LXP Youth Leaders Retreat 2015: The Unshakable Ones

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From Friday March 13th through Sunday March 15th our house was full of nineteen LXP youth leaders and staff. We gathered for our annual Leaders Retreat, and this one was remarkable in many ways. It was themed “The Unshakable Ones” and we looked into what it means to stand firm in our faith, no matter where or with whom we find ourselves. Hebrews 12:26-29 says:

“Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

This scripture and its message, which challenges, affirms and inspires, was the focus of our weekend. As followers of Christ and leaders in our respective spheres of influence we encounter many things that can potentially shake us. Especially for teen agers and young adults, the influence of friends, the temptation of romantic relationships, the pressure to be popular or fit in with the crowd, and the many other distracting inputs encountered on a daily basis can draw us away from our firm foundation in Christ. If we are not diligent to spend time in bible study and prayer, surround ourselves with friends who build and encourage our faith, and avoid the things that “shake” us we will find ourselves weak and ineffective to face the challenges that come our way and accomplish the purposes to which God has called us. However, when these things are made the priorities of our daily lives, we will experience the power of the promise that we are citizens of a kingdom that cannot be shaken, beneficiaries of the love and help of an awesome God who will fill us with an all-consuming passion for him and his will, if we will only seek him wholeheartedly.

Group

The first day of the retreat began after the youth returned from school on Friday. We looked deeply into prayer and areas the bible calls us to spend time praying for. More importantly, we actually spent hours of the first evening praying; engaging with the Father, seeking his face, and crying out to him for salvation of souls, our leaders, revival, and physical and spiritual healing. The passion the youth leaders have for prayer is a testimony of how the Lord has grown them in faith and maturity and the time passed quickly with each one invested and engaged. The rest of the sessions for the weekend helped us examine our personal faith journey; are we living unshakable lives, or if there are things that are disturbing our commitment to serving the Lord and sharing him with others?

One of the main elements of the retreat that took the majority of our time together was the creation and sharing of our personal timelines. The first day we were given time to write out our life story, recording every significant moment we could remember, whether positive or negative. Once these events were recalled, we sketched them out on a horizontal timeline marked with the years of our life from birth until the present. All the positive events or “highlights” were indicated above the horizontal center line, and all the negative events or “lowlights” were written below the center line to give a visual representation of the ups and downs of our lives throughout the years. Then, over the course of the next two days, each one of us was given the chance to explain and share about all the events drawn on our timeline. Once the presenter finished sharing, the rest of us were given the opportunity to ask questions about events shared or areas of the person’s life that were not recorded on the timeline. The significance of writing, sharing, and discussing our timelines in each individual life and for our leadership team cannot be underestimated. Many of the youth shared openly for the first time about some of the experiences they have lived through and found not only freedom from carrying the burden alone but also support and compassion from those who love them. There is healing that comes from speaking the truth and living transparent lives with those God has placed in your life.

Sharing her timeline

Sharing her timeline

For our team, this experience hugely deepened the unity and closeness that we have after being entrusted with such intimate and comprehensive knowledge about one another’s lives. It also increased the level of accountability and the standard of truth to which we hold one another. We agreed to give each other the right to ask any question and challenge any answer, which in turn freed and required us to speak the complete truth in every area. This is such a crucial step for each of us, to learn to live transparent lives, because our level of influence and the power of our leadership for the sake of those who follow us depend upon how genuine we are in our own lives. I cannot encourage someone to live a pure life when I myself am not living in purity, because that person will mentally or literally point a finger right back at me and discredit the words with which I so passionately urge him or her. He or she will say to me “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye.” (Luke 6:42) Do not expect to lead others in an area where you have not first dealt with yourself.

After the raw and intense experience of baring our lives and souls before the team, we took plenty of time in small groups and one on one conversation to follow up with certain issues and feelings that surfaced. Some needed to sort out conflicts that came to light during the questioning, some needed advice and support on how to deal with challenges they had faced or are currently facing, and others just needed to debrief the emotional experience of sharing their life story. We wrapped up the final sharing time with a reminder of our standing agreement in the team that the things we share with one another stay within the group. The safety of sharing and the trust and unity that we build in our team depend solely on the faithfulness of each one to honor the sacredness of the deep things shared.

group discussions during session

Group discussions during session

We are so humbled by the growth we see in our team of youth leaders. The weekend was packed with involved teaching and intense times of looking into the state of our hearts, lives, and relationship with God, but not one shied away or wanted a break from the scrutinys. They all rose to the occasion and exceeded our expectations. The fun and fellowship we shared throughout the weekend was made all the richer by the depth of maturity and hunger for righteousness displayed by each one

Please continue to pray with us that these young people will live firmly rooted in the understanding that they are unshakable, and with that identity will live boldly and influence by speech and example everyone everywhere they go, even to the ends of the earth.

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