By Brandon Elrod
GREENSBORO (BP) — “I heard pastors share stories about how they were close to hanging it up, and I just knew there had to be some way to inspire them to stay the course.”
That desire led Johnny Hunt to create what would become Timothy+Barnabas, two of the apostle Paul’s coworkers, with Timothy representing instruction and Barnabas encouragement. The Timothy+Barnabas Retreat is now in its 25th year of ministering to pastors and their spouses.
“God provided the vision to use Timothy+Barnabas as a way to encourage and instruct pastors and their wives as they surrendered to God’s call to serve the local church,” said Hunt, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, who now serves as the North American Mission Board’s senior vice president of evangelism and leadership.
The 2019 calendar of events kicked off with two retreats held in Greensboro at Lake Oconee, attended by more than 320 pastors and spouses attended, representing 14 states.
“When we organized our first event those years ago, we thought we would have eight or so couples,” recalled Jim Law, executive director of evangelism and leadership at NAMB and former executive pastor at First Baptist Woodstock.
“When around 30 couples showed up, we knew we had hit a nerve, and God has been blessing Timothy+Barnabas ever since.”
The March events — each spanning three days — included sessions with Hunt, psychologist and speaker Charles Lowery, and Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Tennessee and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Kathy Litton, NAMB’s director of planter spouse development, and author and teacher Susie Hawkins, led sessions for the wives. Jake Holman, contemporary worship pastor at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., led worship.
Hunt’s messages focused on personal evangelism and leadership. Lowery discussed the importance of overcoming the influences of sin. Gaines reminded attendees of the priority that a personal relationship with God has over ministry.
On Twitter, David Scott, youth and collegiate pastor from University Baptist Church in Thibodaux, La., said, “Thankful for such an incredible days being encouraged and growing together with Johnny Hunt.” Scott also reported that he was able to share the Gospel at a gas station on his way home from the retreat.
Shane Russell, pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Deatsville, Ala., came to the retreat with his wife Shannon. The March 2019 event marked their fifth time attending Timothy+Barnabas.
“Timothy+Barnabas has been such a blessing to us,” Russell said. He and his wife arrived at Shoal Creek nearly 13 years ago and began a process of revitalization at the church. He now brings his staff to experience the getaway.
“This was a retreat for us, a way to be fed … to receive words related to leadership and what God was calling us to do,” Russell said.
Russell’s wife Shannon, reflecting on what Litton and Hawkins shared from a wife’s perspective, said the retreat was “a time that you can be challenged to do some self-reflection that relates particularly to ministry.”
“It’s always a great opportunity to facilitate and initiate conversations that we need to have and a chance to open up in a setting that fosters [openness],” Shannon said.
NAMB began partnering with Timothy+Barnabas six years ago, which allowed the ministry to expand and offer scholarships to pastors who otherwise could not afford to attend. In 2018, Hunt placed Timothy+Barnabas with the North American Mission Board in the hopes that the event would continue for many years to come.
NAMB President Kevin Ezell, in addressing attendees, thanked Hunt for his generosity and for entrusting Timothy+Barnabas to NAMB. Ezell also thanked Hunt’s wife Janet for her years of service to pastors’ wives through the event.
Three more Timothy+Barnabas Retreats remain in 2019 — one in Gatlinburg, Tenn., March 19-21; Palm Springs, Calif., Sept. 3-5; and Branson, Mo., Sept. 18-20. For more information, visit timothybarnabas.org.
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.