Today’s entry is by Mark Fields, National Missions Director for Vineyard USA, about his work with the Vineyard Churches of Brazil.
Brazil is a large country, covering 49% of the South American continent. Consequently, it’s also a very diverse country. Southern Brazil is home to many European immigrants and influences, as well as most of the urban centers. Northern Brazil is the jungle, with the Amazon River and its many tributaries. There are cities in the north as well, but their cultural flavor is quite different from those in the south.
This significant cultural divide is evident in Brazilian churches. The Vineyard denomination has about 110 churches and church plants in Brazil, with 2/3 of them in the north and 1/3 of them in the south. Cultural tensions in worldview and perspective are present between the churches and have been particularly evident at leadership gatherings where decisions are being made. People know the culture that they have and those gaps can be difficult to bridge.
Because of the costs of gathering all of our leaders together, we’ve begun doing multiple things at once during those gatherings. For the last four years, we’ve done our spiritual formation retreats back-to-back with our national leadership team meetings. Our spiritual formation retreats are three to four days long, with only about 25% of the time devoted to content. The rest of the time provides space to be with God, to hear what God is saying to us, and opportunities to share that experience together.
We found that when we scheduled the spiritual formation retreats first, everything went more smoothly. People were more willing to listen to each other, more willing to defer to one another, and more willing to think of the whole organization– not just their side of things. A strong sense of community was built in the group coming out of the time of spiritual formation. People were present with God and sharing that experience together. Afterwards, the leadership team meetings went much more rapidly and smoothly.
Our takeaway: Time spent in spiritual formation together increases unity and productivity on leadership teams. I wish we’d started doing this a long time ago!