by Joel Comiskey
I believe there’s a place for the mountain-top experience. We all need an added boost once-in-awhile. The truth is, however, we do most of our normal Christian living on level ground and sometimes even in the valley.
Cell churches have often promoted the mountain top experience called “Encounter Retreats” to help members deal with sin and spiritual blockage. These events create a mountain-top high for members to experience powerful spiritual renewal. Over the years, however, cell churches have learned that the Encounter flame can easily diminish without clear plans and direction. One famous cell church learned the need to immediately connect those in the Encounter with the next step in the training track to keep the fire burning. Some cell churches have failed in this area. I remember one cell church in Latin America that became so enamored with Encounter Retreats that they turned into an “Encounter Retreat” church. They stopped making disciples through cell ministry. The goal became attending Encounter Retreats.
This past weekend we took over thirty youth to Acquire the Fire (ATF), a youth encounter established by Teen Mania (Ron Luce). Our youth had an incredible experience of repentance, sharing, and prayer. This morning, many shared in the worship service. We emphasized the need to keep the fire burning through personal devotions, involvement in a Life Group and picking up the cross daily. We even hope to start a new youth Life group with those who attended ATF.
During ATF, I talked with Ed and Oona Byer from Big Bear Christian Center. They also took a youth group to ATF. They said to me, “This year we’re only taking those youth who are also in Lighthouses [youth cells]. We’ve discovered from many years of experience that the fire dies out too quickly otherwise.”
Last year we as a church were not proactive in planning for ATF, and the fire didn’t benefit our local church and cell ministry (people from various churches went). This year was different. We sent key adult cell leaders from our church in order to prepare for ongoing follow-up.
What kind of mountain-top experiences do you have in your church? (camp meetings, Encounters, etc.). How do you keep the flame burning after those experiences? Was there a time when you lost your cell focus due to another ministry getting in the way? Please share.