Five words summarized the message given to nearly 2,000 Wesleyan pastors and spouses attending The Gathering, January 9-12, in Orlando, Florida – Stop, Rest, Pray, Play, Thrive. The event’s goal, said Executive Director of Education and Clergy Development Russ Gunsalus, was for each attendee to be “encouraged, inspired and engaged at a deeper level with each other, their spouse and with God.”

Five general sessions featured guest speakers Bayside Church Midtown Co-pastor Efrem Smith, Calvario City Church Pastors Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero, John Maxwell, Emotionally Healthy Discipleship cofounder Geri Scazzero and 12Stone Church Senior Pastor Kevin Myers. Following are session highlights.

Efrem Smith, quoting lyrics from the song made famous by The Supremes, emphasized the need for pastors to “Stop! in the name of love before you break my heart.” He said that stopping is a blessing prompting a spiritual rhythm to enhance one’s life and ministry.

“We need a life rhythm of stopping. We need to stop in order to rediscover:

  • God’s love for us.
  • The love we should have for one another.
  • The love that unleashes compassion and justice.”

Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero encouraged pastors to recognize and address their need to rest. Discussing burnout and its impact on their lives and ministry, the couple reminded pastors, “You can be so busy with the work of the Lord that you forget the Lord of the work.”

After referencing a conversation from The Chronicles of Narnia between Lucy and Tumnus (Thomas) during which Tumnus says, “…it is winter in Narnia and has been for ever so long,” pastors were asked to consider if they were living lives where, “It is winter but never Christmas. How many of us are working for the Lord as if it is winter but never Christmas? Never rest and celebration. Never quiet. Never stillness. Always winter.”

Rest, said the Salgueros, is needed to renew pastors’ ability to minister and live well, so that future generations are empowered to do the same.

Addressing the theme of remember, John Maxwell spoke about two times he “forgot his first love” and lost his way in ministry. He then provided pastors a blueprint for finding their way back:

  • Never forget Egypt.
  • Always remember where I have come from.
  • Keep my heart hot for lost people.

Maxwell outlined ways to be salt and light after asking what “we are going to do about the people who never come to our church”:

  • Be intentional to add value to lost people.
  • Remember to include everyone.
  • Be intentional to remember who you are in Christ.
  • Remember to enter their world.
  • Remember to come from their point of view.
  • Remember to creatively move people toward God.

He ended his session saying that the only thing that counts in heaven is “when we tell the good news of the gospel and people hear it and receive it and their life is changed. But we’ve got to get out of the church!”

Geri Scazzero, a pastor and pastor’s spouse, called both to become a Generational Blessing. After successfully planting and leading a church in New York City, she shared that she and her husband, Pete, became burned out. They “were gaining the world but losing their soul”; they had become “exhausted from loving people, but not each other.”

Eventually, Scazzero realized that the problem “wasn’t out there, the problem was inside of me.”

She concluded by listing pathways toward deep personal transformation allowing pastors and their spouses to become a blessing to the next generation, as well as reading God’s Genesis 12:2-4 promise:

  • Self-awareness
  • Skills for loving well
  • Silence

“When leaders get stuck, churches get stuck. When leaders get unstuck, churches get unstuck,” said Kevin Myers, pastor of 12Stone Church. He shared three things God is shaping or reshaping in him that could help him get unstuck and so he and his church could thrive:

  • Make ministry more about others and less about me.
  • Lift your spiritual lid so God is freed up.
  • Get better telling God’s big story, not my little story.

Saying he thinks he has done a better job of teaching his church to tell their story than telling God’s story, Myers wants to help people answer the 10 core questions that form an individual’s world view and that God answers sequentially in the Bible:

  • Is life an accident or am I here on purpose?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Can I really trust you, God?
  • Why can’t I make my own rules?
  • Why can’t God just accept me as I am?
  • Isn’t the one way to God narrow-minded?
  • What does it mean to be forgiven?
  • Why don’t Christians look different from everyone else?
  • Who needs the church?
  • Are heaven and hell real?

He concluded by reminding pastors that getting unstuck can be a lordship lid issue and by inviting them to seek the Spirit of God.

“We can’t get to vision until we lift the lid and God isn’t free until we’re fully surrendered.”

Feature image: “In a powerful moment at The Gathering 2019, pastors and spouses responded in obedience to the Holy Spirit.” Pictured, top to bottom, below: pastors and spouses participate in a general session, Efrem Smith, Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero, John Maxwell, Geri Scazzero and Kevin Myers.