Praise him, O heaven and earth, the seas and all that move in them. For God will save Jerusalem and rebuild the towns of Judah. His people will live there and settle in their own land – Psalm 69:34-35 (New Living Translation) ICOC Nigeria recently concluded a power-packed 4-day National Staff Retreat focusing on church building, review its performance from the previous year in keeping with Vision 2020 goals and to align the 2014 goals with the year’s 3-pronged focus on missions, leadership development and family systems. The retreat, held from Monday 10th – 13th March 2014 at the serene Living Word Camp in Ibeju-Lekki, was organized also to help foster team-bonding and unity amongst Staff members in all cadres of the ministry.
After checking in, accreditations and lunch, the staff retreat started properly with worship and fervent prayers shortly before the church’s Administrator, Mr. Sam Onuoha presented the financial reports, budgets and mission thrust for 2014. This was the major highlight of the first day at the retreat setting the tune for what promises to be an incredible three days.
The second day at the retreat started with a group morning devotional competently led by an Elder in the church, Mr. Omo Iyamu. Sharing majorly from the examples of Nehemiah, Mr. Iyamu encouraged the staff to always depend on God in their decision making. He explained that Nehemiah was faced with difficult oppositions in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem but God brought about a great victory in his project because Nehemiah totally depended on God throughout his ordeal.
The Elder concluded by reminding the staff that as a Movement, we face so many trials (financial, meeting venues, our parenting, our marriages, etc) but that no matter the difficulties, the Nehemiah principle is worth emulating. Depending on God should not be during turbulent times alone but always and that no matter the circumstance or challenge, total dependence on God is the only solution. After the devotional, church leaders from all the Nigeria churches, excluding Kaduna, shared great news happening in their churches. The first Class of the retreat titled Faithful Builders was by John Kilaha from the Nairobi church, Kenya who charged the staff that their ministries and relationship with God can be compared to a building which can only stand the test of time according to the quality of materials used. In his first point, The Solid Foundation of the Cross of Christ and reading from 1 Corinthians 3: 10 -15, John highlighted that the only foundation that can stand the test of time is on Jesus and that leaders need to take extra care as they build because the day of testing will come. He also reminded the staff that the Cross of Jesus Christ is the backbone of discipleship and must be the motivation behind every spiritual building.
On his second point, The Golden Blocks of Great Faith, John emphasized the point that after a great solid foundation built on Christ, strong walls of faith is needed to keep our spiritual life upright and strong. Quoting James 1:2-4, he said that faith, like gold, only gets stronger and more durable by refining by fire and that we should rejoice and be joyful when we go through trials of any kind because these act as a motivating factor for a faithful builder. On his third point, the Silvery Roofing of Great Prayers John highlighted the importance prayer has in building a solid faith in God (Philippians 4: 6 -8). He compares a great prayer life to a strong roof on a building. And just as the roof protects from harsh elements, a great prayer life gives comfort, peace, protection and builds confidence in God. He also warned that lack of a quality prayer life exposes us to the schemes of Satan and that Jesus never fell to temptations because he had a vibrant and healthy prayer life (Matthew 26:41) On his fourth and final point, the Beautiful Finishing with Costly Stones of Great Fellowship, John concluded by emphasizing the importance of love in our fellowship. He encouraged the staff that the best form of evangelism is to love one another (John 13:34-35) and that love must first and foremost, be sincere (Romans 12: 9 -12). Afterwards, the staff broke out for a discussion group, prayers and fellowship shortly before dinner.
Day three at the retreat started with the group morning devotional, led by Elder Isreal Ereola. The Elder spoke on the Red X on Our Building Works. The Red X, he explained, is a sign painted on building constructions as a distraction or an opposition by the powers that be causing setbacks and delays in building. Using Ezra and Nehemiah as examples, the Elder concluded by encouraging the group that great opportunities sometimes mean great oppositions and that they continue to fight the good fight of faith.
