I have just spent most of this week on a Renewal Retreat with 6 other ministry leaders, 3 hours away from home near Mannum SA. As I usually do, I used my GPS to direct me. My GPS device has a female voice that gives instructions which I have named Lola. Lola can be quite bossy “in 100 meters turn right” but she also cares about me because after 2 hours of driving she informs me that I have been driving for 2 hours and would I like her to find me a suitable place to take a break. Sometimes I listen to Lola and sometimes I feel confident that I can ignore her.
Pastors in the BCSA (Baptist Churches of South Australia) can as part of their continuing accreditation choose to engage in the Renewal Retreat Program. This is a 2 year program where up to 8 pastors covenant together in fellowship and support, taking 2 retreats a year together - one 24 hour and one 3 day retreat each year. We meet and share our stories, trials, cares, woes and joys in a safe structured and confidential manner (what is said on retreat stays on retreat). This time together was our final gathering for this group and next year a new group will be formed that will continue to support one another.
I have heard some people make fun of retreats as though they are some kind of fringe benefit of being a pastor. Comments like “you were all hard at work then?” or “it’s tough for some” tend to get bandied about. While I do admit that going on a retreat is not an onerous task, I have found it to be vital for the health and longevity of ministry. I have previously mentioned taking holidays is vital and that ministry is a marathon not a sprint. Retreats are another function of making ministry a lifetime commitment and we all have a good example to follow.
Jesus took time out in the midst of ministry (Mark 6:31-32), before making major decisions (Luke 6:12-13) and after major events (Matt 14:22-23) to pray and restore himself and he taught his disciples to do the same. This is not just something that is important for pastors but any follower of Jesus regularly needs to take heed of Jesus’ example. This is not an instruction we should choose to ignore.
If we don't pull over and stretch our legs, have drinks and rest a moment we might make a mistake that causes an accident or we might not be vigilant of the actions of others or we may not notice changes in the road conditions.
Psalm 46:10 says:
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.” (NLTse)
but Eugene Petersen’s Message version says:
"Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
loving look at me, your High God,
above politics, above everything.”
We regularly need to “step out of the traffic” to be the most effective followers of Jesus that we can be.