I became a Christian at the age of 19 and felt a deep call to follow Jesus and serve in his movement. My wife, Kathi, and I have two great children and three grandchildren who are such a blessing to us. During the past 37 years, I have served in the pastoral ministry in Seattle and Issaquah, Washington; in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Wenatchee, Washington. It has been a blessing to serve the Church of Jesus Christ and I have enjoyed this privilege. I love the bride of Christ.
Discipleship has been a focus in my life and ministry from the very beginning. My first mentor trained me to be a disciple maker. I have trained and encouraged individuals and the church to take this calling seriously. For years, I had prayed God would help me become more effective in my ministry so that the fruits of disciple making would be seen in our church family and beyond its walls.
During 2008, I experienced the beginning of God’s answer to my prayers. I had been mentoring a young man named Travis in Alaska and helped him to start a church in Juneau. I was asked to speak at the service of their one-year celebration. I arrived two days early to meet with Travis for what I hoped would be some personal time, but he dragged me off to a men’s testimony retreat. I have attended many men’s retreats and felt frustrated I would have to endure late nights and weird sounds. Off we went and to my amazement I experienced 35 Alaskan men who love God and each other at a level I have never seen before in my life. For two days, one after the other, these men stood up and shared their stories with an honesty and openness that was truly profound. Their love for each other, their commitment to Christ, and their joy of serving in this ministry called “The Word Retreat” renewed my soul. Ray, the director of the Word Ministry was a joy to watch as he showed Jesus’ love to each one. I asked Ray if he would teach me how to do this ministry to men and women in my home town and he said,” No, but I will share it with you. This ministry is more caught than taught so bring up with you three to four men from your church and attend a Word Retreat, and then we will talk about giving it to you, your church, and your community.”
In April, three men and myself returned to Alaska and attended the Word Retreat. They trusted me enough to make the trip and they also hoped to do some fishing. The retreat experience turned out to be so much more than we expected. No preaching, no break out seminars; rather, men serving men in ways that humbled us. God used ordinary men as examples of the servant heart of Jesus. We listened to four personal testimonies and I will never forget how they touched my soul. There were a few other things that happened but you will have to experience them to believe it.
On the flight back to Wenatchee the men and myself made a commitment to start a Word Ministry at our church. Ray had a manual (kind of…) and a few instructions: First, we give this ministry to you free of any charge so you have to commit to passing it on. Second, no pastor can lead this ministry because the men must take responsibility to be servant leaders and lead it. You as a Pastor can help, serve, guide, equip, influence but never directly lead yourself. Third, this is a “team approach” the team is where the action is in this ministry. It's where men become disciple makers. So choose wisely the team that leads this ministry each year. Fourth, this is a church-based ministry and it starts in the church and returns to the church after the retreat. Nevertheless, the team must not only invite people from their church but neighbors, family, friends, and co-workers to the retreat. Fifth, the team is responsible for discipling those they invite and those who come to the retreat. Lastly, give it to other churches in your community. The men and myself agreed and we started.
We had our first Word Retreat at Living Hope Community Church in 2009. Today we have three host churches sharing in this ministry in our valley. What we added to this ministry was to equip the team with a clear vision to become disciple-makers who make disciples for Jesus. Today the men and women who lead this ministry, share it with other churches, disciple, form groups, and each year prayerfully choose new teams within host churches in our valley.
We were given this ministry from our brothers and sisters in Juneau, Alaska and we have followed their example and have given it away to other churches in our community. The Word Ministry has also been shared in Oregon where we have two host churches. We have taken it to China and have planet it Russia this year.
What we see in this ministry is self-replicating, team-based, disciples who make disciples, and small groups that are being created throughout our community and into other states and nations.
God has been leading me to a new step in my journey which is to encourage movements like the Word Ministry, to be formed in communities, cities, and nations. I will start first in “my Jerusalem and Judea” (the Pacific Northwest) and follow as God leads to other places in this journey. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
For more information about the Word Retreat movement, visit the website. www.wordministry.org