By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Staff Correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—Randy Millwood hears voices. He says we all do. We hear the voices of our friends, families, congregations, the last books we read, the last conferences we attended, the last dinners we went to, our televisions, cell phones, laptops—the “voices” are everywhere. The problem is that we’re not hearing the still small Voice.
“Most people, most pastors want to obey God but their world, like ours is so loud. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish the Voice of God from the competing voices,” Millwood said. And hearing God’s Voice is crucial for spiritual formation, for soul development and for healthy churches.
“Healthy disciple making pastors make healthy disciple making churches,” Millwood explained. In an effort to provide an opportunity to hear God’s Voice, Millwood has developed spiritual formation retreats.
The retreats are for about ten pastors or pastoral team leaders at a time. Most will be brief, lasting just 24 hours away from the norm at places such as Skycroft or Black Rock Retreat Centers—facilities where there are places for group meetings yet in a natural setting for participants to take long walks and be outdoors. Millwood hopes to have the retreats in different locations throughout Maryland and Delaware to make it easy for pastors to participate. No laptops are allowed and cell phone usage is limited. The goal is to disconnect and re-center; to refocus on hearing the Voice of God.
The first retreats will be baseline, understanding the process, what it means and learning to refocus.
Other retreats will allow for experiences such as contemplative prayer, reflective reading of scripture, simplicity and spiritual warfare.
Millwood hopes within four years to have ongoing retreats so pastors, when they feel they need that refreshment to hear God’s Voice can check the schedule and see when the next one is so they can plan their get away.
Jason Ashbaugh, associate pastor, Pathways Church, Forest Hill, recently attended one of those baseline retreats.
“It’s a unique thing to be humbly guided into the presence of the Lord we often find ourselves serving but no longer communing with,” Ashbaugh said.
“Randy’s experience and presence fosters a very simple and open environment to reorient life, and focus on who we are becoming instead of what we’re doing.”
Millwood is so passionate about these retreats and what they can do that he says if this is all he does from now until he is an old man and lays his head to rest he will be satisfied and happy.
“There is nothing more valuable than to provide an environment where church leaders can hear the Voice of God. Where entire pastoral teams are leading our churches while growing in Christ and dripping the fruits of the spirit as they go.”
“God has not stopped speaking, but we too often stop listening,” Millwood said.