Pre-Conference Retreat


“Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves” The first line of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, and yet, how well do we really know ourselves

These 4 short talks are meant to just be a starter to help us both know ourselves a bit better, but also (and especially) how amazing our God is! 

They are based on a short section in Tim Chester’s book You can change where he outlines 4 beautiful aspects of God’s character and through each, begins to apply that to one of the 4 main idols that we struggle with. I’ve sought to think a bit about each one for us in the church planting world:

  • God is GREAT / so we don’t have to be in control (security) – (Psalm 27)
  • God is GOOD / so we don’t have to look elsewhere (comfort) (Psalm 94)
  • God is GLORIOUS / so we don’t have to fear others (approval) – (Psalm 31)
  • God is GRACIOUS / so we don’t have to prove ourselves (power) – (Psalm 103)

They’re not meant to be strict expositions but opportunities for some self-reflection (ideally with others) and so growth in emotional and spiritual health. The main benefit will come from reflection and prayer over the questions down below.


How are you really doing at the moment? Spiritually? Mentally? Physically? Relationally? What have you found hardest about the covid season?

How well do you think you know yourself? Why does it matter that we know ourselves?

“… I publish to my flock the distempers of my soul. When I let my heart go cold, my preaching is cold; and when it is confused my preaching is confused” Richard Baxter. What do you think your preaching says of your soul? 

Are you part of the 42% who have considered giving up in ministry in the last year? What things do you find hardest about ministry?

Which of the 4 idols (security, comfort, approval, power) most resonate with you? (If it helps you to diagnose, Tim Keller says “The greatest nightmare of the approval addict is rejection; of the power addict, humiliation; of the comfort addict, suffering; and of the control addict, uncertainty”.)

What stops you going to God when life is hard?

“One bit of the Bible prayed over, and bedewed with the Spirit, and made alive, though it be only a short sentence of six words, will profit you more than a hundred chapters without the Spirit” Spurgeon. How might this change our bible reading?

1. God is GREAT so we don’t have to be in control (security)

Psalm 27

Why is God’s greatness an antidote to our need for control?

When do you find yourself most afraid in ministry? In life? 

How is the idol of security alluring to you? When do you struggle to NOT be in control?

Have a look at v4-5. How good are you at gazing on the Lord?  Do you ever build that into your weekly rhythms?

Why do you think we’re so prone to ‘…try to God’s work without God?’

2. God is GOOD so we don’t have to look elsewhere (comfort)

Psalm 94

Why is God’s goodness an antidote to our need for comfort?

Where do most crave comfort? What happens when you don’t get it?

Can you relate to a tendency to mis-direct, minimise or self-medicate? What does that look like for you?

How might you get better at taking hardships to the Lord instead?

3. God is GLORIOUS so we don’t have to fear others (approval)

Psalm 31

Why is God’s glory an antidote to the approval of others?

How much of a people pleaser (and agreeable chameleon!) are you? 

For example are there times when you avoid conflict (in church life, in family life?)

are there situations where you see you’re trying to please people?

How does approval from God shape your day to day Christian life?

4. God is GRACIOUS so we don’t have to prove ourselves (power) 

Psalm 103

Why is God’s grace an antidote to our need to prove ourselves?

How is your tendency towards power seen? What do you use your power for?

Could you pray that “God would raise up others who would surpass you in your ministry?” 

Are there ways in which you can seek to prove yourself through your ministry?

Do you ever pray that God would raise up others to surpass your in your ministry? Could you?