On September 16-18 more than 100 church leaders representing 27 congregations from the southeast United States come together in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for an annual leaders retreat entitled “God Can”. With the World Discipleship Summit being held in July, there was some thought given to postponing the retreat, but God confirmed the decision to move forward, as we saw our highest number of churches represented and experienced a powerful three days
As Jesus often withdrew with his disciples to share more in-depth teachings on his Kingdom and to warn them to be aware of the “yeast of the Pharisees”, we were able to have time in mountains for instruction, reflection and relationship building. Don Burroughs and Matt Webber opened the retreat, sharing with openness and vulnerability on our constant need to stay humble before God and one another. They challenged us to avoid the “yeast” of pride and ambition and especially to steer clear of comparing and competing with one another.
On Monday morning we heard an inspiring World Report from Roger Lamb of Disciples Today sharing how God was moving among our churches around the world. Then we broke into separate sessions for large and small congregations looking at what promotes partnership. Tom Jones spoke to those from the first group from John 14-16 on the lessons we learn about partnership from the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Scott Kirkpatrick and Steve Wormer spoke to the latter group before we assembled together to discuss partnership between the large and small churches by way of a brief case study. The case study by which the Church in Columbia SC (bigger church) helps and assist on many different levels the Church in Greenville SC. Robert Dennis, Paul Ramsey and Scott Kirkpatrick shares how the partnership works between the two churches. Then the brothers and sisters spoke open and honestly about how we can practically work together to strengthen the smaller churches and plant new churches.
Monday night closed out with Rick Overturf delivering a poignant message drawn from his on health challenge, on how we need, from time to time, to analyze our “DNA” as a fellowship of churches and be aware of tendencies we must overcome and sins we must address if we are to grow and please God.
We sang songs that stirred our hearts, heard good news from newly planted churches, and were called to continue to sacrifice for the upcoming Myrtle Beach planting. We were spurred on by the Jackson, Mississippi, church’s example of sacrifice and commitment to seek help and discipling. Particularly encouraging was that one congregation that had become somewhat isolated sent leaders seeking to rebuild stronger connection with the Southeast churches.
CJ and Cheree Wakefield were welcomed as the new evangelist and women’s ministry leader couple for the Knoxville Church. CJ, who was formerly leader of the church in Edinburgh, Scotland, was asked to serve on the Southeast Partnership Team replacing Sergio Arguello who recently moved to serve in the Los Angeles Church.
Certainly much more needs to be done to bring about partnership in the Southeast, but the retreat inspired us and reinforced our conviction that if we give hearts, truly “God Can!”