Shepherding conference encourages ministry teams

Originally published at Western Recorder –

Lexington—Around 330 pastors and their spouses from across the state gathered Jan. 28-30 for the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Shepherding 2016 conference—three days of marriage renewal and ministry encouragement.

Featured speakers for the weekend included Allen Bonnell, of Immanuel Baptist Church in Corbin; Eric Geiger, one of the vice presidents at LifeWay Christian Resources, leading the Resources Division; KBC President Kevin Smith; and Chuck Lawless, vice-president for Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“We have to live in a balance,” Lawless told attendees. “If you’ve been in the valley too long, you’d better get back to the mountain. If you’ve been hanging out on the mountain too long, you’ve lost connection with lost people, you’d better get back to the valley.”

Lawless shared that “we need the mountain” (Mark 9:2), “the valley needs us” (Mark 9:14), and “we need a balance” (Mark 9:28).

“If we find ourselves hanging out where the glory seems most real and we never get back to the valley, the devil wins as we seclude ourselves among the people of God,” he said.

Staying in the valley too long can “wear you down and cost you your wonder,” he reminded attendees.

Lawless also cautioned that those who are hanging out in a safe place are robbing Jesus of His glory.

“Maybe God is calling you tonight to get back down from the mountain, to reconnect with your lost community, to grieve over a dying world,” he said.

He continued, “We constantly have to live in that tension. My hope for you is that God would draw you to Himself in such a way this weekend that you can’t help but talk about Jesus when you leave here.”

Bonnell told the couples, “God cares less about where we’ve been and more about where we’re going.”

Just as Adam and Eve tried to hide and cover themselves with fig leaves, “we try and cover ourselves with good works,” Bonnell said.

“We preach longer, we preach more days, we read our Bible more. We pray and it’s none of that,” he added. “It’s the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us, that heals us, that redeems us, that will lift any marriage out of the muck and mire that we find ourselves in.

“It is the Lord Jesus Christ that is sufficient—that is enough, that is all we need,” Bonnell said.

He posed several questions: “Where are you (hiding) today? What are those fig leaves that you attempt to sew? Do you try to hide and cover your sin, all the while Jesus just wants for you to bring your wreckage, your junk, and those misspoken words to Him that He might bring help?”

“There is definitely something about Shepherding that resonates with the hearts of pastors and their wives,” Steve Rice, Kentucky Baptist Convention’s team leader forcChurch consulting and revitalization, said.

“It was important for us to learn and to hear from our elders,” Jake McPheron, worship leader with Touch of Hope Evangelistic Ministries and member at Immanuel Baptist of Corbin, shared. He and his wife Emmalee were among the youngest of the couples in attendance.

“It was awesome hearing from pastors and pastors and pastor’s wives and having them invest in us, and to give us some great wisdom on the ministry and how to persevere through it and keep our eyes focused on Jesus,” he added.

Emmalee said, “The important thing for me was getting surrounded by all those pastor’s wives. I got poured into by a whole bunch of other women who have been married for years and have been in the ministry for years.

“It just really opened up my eyes to know that being a pastor’s wife is important to the church because you’re the backbone to your husband and to the ministry,” she said. “That was something that I never really thought of.”

“It fills an all-too-often unspoken need for ministry couples, who many mistakenly view as having it all together, all the time,” Rice said. “But away from the demands of the church, they look a lot like ordinary husbands and wives.”

Shepherding, held at Griffin Gate Marriot Resort and Spa in Lexington, was sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program and Baptist Health. The weekend also consisted of group sessions and breakout sessions, and offered a time of refreshment for ministry couples. (WR)


Robin Cornetet of the KBC Communications team contributed to this story.