If you grew up in a Christian home, you’ve probably attended at least one church retreat. The earliest memory of one I can pull out of my mind is Shiloh 2002. I still have very vivid memories of sitting beside my mother on a multi-colored, foldable chair, outside in the overflow seat section, drinking from a flask filled with hot chocolate, and just staring at the large screen.
I think what burned the memory of that whole program permanently into my brain, was the miracle that happened on one of the Shiloh nights. This blind lady, who camped beside my mum’s car, and shared conversation with her, woke up the next morning, screaming, crying, that she could see.
I had never experienced anything so surreal, and that’s what the power of God does.
Now, what’s a spiritual retreat, and why do churches have to host such events?
The word, “retreat”, draws its origins from a Latin word meaning “to draw back” or to “take a step backward”. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director.”
Jesus Christ, the foundation of our Christian faith took part in retreats during his ministry. From the time spent in the wilderness, to his moment of transfiguration. So the idea of retreats is not some kind of modern construct created by today’s church, but an intimate, powerful tradition that has survived generations.
You see, what we have with God is more than a deity-creation kind of dynamic, but a relationship. And for every relationship to grow stronger, it needs to be fed time, devotion, communication.
Retreats are for the strengthening of our relationships with God. The same way you’d have to take time out or remove yourself from the hustles and bustling of work and just life in general to spend a weekend with a love interest.
They are for our growth. Spiritual growth is the deepening of our knowledge of God, and his love. Retreats help us know him more, through his word, answer bugging questions, fortify our faith and convictions. Retreats are times set apart for building.
You build on your knowledge of God, build relationships with other Christians, and build yourself. You gain clarity in your communications with God, because you’ve been removed from the noise and distractions that plague our day to day life, even if just for a few hours.
So, how should you prepare to attend these events?
Pray for the ministers, pray for the other attendees, pray for the transportation, pray for what you want to see. Do you want clarity in your vision? Pray for it. Do you want to see healing and miracles flow? Pray. Do you want your pastor to cover those topics that have been bugging you? Pray.
Don’t attend a meeting you’ve not spoken to God about. Prayer helps you build expectation, in the place of prayer, the Holy Spirit helps you know what you are going to receive, and prepares your heart. If you don’t know what you are going to get, you won’t know when it arrives. Prayer helps you tune your spirit beforehand so you can be alert.
Prepare your clothes, your writing materials, your transport fare, or make sure your car is oiled and ready. Register for the program if there’s a need for it, prepare your clothes if it will last for multiple days, or if its a one day thing, what make sure your outfit is set and neat. Don’t give the devil space to throw in any last minute distractions. And if those distraction do come, be calm and trust the Lord to help you handle them.
Where you heart is, your finances will naturally flow into. Give whatever you can towards the success of the retreat, give during. The responsibility of the spread of this gospel was given to all of us, and whether we like it or not, we cannot shake the importance of finances to the spread of the gospel.
A meeting with God is not something you hoard (John 1:39). Invite your friends, family, work colleagues, and let other people come, grow, and be fortified. There will never be too much people for God.
And in all this, I want you to always remember, events like these are made necessary by the love of God. God loves you, and so wants to spend special time with you, show you more of himself, heal you, meet your needs. All the miracles, the supernatural show of his power, ministry of angels, tongues, interpretation, clarity, all of these things flow naturally at retreats, because of his love.
With all the craziness and stress we experience daily in this world, retreats are moments we rest in his love, and be reminded how much we matter to him.