At the turn of the season of autumn, when the air finally begins to get crisp and the temperature drops a few degrees, many of our churches are summoned to the wilderness for their annual retreats. In the last week of October, over 200 students in all of the Florida campus ministries withdrew to the lightly populated city of Old Town, Florida for a time to be unified in worship to our God.
With a focus on the Sermon on the Mount, the selected theme of this year’s retreat was Shift: A New Perspective . We spent the weekend meditating on Matthew 5-7 and heard powerful messages from guest speakers Willie and Katie O’Quinn who lead the Free State Church in Lawrence, Kansas.
As Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, he encouraged a shift in the lives of his earliest followers. Today, in the 21st century, God’s expectation has not changed. Becoming a disciple of Jesus means that there has been and will continue to be a shift from a worldly lifestyle to a kingdom lifestyle.
On Friday night, the retreat was kicked off with a sermon by Willie O’Quinn. He reminded us that we must have a “citizen shift ”— we need to start viewing ourselves as citizens of the Kingdom of God! Our lives should look different because we are no longer citizens of this world. The night concluded with in-depth conversation and self-reflection about the lesson over a roaring bonfire and s’mores.
On Saturday morning, we split for men’s and women’s lessons which both came from Matthew 6. Katie O’Quinn shared vulnerable stories from her own life while inspiring the women to examine the “why’s” of their Christian lives. Asking ourselves why we have our quiet times with God, why we decide to be pure, why we make disciples, etc. will help us to not make our relationship with Christ a checklist. The answer to our “why’s” should be coming straight from God’s Word.
The men heard a challenging message from Willie that helped them to further examine their priorities and encouraged them to aim wholeheartedly for the kingdom in all areas of their lives, including but not limited to their money, time, and thoughts and emotions.
The rest of the day was spent in various activities such as kayaking, paint balling, cupcake decorating, and archery, a worship night, and a costume dance party to end the last night of the retreat.
On Sunday morning, we heard a final message from Matthew 7 about walking the narrow road. At the end of the lesson, five college students decided to begin their shift and walk the narrow road by getting baptized and making Jesus Lord of their lives!
Matthew 7:28 says, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching…” Similar to this crowd, we were astonished at all that was taught from God’s Word this weekend. Now it’s time to take Jesus up on his challenge by putting those words into practice.
Special thanks to the Gainesville Christian Church and Camp Anderson for their investment in making this retreat successful.