Home Equipping Leaders Teaching Going Deeper By Going Away (March 2011)

Going Deeper By Going Away (March 2011)

In observing the life of Jesus, we notice a clear pattern of going away, in order to go deeper with God. The choice is made by our Lord numerous times in Scripture to seek out a place and a pace different from the normal rigors and responsibilities of his life, even when people's needs were not yet fully met. He went away to quieter places in the natural world to pray and to reflect more deeply on the meaning of his life. This deliberate pattern of spiritual retreat contributed greatly to his effectiveness as a spiritual leader and teacher.

The teaching of the Sabbath and Jesus' example of retreats invites us to enter places apart from our normal surrounding and to embrace rhythms and understandings counterintuitive to our harried culture. By encouraging those in our congregations to go on retreat, they, also, learn some essentials of faith and discipleship through direct experience. When we model the practice ourselves, we guide and inspire them to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Retreats teach persons to receive through letting go, to move closer by being still, to hear the Divine Word in silence, to move forward through retreat, to act on God's behalf by resting, to learn community from solitude and strangers, and to discover ways to be more present at home by taking time away. Jesus' teaching invites people to release their grasp of their customary patterns in order to discover deeper dimensions of life. This is part of the meaning of his promise - "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:24). These dichotomies are part of the reason that faith-based retreats are so dynamic and influential.

Retreat settings provide unparalleled opportunities to focus and be attentive to God, to each other, and to our own hearts as an intentional way to take our discipleship to a new level. Many camp and retreat centers have a schedule of programs and events already planned that are available to your church members and leaders as part of the UM connection. Folks looking for congregations with multiple options in terms of faith forming opportunities would find these offerings to be an added asset of your congregation. Retreats are a wonderful element to incorporate into every congregation's Christian education and spiritual formation plans.

Questions for Moving Forward:

  1. When you consider the members of your congregation, how might a camp or retreat help them move deeper in their connection with God, each other, and a life of Christian discipleship? What type of retreat or retreat theme would be particularly powerful related to the current vision and goals of your local church?
  2. Have you visited or been in contact with your local United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center about any assistance they may be able to provide to a team from your church that may be considering offering a camp or retreat for groups within your local church?
  3. Have you considered placing a link on your own local church website entitled "Our Camp and Retreat Program" that would take members and prospective members seamlessly to the many offerings available to them in your local region by linking them to the camp and retreat ministry websites of your conference that your local church and others make possible collaboratively?

Rev. Kevin Witt is Director, Office of Camp and Retreat Ministries at the Discipleship Ministries in Nashville, TN


Love, Learn, Live: Cultivating Adult Faith
May 20-21, 2011
Montavilla UMC, Portland, OR
www.umcdiscipleship.org/atf/cf/{3482e846-598f-460a-b9a7-386734470eda}/CE 11, 05-20 LLL EVENT.PDF


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