The group split in two groups (men and women) after the devotional for the next class, led by John and Jayne Kaliha. John’s class, Servant Leadership focused on Jesus as a servant. He taught that leaders should imitate Jesus’ example of service who led by serving others. He also challenged them to learn serving at home before being servants in God’s kingdom. Jane Kaliha’s class ‘Women of Noble Character’ encouraged the women to be a positive example in their congregations and crave a godly character. The next class ‘Building a Family Church’ was taught by Chris and Rolayo Ogbonnaya. Using the biased parenting of the Patriarchs as a guide, the Ogbonnaya’s exposed the misconception and trap parents today fall into when they show favoritism among their children (Deuteronomy 21:17). They also added the five (four plus one) core emotional needs not met in the lives of the patriarchs which are:
- Connection and Acceptance – Genesis 25: 19-34
- Healthy Autonomy – Genesis 25: 27-28 and 27:1-45
- Reasonable Limits – Hebrews 12: 14-17, Genesis 26: 34-35, 27: 41-45, 28: 6-9
- Realistic Standards – Genesis 29:14b-30:1-24, 32:1-20, 35:16-20
- Spiritual Values and Community – Genesis 21: 8-11, 25:27-28, 37:3-4, 48:17-18
The next class by John and Jayne Kaliha focused on Raising the Future Generation of Leaders – The Kenya Campus Ministry Experience where they encouraged the group to have great visions and invest vastly on various campuses in their churches as every great plan for their ministries starts with a great campus ministry. Using their examples in the Nairobi church, John and Jayne explained that to win the campus ministry is to win the world and that church leaders should plant godly visions in the hearts of students on campuses. The final class for the day ‘As for me and My Household’ – The Minister and his Family was taught by Fred and Titi George. Using Joshua 24:14 as a guide, The Georges’ pointed out that the minister’s household is the primary and most important place for expressing faith in God and love for others. They also stressed that part of a minister’s job description is to inspire people to serve and love God and that they must be a good mirror of holiness at home and ministry. The day ended with a syndicate discussion group and prayers as the group retired for the night.
Day 4 (Final Day)
The final day at the staff retreat started with a devotional by Elder Imagbe Igbinoba. His message reminded the group that successful leadership is as a reward from God. Sharing from the example of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38 – 42) the elder warned the group that one can be busy working for Jesus without spending time with him and that service to Christ might sometimes degenerate to a distraction from a relationship with God. He also encouraged them to follow Mary’s choice because it leads to life and a sound relationship with Jesus while Martha’s choice leads to burn-outs, bad attitudes, envy, rivalry and unhealthy personal relationships. The final class of the staff retreat taught by Jide Ojo and titled Shepherding God’s Flock: Minister and Lay Leaders was an expository on shepherding which he said involves knowing, nurturing, feeding, caring, discipline, protecting and providing guidance for the flocks. Sharing from John 21:15-17, Jide explained that Peter was commissioned to feed Jesus’ lambs, shepherd and feed His sheep and that Jesus entrusted His flock to the one who truly love Him because love for Christ is the best motivation for effective shepherding. He further said that not all leaders are effective shepherds for people are led by leaders but are cared for by shepherds. People often feel endeared to shepherds because shepherds know them by name, know what is going on in their lives, knows where they live and provide more intimate care to their flocks. He concluded by highlighting qualities of leaders with a shepherd’s heart:
- Know the condition of the flock – Proverb 27:23: God’s flocks do not exist merely to accomplish the task at hand, but are part of the team to be nurtured and cared for.
- Develop close relationship with the flock – John 10:2-4: A good shepherd knows things that are personal and important to the people they serve and lead (family issues, health issues, job and business related issues). He knows and cares.
- Serve willingly – 1 Peter 5:2-4: A leader with a shepherd’s heart serves with a joyful and willing spirit. They do not resent the time and effort needed to care for the flock.
- Lead by example – John 10:4
- Fight for the flock – 1 Samuel 17:34-35
The retreat was rounded up with reports on the church’s Vision 2020 updates, mission’s updates and movements and general announcements. We continually glorify the name of our God for the disciplines He gives and also for the victories in all our congregations.
As leaders traveled back to their various destinations with new visions inspired by our loving God and passions in their hearts, we implore the church to keep praying for all the plans God have for our leadership, missions and family systems and also our overflowing praise and thanksgiving for the overwhelming success of the 2014 National Staff Retreat.