The following is a reflection from a participant in CBF’s Prayer Retreat as part of the 2015 General Assembly in Dallas. This two-day retreat focused on Dawnings, CBF’s process for congregational renewal and intentional ministry. Learn more at www.cbf.net/dawnings
By Heath Powers
When the elders of Israel learned that the LORD was concerned about their slavery, “they bowed down and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31). Soon after, the people wouldn’t even listen to Moses. Finding straw to make Pharaoh’s bricks burdened an already oppressed people. They were discouraged. Their spirits were broken (Exodus 6:9).
We all know that you don’t have to be a slave to lose sight of hope.
It’s not one of those things you like to admit as a pastor, but I have struggled to hold onto hope more than once in ministry. At times I’ve secretly questioned my calling. The burden of making bricks without straw feels all too familiar.
I am disillusioned with quick fixes — Dawnings is not another easy answer.
Dawnings is a hopeful process, not a program. It is designed to lead us to God and not merely the newest idea. We discern God’s guiding hand by making space to hear his voice. Dawnings is a visioning process that actually makes sense to me.
Here is what I believe Dawnings could do for our church:
- Enrich us with spiritual practices that facilitate a connection with God.
- Guide us in discernment to listen before we plan.
- Lead us to be a mission-shaped church versus doing a church-shaped mission.
- Encourage us in an on-going journey that will equip future generations to walk with God in faith.
- Unite us in doing ministry together.
We have not yet followed the process in our church, but I have been blessed by my first taste of Dawnings this week at the 2015 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly.
My experience at the Dawnings retreat this week has given me hope. I believe our church can become something that looks and feels like an authentic community of faith. We can grow more deeply together as a body and feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.
In our efforts to grow our churches we have inadvertently developed many consumers in the pew. We often don’t realize how much of our congregational life is driven by what people want. We proudly proclaim, “Jesus is Lord!”, but we like our worship a certain way and we like to be at lunch on Sunday at a certain time. We want the best children’s program so we can reach young families, and we need great preaching to keep people coming. It is easy to create a congregational culture centered around people’s perceived wants instead of God’s presence. We call it worship, but sometimes it’s really just about us.
I believe Dawnings will help us refocus our hearts upon God. When we discover the love for people in the heart of God, we will love well too. First we must rest our gaze upon him. We will imagine a better dawn when we see through God’s eyes.
I encourage you to consider going to a Dawnings Retreat with your church. You can find all the information you need to get started at www.cbf.net/dawnings. Whether you decide to go forward with the process or not, you will be enriched in your time with God. It has helped me peer above the brokenness and catch a glimpse of a new day.
To keep up with news, photos and videos from the 2015 CBF General Assembly in Dallas, Texas, and for information on watching the online livestream of the evening June 17-19 worship and commissioning services of Assembly, please visit www.cbf.net/Dallas2015.
Heath Powers serves on the governing board of CBF Texas and is pastor at First Baptist Church of Winters, Texas. He received a M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.