Nurture, retention and renewal for pastors at the BUC Ministers’ Council

Nurture, retention and renewal for pastors at the BUC Ministers’ Council

23 May 2019 | Grantham, United Kingdom [Messenger News Service]

As British Union Conference Ministerial Director Eglan Brooks and his team of association secretaries, pastors, George Kumi (NEC) and Ebenezer Jones-Lartey (SEC) planned the 2019 Ministerial Council, they designed it with a difference. ‘Our world needs strong leaders to nurture, retain and place opportunities for renewal, before our members,’ explained Pastor Brooks, believing that ‘such a process starts with the pastor and his/her family’. Continuing, he said, ‘This retreat is designed to leave pastors with skills to practise nurture, retention and renewal with members.’

Meeting together at the Jurys Inn Hinckley Island hotel, over the weekend of 3-6 May, this was a time for the pastor, spouse and children to enjoy a weekend of refreshment in every sense of the word. The council, held over a Sabbath, was a deliberate attempt to get the pastors to rest, with a clear order from Union President, Ian Sweeney: ‘No work for you! I want you to enjoy a true Sabbath rest so that you and your loved ones return home refreshed.’

Making sure it was a ‘real’ retreat, pastoral meetings were limited each day from 9am to 1pm. Main presenters Pastor Robert Folkenberg, Jr., Drs David & Beverly Sedlacek, Pastor Calvin Preston and Dr Patrick Johnson in their various disciplines of expertise shared their perspective of excellence in ministry, including the family dimension.


 Pastor Robert Folkenberg, Jr. [All photo credit: Jimmy Botha]

Robert Folkenberg, Jr. (President of the Chinese Union)

For the last 15 years, Pastor Robert Folkenberg, Jr. has served as the president of the Chinese Union. His invitation to preach at the BUC Council is based on his depth, enthusiasm and experience as a pastor. Naturally, he also took some time to share news from China. With freedom to worship regularly challenged, and 216 churches closed by the government over the last three years, the mood among members is a feeling of resilience, not oppression. During 2018 13,000 people were baptised, raising the recorded membership to 455,000 worshipping in 4,000 known churches. Factionalism in some parts is a serious problem, which Pastor Folkenberg and his team are seeking to solve with greater organisation at the request of members.

Each of his three sermons focused on the pastor and his relationship with Christ. Here are just a few of the takeaways:

‘What can God do through one committed person, constrained by the love of Jesus?’

‘We know the truth about God, but we do not know God.’

‘Is there such a thing, Pastor, as a Christian without surrender?’

‘Go deep; stop living in shallowness (a fish cannot grow big in a shallow pond).’


 Ministerial Council 6 SedlacekDrs David & Beverly Sedlacek

Dr David and Dr Beverly Sedlacek (Andrews University professor and therapist respectively)

The purpose and focus of David and Beverly’s ministry at the council was to help the pastor and spouse enjoy healthy emotional relationships, frequently using their personal experiences to illustrate. Recognising that everyone picks up and carries emotional scars of one sort or another, through teaching and prayer they aim to help heal, turning what could be described clinically as dysfunctional into the functional. However, in the Christian context, the purpose is to rise far beyond the functional and experience the joyful life Christ promises.

Here’s just a sample of their ministry:

    • Adverse childhood experience: participants were invited to complete a questionnaire about family and life experience, particularly situations causing emotional pain. This observer filled in the form with a low score (just a few of the adverse experiences described). But what of fellow pastors and spouses with high scores? How does it affect their present personal wellbeing? How do they relate with others – children, colleagues and members? This is a complex matter with no easy answers.
    • Their Sunday morning presentation dealt with forgiveness. Here’s the response of one pastor to their presentation.

 

‘What stood out for me most in the presentation was their discussion on the process of forgiveness. In particular I really found their perspective on learning to forgive as Jesus forgave very thought-provoking. They used Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane as an example. This is a summary of their explanation of what happens:   

“In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays. Somewhere in the process of praying to God, He who knew no sin became sin. He went to Gethsemane and was spotless. At that point, the sins of the world roll onto Him and He becomes the Sin Bearer. Likewise, when we go through the process of forgiveness it is similar to Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane.”’

Details of the Sedlacek ministry can be found at intohisrest.org.


 Ministerial Council 5 Calvin PrestonPastor Calvin Preston

Pastor Calvin Preston (Executive Vice President, South Atlantic Conference)

There is something special about a veteran pastor. Notably, they are not afraid to cut to the chase and say it as it is. They are gifted with the holy confidence of experience. As Pastor Preston shared as he opened his final presentation, ‘We know a few things, because we have seen a few things.’ He proceeded to share a few lessons learned:

      1. I would take better care of myself.
      2. Be financially independent.
      3. Prepare for retirement.
      4. Spend more time with my wife.
      5. Spend more time with my family.
      6. Perfect my leadership skills.
      7. Learn to laugh at yourself.

 

Pastors and the church they serve:
‘Young ministers often fall into the trap of focusing on what is wrong with the church. Older pastors have a similar trap, except that they tend to focus on who is wrong with the church. Both of these foci are unhealthy if you dwell on them for too long, and both will mess you up.’

Pastors and problems:
As pastors we find that we often face problem after problem. . . . The Children of Israel cried to Moses; but Moses cried to the Lord. As Moses approached God with his problems an interesting thing happened: he realised that he needed to protect God’s reputation.

Pastors and communication:
Why would the church pay for your phone if you don’t answer it? Be accessible!
People today don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care. . . . It’s about finding the way to someone’s heart.
Trust makes leadership possible.


 Ministerial Council 2 Patrick JohnsonDr Patrick Johnson

Pastor Patrick Johnson (Trans-European Division Ministerial Secretary)

The final meeting together was not a lecture or seminar, but a worship service – Communion. Pastor Patrick Johnson reminded pastors about its meaning, something quite strange if considered for a moment. Using Luke 22 as his text, he explained how Luke describes a meal with three reminders:

    • Context – it may have been a Passover meal, but there is a bigger context, a bigger story.
    • Emotion – the story has strong emotions: about our salvation, because of Jesus Christ.
    • Content – looking forwards, looking backwards, and looking to the present (Luke 22:17-20).

 

As we ate and drank together – one in Christ – Paul Lee sang an old gospel song, the testimony of countless Christians past and present. Significantly, though, it’s also the story of every pastor who daily commits to serving you and me.

‘I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus
Since I found in Him a friend so strong and true;
I would tell you how He changed my life completely:
He did something that no other friend could do.

‘No one ever cared for me like Jesus,
There’s no other friend so kind as He;
No one else could take the sin and darkness from me:
O how much He cared for me!

‘All my life was full of sin when Jesus found me,
All my heart was full of misery and woe;
Jesus placed His strong and loving arms around me,
And He led me in the way I ought to go.

‘Ev’ry day He comes to me with new assurance,
More and more I understand His words of love;
But I’ll never know just why He came to save me,
Till some day I see His blessed face above.’

Charles Weigle

The devotional speakers for each day were, Pastor Nerine Barrett, Dr Patrick Herbert, and Pastor Adriana Fodor.

This article was first published in the Messenger volume 124, edition 10.


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Sajitha Forde-Ralph, associate editor
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