder rather than easier. It is easier to go with the flow, settle for the ordinary, and find comfort in the routine and predictability of life and ministry. However, that has been permanently ruined by the last 2 1/2 years of my life since I had a Spiritual awakening that has resulted in a hunger and thirst for God and his ways that cannot be quenched or filled. I called this the era of ‘overflow.’ An era of overflow that has left me with a hunger and thirst, now that sounds contradictory. It is not. There is a satisfaction that is unmatched, but along with that deep satisfaction have come longings that are at times intense and deeply troubling. I also feel alone at times.
Now back to the retreat – God not only met me there, but confirmed that my longings and desires for our church and for our leadership team have been placed there by him, and that he is placing them in others. It confirms that God is moving in our leadership team, in our church, and that I am not alone. I think I have placed a finger on the main reason this retreat was so encouraging to me. It was a weekend of worship above all else. God has called me to lead my church family there, and certainly I hope that our leadership team is leading the way as worshipers as well. So often I feel this praise lacking in our leadership meetings, but not this time. It was there and it was wonderful. I’ll outline a few highlights so that you can have a glance at your Trinity leaders worshiping God together this weekend.
Bob Tincher, chair of the elder board, opened our time on Friday night outlining the plan for our time together. It was packed with good things – worship, prayer, fellowship, teaching. We began with a good anticipation and a sense that a lot of thought and planning had gone into preparing for our time together. From our opening time of worship together to our closing time of prayer, the Spirit of God was felt, we were strengthened in the bond of unity and peace, and I left feeling very excited about God’s ongoing work at Trinity and thankful for this leadership team. Hylke & I led the opening worship set with a prayer, “Show us who you are, we come to see you. Lead us in your ways. Lord we believe you are the One who saves. O how we need you to fall on this place! Leave us amazed at who you are!” (Show Us Who You Are by Todd Proctor) I challenged my colleagues to “ask and imagine” what God might do among us as the leadership team of Trinity Church gathered to worship him over the next 20 hours. Based on an incredible promise found in Ephesians: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21, NIV) Then we sang over and over, “Glory to God, glory to God, glory to God, forever . . . take our church and let it be all for you and for your glory. Take our church and let it be yours.” (Glory to God Forever by Steve Fee) We then burst into praise of Jesus’ name with, “You Are Holy.” Toward the end as we all sang the names of the Lord, “You are Lord of Lords, you are King of Kings, . . . ” I began to sing “Stir it up in our hearts Lord . . . a passion for your name.” Everyone joined on this a while and ended with an a cappella “Consuming Fire, fan into flame a passion for your name. Spirit of God fall in this place. Lord have your way. Lord have your way with us.” (Consuming Fire by Tim Hughes) Then we remained in silence for a few moments – it was an incredible way to begin – our hearts were united, our eyes and ears were open as we sat amazed at who God is. Jim Woolard (Youth Pastor in the Pass and new Men’s Pastor) took the hand off and led us right into the Word of God with a challenge to be totally dependent on Him, just as Joshua was as he took the baton of leadership from Moses. This was coupled with testimonies of God’s faithfulness in his own life. It was wonderfully encouraging and deeply challenging, strengthening our faith and our resolve to follow God into the Promised Land – a place of beauty and richness coupled with giants and battles and miracles that can only be performed by God when we are totally dependent and led into situations far beyond our own means to control.
What resulted next was a beautiful chorus of praise for the works of God happening at Trinity. Each pastor shared a story (or two or three – oops, we couldn’t keep to our 3 minutes) about what God was doing in people’s lives in their ministry. What ensued was story after story about salvation and transformation, demonstrating Christ alive in this Church and this church growing more and more alive in Christ. In between stories elders paused to praise God in prayer for what he was doing. We went an hour over our planned time with this praise and I loved every minute of it – I’m certain that God did too.
The next morning after a nice time of fellowship over breakfast, and some thought about the times and people to which we minister, we moved into something very beautiful. The elders gave reports of visits and phone calls they had made that week with people from our congregation on our ongoing prayer list. The love and care represented here was a reminder of how basic some of our roles as leaders are. Each name on a prayer list is person deeply loved by God and placed in our church family for us to love. All of us are needy and all of us are needed – that’s what the body of Christ is about. So often the needy people end up feeling unneeded and ashamed and alone in their needyness. We should not let that happen. After lengthy and some deeply moving reporting by our elders, we spent time praying in small groups at our tables for these people and for other needs of our congregation. We certainly exist for needy people and this time of prayer was perhaps the most encouraging part of the weekend for me.
After another rousing time of worship in song, Alfredo Rodriguez (Hispanic Ministry Pastor) encouraged us to be leaders who go before our people and make it easy to follow. Gary’s closing session was on ‘Success in Ministry.’ I clung to every statement. Thinking this would be a talk of vision, maybe even strategy, I was pleasantly reminded that maybe God is asking us to build a foundation right now more than a strategy. The challenge Gary brought to us was timely and was confirmation that God is speaking to and through the leadership team at Trinity Church. He challenged us with 5 things that I will briefly mention in closing. (I’m missing one here.)
- We must remain: Faithful -to ‘guarding the deposit’ of the Word of God and we do this by training up others – the next generation that is to pass it on. Faith-full – being full of faith requires risk, calling us to situations that are beyond our ability to control. He called us to get dirty at Trinity – to dive into the messes that the gospel will uncover in people who are being called to salvation in Christ. He asked this question, “What are we doing that is causing us to really trust God?” This is what produces faith and drives us dependent prayer. Amen and Amen as I feel this call perhaps more than any other right now!
- Fruitful – we need to be concerned about the fruit that God is producing among us. What does fruit look like? It is the people of God displaying the character of Christ – the process of transformation. The benefit of this fruit is for others – evangelism, edification. It’s going to get messier to do ministry!
- Full – we need to be full of the Holy Spirit and the evidence of this will be the fruit that was previously discussed. We need to be known like Stephen who was described as full of the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom, grace and power.
- Famous – we need to make God famous. Everything we do is for the sake of the Name. Our greatest concern is that the spotlight is on God and it is all for his glory.
We closed our time sitting in a circle. The elders and our wives laid their hands on the Pastoral Staff and prayed for us. I wept at times – it was deeply moving. We didn’t disperse very quickly afterwards – that’s always a good sign. May God’s work abound in and through us as we lead our church family into the future that God has prepared for us. Please continue to pray for Trinity’s leadership team – pastors, elders and their families. The assaults of the enemy will become greater as we align more closely to God’s will. I sense Satan’s anger at what is transpiring, but I have a greater sense of confidence and protection in Christ, and hope and anticipation of what is yet to come. “Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world!”