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Encounter Retreats: What Are They?
by Joel Comiskey
Many cell churches use Encounter Retreats and consider these events as key to their growth. What is an Encounter Retreat? It’s a concentrated time (usually 2-3 days) to experience freedom from bondages, bitterness, bad habits, wicked thoughts, and past mistakes. It’s a time when Jesus sets people free through the power of the cross. Jesus himself said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”(John 8:31-32).
I don’t believe anyone will be perfect this side of heaven. We are all in the process of becoming holy or sanctified (Hebrews 10:10). Yet, there are times when believers can experience bursts of holiness, such as a re-dedication, renouncing of sin, and the Spirit’s filling. An Encounter Retreat is a time to focus on holiness and to help people find freedom in Jesus through the power of the cross.
When I first started studying the cell model, I felt that such retreats were complicated and required too much work. “Great for some churches,” I thought, but I certainly wasn’t convinced. Then God set me free at an Encounter. I experienced freedom from bondage and new victory in my life. In fact, when I wrote my own training material, the second book in the series is called “Encounter.” In that book, I took the best from different Encounters (stole the best with pride!).
However, I’ve also noticed abuses in Encounter Retreats. For example, certain Encounter Retreats in Brazil at one time were filled with errors and weird physchological regressions. I’ve also seen congregations over-emphasize Encounters to the point of neglecting the rest of the cell training. And some famous, growing cell churches do not have Encounter Retreats and are doing very well! Could they be doing better with Encounters? God knows.