You may have been to one before: a men’s retreat. They exist only for one purpose and that is to make sure we never attend another one.
That’s what I thought, anyway. My church recently claimed that theirs was a men’s retreat for men who didn’t like men’s retreats. They had my number. I’ve never actually been to a men’s retreat, but my experience had me convinced that these were for high-end extroverts and the cheer-led crowd. I have been to a couple of Promise Maker rallies, where we are encouraged to commit to something besides football, beer, and sex. These rallies are usually highly motivational, full of chants and cheers, and peppered with big name speakers. Personally, I appreciated about 20% of the two Promise Keeper events I attended. I figured a men’s retreat would be about the same.
I have to admit that I was wrong on this one. It didn’t carry the kind of life-changing impact that a visit with the apostle Paul might produce, but from the start it was unassuming and humble. The message I got from the beginning was that we were there to hear from God and his Word by taking time to listen on our own, with the group and in worship. I was glad for the intentional times of retreat-within-the-retreat which allowed me to turn off the noise and listen. This is one aspect of our church which I am grateful for. When we show up for Sunday mornings, a retreat, or any other gathering, I know that we won’t be bombarded with noise, heavy church marketing, or flashy presentations.
Christian events are often planned with non-stop activity, with no time and space for quiet and solitude. I spent four days this past week at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, GA. Catalyst is one of the leading training and motivational events for leaders in their 20s and 30s.
The event was full of top notch speakers, powerful videos, and lighthearted fun. I realize that an event of this size would probably not attract as many participants with this approach, but I still wonder what it would look like to send 10,000 leaders into an extended time of quiet for reflection and prayer. This may or may not be a good idea for an event of this size, but I can’t help but think that we emphasize noise over quiet in many of our gatherings.
Why can’t the church take five minutes in a service for some intentional quiet? Are we competing for the short attention spans of people who are conditioned to a noise-saturated culture? Are we afraid that people won’t have anything to pray about and think about if we are not talking or singing into the microphones?
Consider how a Sunday morning would feel if we took five minutes out of seventy to simply be still, without any music or talking. It would probably feel awkward at first, but that kind of environment would eventually give our ears and our souls the space we need for listening to One worth hearing.