At the end of September, Christ Journey and Sunrise churches—the two churches we’ve worked with in our apprenticeship period—partnered together in a weekend retreat called City on a Hill. The retreat is the second of two retreats we’ve developed (the first was Marvelous Light) for facilitating spiritual formation in followers of Jesus. This particular retreat focuses on equipping disciples to participate in the mission of God.
City on a Hill makes use of two components also found in Marvelous Light: teaching and ministry group. Teaching times on Friday night present a theological framework for the mission of God and obstacles that keep people from participating in mission. Saturday’s teaching includes seven practical tools for drawing others into the story of God: sharing God’s story, starting spiritual conversations, dealing with unbelievers’ doubts, sharing one’s own faith journey, service, the role of community in mission, and helping others enter the kingdom and continue in formation.
Ministry groups are the epicenter of formation at City on a Hill. These are groups of 2-3 people who journey together throughout the entire weekend to process and appropriate content from the teaching times. On Friday night, for instance, ministry groups share in confession and prayer about barriers to mission that exist in group members’ hearts. On Saturday, ministry groups provide a place to engage the practical tools offered for mission. For example, group members start spiritual conversations, share their faith stories, and communicate the story of God with each other.
At the end of the weekend several retreat participants filed forward to share how they’d been impacted by their experiences and to give a blessing to their fellow retreat members. One of the most encouraging testimonies came in an email from a Christ Journey member the week after City on a Hill:
I just had some great news to share. As most of you know, we have been having a Sunday night house church with our neighbors DiAnne and Alex. This has been great, but we have also been praying for our other neighbors a little further down. Their names are Earl and Nicky. This couple is somewhere in their mid to late 50’s. They came to the cookout and we talk to them quite regularly. They’ve come down to join us sitting on the front porch a couple of times, but not really showing that much interest.
A couple of weeks ago when I was finishing up on the roof, Earl came down and we talked for quite a while about a variety of subjects, but worshiping God and church was a pretty big topic during the discussion. Anyway, when we were done and I went back to working, I had thought that I’d blown it with Earl and Nicky because of opening my big, fat, arrogant mouth. I had intended to go down and talk to Earl about it, but hadn’t quite done it.
Anyway, last Sunday on our prayer request sheet, we had prayed that our house church would increase and that we would continue to see the Spirit’s work in our current house church members. Well, low and behold, last Sunday night, Earl and Nicky came to join us in worship and prayer and conversational discussion. Not only did they join us last Sunday, but they talked like they would start making it a regular deal to join us on Sunday nights.
So, PRAISE GOD for how His hands are working through us, even when we feel like we’ve really messed it up. This is definitely proof that you don’t have to have it all together for God to use you. Hey, just look at me, I’m probably as messed up as anyone can be and God is working anyway.
What an expression of Jesus’ words in Matthew, the same words that frame up the entire City on a Hill experience: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”