With reports of increasing numbers of pastors leaving the ministry in recent months following increased pressures from the pandemic, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has joined with state Baptist conventions to host Timothy + Barnabas Getaways for pastors and their wives.
“We are, in a very real sense, on the frontlines of a very real battle,” Sagemont Church pastor Matt Carter said when addressing pastors at the Timothy + Barnabas event in San Antonio earlier this summer.
“I’m convinced that Satan knows the name of every pastor,” Carter said as he explained that faithful pastors who share the gospel, preach the Word and make a difference can expect spiritual pushback in their calling.
NAMB hosted the San Antonio event in cooperation with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC). It was the first in a series hosted across the South. NAMB invited pastors for a two-day getaway for encouragement and equipping in Mississippi with events planned for the fall in Virginia and Louisiana.
“It is part of our desire that no pastor or wife would ever be alone in the state of Texas,” said Tony Wolfe, associate executive director of the SBTC. “We want to be more than just a network of churches pooling their resources together for the advancement of the Great Commission. We want to actually pool our relationships together to serve and encourage one another.”
That heartbeat to serve pastors has been the impetus for Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s senior vice president of evangelism and leadership, since he launched Timothy + Barnabas 27 years ago.
“Timothy + Barnabas started out with a deep conviction and desire to come alongside pastors to provide them with encouragement and instruction to help them flourish in their ministries,” Hunt said. “What started as a personal ministry now belongs to NAMB so that it will outlast me and serve pastors for many, many years.”
To better serve pastors across North America, NAMB began working with state convention partners to host these events to provide a time for pastors to be encouraged in their ministries. These getaways are shorter than a typical Timothy + Barnabas Retreat and hosted in a location that is accessible for pastors who are served by the state convention.
Texas pastors who attended the Getaway in San Antonio shared that one of their greatest challenges has been a sense of aloneness. So, the chance to come together with other pastors and hear from other leaders encouraged them.
“I think the nature of the pastorate inclines all of us toward isolation. When things get hard, we tend to withdraw more rather than gather with others,” said David Norman, pastor of University Baptist Church in San Antonio. “Hearing stories and rubbing shoulders with guys who are facing the same difficulties, running into the same struggles and just realizing you’re not alone – that’s encouraging.”
Russell Smiley, pastor of Pleasant Run Baptist Church in Colleyville, Texas, shared the same sentiment about how easy it can be for pastors to feel detached.
“It’s been very encouraging to sit amongst other leaders of other churches and not only commiserate but also encourage one another about how God is moving through all of these things,” said Smiley.
Preaching from Matthew 13:15, Carter cautioned attendees about the dangers of a dull heart, deaf ears and dim eyes that might lead a pastor to go through the motions of ministry.
To combat complacency and feelings of weariness, Carter encouraged pastors to remember the beginning of their calling, learn to be content in their calling and to maintain focus on the end of their calling, which will yield an eternal reward in heaven.
In reflecting on his years of pastoral ministry at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., during a session with the pastors, Hunt described the urgency and impact of living a life centered on the Kingdom of God.
“I’ve really attempted to, in leadership as a pastor, to build a church that is a Kingdom church,” Hunt said. “I’ve got one life. One day, I’m going to appear before the King who changed my life. I’m going to have to give an account of what I did with what He gave me.”
Kathy Litton led sessions for the pastors’ wives. Litton, who serves as NAMB’s director of planter spouse development, has helped with Timothy + Barnabas events for six years.
“The Timothy + Barnabas Getaways are such powerful, life-giving opportunities for wives,” Litton said. “The chance to disconnect with their husbands from the demands of ministry and connect with other wives can encourage them deeply. These women pour into their churches and people, and these gatherings allow us to generously pour into them.”
The Timothy + Barnabas Getaway in San Antonio took place May 17-18. The following week (May 24-25), NAMB hosted a second Timothy + Barnabas Getaway for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB).
“After this difficult year of ministry during the pandemic, the Timothy + Barnabas Getaway was such a blessed time of encouragement, refreshing, and instruction for our pastors and wives,” said John Pace, director of pastor and leadership development for the MBCB.
Timothy + Barnabas Getaways with the Louisiana Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia will take place in the Fall of 2021. For more information, contact [email protected]. There is also limited availability for the Timothy + Barnabas Retreat in Branson, Mo. NAMB will announce the 2022 Timothy + Barnabas Retreat dates in September.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)