How long has it been since you have gotten together with friends and spent some time talking about God and how to get close to Him? This week I went on a 2-day spiritual retreat with my Doctor of Ministry cohort, and came away refreshed and ready to enter the world again. I’d like to share some of that retreat with you, not only to share my own experience but also to share with you a snapshot of one kind of retreat. For me, this time fulfilled Ephesians 5:18b-21:
“…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.”
Not all retreats are the same. Sometimes one can go on a silent retreat and be totally alone with God during that time. Sometimes a retreat can be with others who are on the same page – or not on the same page but who are all are learning together. Usually when a group of people go on retreat together there is some kind of direction given by the one leading the retreat.
On my retreat our lead teacher led out and orchestrated activities. Although there are over 20 of us, this was not a mandatory retreat so not all were present (some live in Africa, Australia, etc.), but half of us did. We are all in ministry of some kind, and so relationship with God and with those on the same wave length is important. Our purpose, then, was to
1. Connect with God
2. Connect with each other, and
3. Share our spiritual journeys together.
The lead teacher of our cohort believes in connection and in having time to process, so our first task was to connect with each other. We have been together for about five years now, so we know each other and have shared our lives with each other. It’s been about a year and a half since we’ve been together, so we were asked to share what’s been happening in our lives with five individuals one-on-one, and then hear their life stories back. How good it was to catch up with at least that many individuals. During the rest of the time we were there I was able to talk and share with the others who attended.
Our second task was to be alone with God. We usually are given a Scripture passage, but this time our teacher asked us to meditate (think deeply about) on a song. He had chosen “Power of Your Love.” We were also to write down any Scripture passages that God brought to mind. This time alone with God has been powerful in our class, and none less this time.
When our allotted time was up, we came back together and shared what God had given each of us. Since we know each other, there is vulnerability and deep sharing among us. This is the time that particularly fulfilled Eph 5a;18b-21, as we talked, shared parts of the song or Scripture that touched us, and submitted to each other by being open and vulnerable. We followed each activity with a season of prayer.
Other activities consisted of more alone time with God, and also simply sharing together, after five years of class emphasis, how we individually pray, how we each spend our daily alone time with God, how we journal, etc. One thing that came through is that while each of us engages with God differently, the basic structure of prayer, praise, and Scripture during this time is a steady diet by all us. Most of us regularly journal as well.
This retreat outline seemed so simple, and yet it was so powerful. It’s not often that we are able to be in a group of people to whom we don’t need to explain where we’re coming from and why we do what we do. This was very special. It was both a horizontal connection with each other, and a vertical connection with God.
But let me quickly clarify. This isn’t an experience that only pastors and ministers need. It’s an experience that every follower of Christ needs to have. Relationship with God is not exclusive for those who are full-time in ministry. It’s for anyone who claims Christ as his/her own. For we are ALL “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), in full-time service. Yes, whether you’re called to be a secretary, a nurse, or a rocket scientist, your calling is also that of a full-time minister to those around you. You also need these kinds of experiences. You need a retreat!
Please comment below and share your thoughts, and let me know if hearing about this retreat was helpful for you!
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