May 4, 2023 | by: Scott Denny | 0 comments
The weekend of April 13-16 was my 21st elders/leadership retreat. Those 21 retreats have not all looked the same. Some years we’ve gone away to have uninterrupted time of prayer, fellowship and planning, and some years we stayed local and met in an office or here at church.
In years past, for me, personally, the ‘fun’ part of these times away is the work – the analysis, the problem solving, the camaraderie – really the nuts and bolts of what we’re there to do. But this time was different. This time, for me, there was a sense of sobriety and seriousness. Even a sense of reverence and awe. This time our purpose “felt” different than in years past. This time for me it seemed like we were at a crossroads here at Grace and we needed the grace and wisdom of God to move in the direction that best suits His purposes for this church.
Feeling this way, perhaps more than ever before I prayed for weeks before our retreat. Praying for unity. Praying for wisdom. Praying for the men who were joining us as elders in training. Asking God for his grace and kindness to us as we seek to lay the groundwork for a transitional and seemingly pivotal time in our church’s history.
As I said – I have done a lot of these retreats and planning meetings. A lot of faithful men have been a part of those meetings throughout the years, many of whom are no longer here. Those times were all special to me. Those men were and are all special to me, but THIS meeting with THESE men seemed to me to be the most productive, prayerful, thoughtful, joyful meeting I have been privy to. God was gracious to us that weekend, granting us a spirit of unity and joyfulness as we sought to labor well for this church.
We have been given special men in this church. We have faithful, thoughtful, prayerful, wise, compassionate pastors. We have men in the wings who have been given pastor’s hearts for this church, who love this church, who love Christ and who love His Word.
A pastor’s role in great part is to devote ourselves to Word and Prayer . Indeed we prayed – we prayed a lot. We prayed for each and every member of this church by name. We reviewed together your names and shared our insights about you, if we had them, so we could pray specifically for you. There are over 250 members at Grace. You were all prayed for by name.
We prayed together for our time to be marked by unity and humility. We prayed for our mission partners – each by name asking God to bless their ministry of the word, their families and their work for the kingdom.
After saturating our hearts and minds with prayer for the church and the mission of God we turned to the Word to guide and shape our time together.
Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse served as our launching pad. We reflected together upon Colossians 1:24-28 for a couple of hours.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
What jumped out to me (and the other men) from this passage was Paul’s efforts, his labor, his toil, were for ‘the sake of [the] body’. There were other points we addressed but what stood out to me was he toiled – he worked to the point of exhaustion – for the sake of the church.
Paul’s love for the church framed for us our purpose that weekend. We were there for the sake of the body. We were there for you. We worked long hours - 9am to 10pm Friday and Saturday. We broke for meals, yes, but we labored long. But we were there working, by God’s grace, ‘with all His energy’.
I can tell you from my perspective that I did not grow weary or tired, and it was with great joy that I labored with these men. God sustained me (and us). But I can tell you, that come Sunday night, I crashed hard and slept soundly – I suspect the other men did too.
Why share all of this? At the retreat, we focused on the “3 Pillars” of our Purpose Statement – Worship, Discipleship and Mission. Tony will be preaching 3 messages on each of those pillars, and as you read this article, you will have already heard at least one message about some decisions that were made that weekend. So again, why share my insights with you? Because I want you to know that we love God’s church and that the decisions that we made were bathed in prayer and supplication guided and directed by the Word of God.
I am grateful for our pastors. I am grateful for the four men who joined us. I am grateful for you - this church - for your prayers and faithful supplications on our behalf before the throne of God. We felt those prayers and He answered them.
I rejoice in the time I spent with these men in word and prayer. I rejoice in our labor that was for the sake of the body. I rejoice that our aim was that we might continue to exalt the name of Christ here at Grace, making him fully known so that you – Grace Bible Church – may grow to maturity in Christ. For this we each toiled with all joy and through the very power that only God provides.
May the Lord continue to bless the work of the ministry for decades to come and may the next generation of leaders faithfully toil with all joy for the sake of this local body with the energy our Lord provides. Amen.
Scott Denny is an Elder at Grace Bible Church.
1. Acts 6:4
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