Follow the Leadership Retreat: BCC’s Conference Highlights (2013)

Written by our director, Pastor Mark Shaw, the following blog is the first installment in a four-part series on leadership published by the Biblical Counseling Coalition. The post captures a snapshot of the BCC’s 2013 leadership conference. In essence, reading this post gives you a “fly on the wall” perspective on the wisdom and conversation shared by over 4 dozen leaders in the Biblical Counseling field. This blog was re-posted from BCC’s website, Grace and Truth. You can access the original blog, Literally Life-Changing: The Biblical Counseling Coalition 2013 Leadership Retreat, by following the link.

An Oasis

Ephesians 4:1-7 states: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

One of the oasis periods of the past two years of having a hectic ministry schedule has been the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Leadership Retreat. Our setting is in rural Rome, Georgia, at the Winshape Retreat Center founded by Chick-Fil-A. It is a top-notch location, no doubt, but what really makes the retreat great is what makes the Church of Jesus Christ great: the people.

As a leader in biblical counseling, I relish the fellowship with like-minded brothers and sisters who are living out Ephesians 4:1-7 above. I will never forget Robert Cheong’s surprise when he asked the group: “How many of you have been or are now a part of a church that practices church discipline?” To his surprise, everyone raised a hand which is so unusual in today’s church culture that struggles to offer its members this important command of Christ in Matthew 18.

However, in this group, everyone recognizes the necessity of restorative counsel and is grateful for their church’s practice of loving discipline in the shepherding care of the flock of God. Not once during the retreat did anyone have to explain what the process of church discipline is, its value to the body, or its loving purpose to point people to Christ! What a blessing!

Professionally Life-Changing

For me personally, this year’s retreat was special as I recalled what transpired last year. In 2012, I remember meeting with other executive directors in our small group of ministry leaders and asking personally for prayer regarding our ministry’s finances, direction, recent staff layoffs, and other humbling prayer requests. No one wants to experience a ministry’s decline, and it was comforting to know that the men in my executive directors group had experienced similar struggles in their non-profit ministries.

At the retreat, I became reacquainted with Pastor Rob Green of Faith Church who was searching for a new director for Vision of Hope, a residential ministry for young women struggling with addictions, eating disorders, unplanned pregnancy, and self-harm habits. Rob and I spoke and in the weeks following both he and Pastor Steve Viars interviewed me. I was called to serve as a pastor at Faith and the new executive director of Vision of Hope.

Needless to say, my 2013 prayer requests at the BCC Leadership Retreat were radically different due to that God-ordained meeting with Pastor Rob Green of Faith Church. My prayer requests this year were offers to join me in praise to our Sovereign God Who had answered my prayers so beyond my comprehension last year. I am so grateful for the privilege to serve the Lord at Faith Church in the Vision of Hope ministry.

Personally Life-Changing

There are other aspects of the retreat I appreciate as well. While the worship/devotional time, panel discussion, and equipping times are beneficial, I really enjoy the informal fellowship times in small groups, at meals, on the shuttle, and walking the grounds. This year I discovered the humor of Andrew Rogers, Lily Park, Garrett Higbee, and Wayne Vanderweir. These wonderful servants know how to have God-honoring fun together and the joy of the Lord is evident in each of their lives. It is refreshing to laugh together because we all deal with such difficult situations in biblical counseling.

Also in these informal moments, I was able to have lunch with Martha Peace, Stuart Scott, Garrett Higbee, Ken Long, Howard Eyrich, Kevin Carson, and other leaders of the biblical counseling movement—all at one table! I told Garrett I am like the walk-on player on the bench of the basketball team of the national championship team who is the 12th man. I am grateful just to be on the team and learning from this group. The informal times of the BCC gatherings are really a fun highlight for me.

Finally, I came away with a greater appreciation that we are all in this together. Each of the persons at the retreat is NOT my competition but my collaborative teammate. We are fighting the real enemy, Satan (and the lies of this world) together. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17) and it is so good to be challenged by hearing others share what they are teaching and some of their recent ministry experiences.

Ultimately, the future of the biblical counseling movement is in good hands because it is in God’s Hands. He is using this group as instruments to accomplish His good works (Ephesians  2:10).

Join the Conversation

How can you collaborate with like-minded believers to advance the Kingdom of God together (i.e. as co-workers in your office or as ministry workers in different churches)?

What events have been life-changing where God clearly intervened providentially in the course of your life? Give a testimony of praise.


Rachel Bailey
I began my internship with Vision of Hope in January 2013. In my current understanding of God’s will for my life, I am pursuing wisdom and experience to one day work with women with eating disorders. My desire is to plant my feet in truth, while reaching my arms as far as I can toward the broken and hurting. With God’s help and guidance, I hope to become a godly woman and counselor to provide Truth-based counsel rather than “evidenced-based practice.” My life verse is Ecclesiastes 5:7 which says, “For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God."