Field Ministry Academy (FMA) is like camp for pastors. We get together for a week, share all meals together, have fun activities, learn a lot about Jesus, and build strong relationships. For the last couple years, Niki and I have gotten to function like “camp counselors” in FMA — we’re one of the repeat couples who attends every year to create a common thread between all the classes. While there is some overlap in the classes, only a couple of us have been a part of every class. And in creating this overlap and having these common threads, all of the FMA pastors are linked together. It is such a cool, so completely life-giving experience.
We just got back from the 5th and final FMA (at least for now). Here were some of the highlights for me this year:
“People tell me they don’t like going to church. I often don’t like going to church, either. But I don’t go for me. I go for them.”
FMA facilitates fellowship, not superficial socializing. We don’t impose teachings on each other; we offer our stories to each other. We don’t parade our facades, we invite each other into our lives. We don’t give platitudes; we give prayer and prophetic words. While some of our learning came in the form of a lesson, most of it came through small group discussions and interpersonal ministry. In this way we built each other up in the unity of faith and equipped each other for works of service.
We received a fresh release to just be ourselves, in both our strengths and in our weaknesses. We meditated heavily on the grace of God. We don’t have to compare ourselves to others; we don’t have to believe we’ve come up short. Mistakes, sins, and weaknesses are not causes for shame; they are opportunities for repentance and growth. One solution God gives is ministry partners that are strong in the areas we are weak. We felt a new freedom to boast in our weaknesses by asking people in MVFF to help us in the areas we are weak.
One of the values of committing to this ministry year after year is that we have developed deep friendships with people over time. We share with each other what God is teaching us, doing in us, and doing to us. And in that way we develop strong, enduring, genuine friendships. “How are you doing?” isn’t asked shallowly. It really means, “Remember that area in which God was stretching you? Where have you had victory? How can I continue to help you?” Those kinds of friendships are critical to perseverance and encouragement.
We visited Matt and Evan Welty, former MVFF members and Lighthouse pastors. They are doing really well, raising their twin boys and launching a small groups ministry within their church based on what they learned in Lighthouse! They exemplify our mission of Love, Liberate, Lead, and Launch! Even now they’re seeking to do that for others.
“Ministry is like finger paint art. It goes up on the fridge, not because it’s ‘good,’ but because you did it. And God loves you. ” –Pastor
We saw millionaires and interns work side-by-side, day and night to serve us. We felt so loved and refreshed by such simple servanthood.
We learned that people grow in unity when they share things in common, like common experiences, common studies, and common stories. This gave us new, fun ideas for MVFF, like retreats, group mission trips, and a sermon series based on a book we all read together. We also gleaned some creative ideas from pastors who excel at evangelism. We hope to incorporate them into our church through those of you who are gifted in that area.
Kelly prayed for healing for two pastors – healing of the soul and freedom from fear, rejection, and spiritual oppression. Both pastors were healed and shared powerful testimonies about their healing! Niki met with the interns of the church we were at and shared with them about perseverance, ministry inspirations, and spiritual truths.
“You know when your kids start fake smiling in photos instead of using their natural smiles? You just want to ask them, ‘Why are you doing that? Where did your real smile go?’ I feel like God is asking me that – when it comes to ministry, He wants me to do it with a real smile. Not out of striving to please Him, or because I ‘have to.’ He’s happy with me no matter what.” – Pastor