Timothy+Barnabas Retreat enters 25th year of ministry

By Brandon Elrod

GREENSBORO, Ga. —“I heard pastors share stories about how they were close to hanging it up, and I just knew there had to be some way to inspire them to stay the course.”

That desire led Johnny Hunt to create what would become Timothy+Barnabas, with Timothy representing instruction and Barnabas encouragement. March 4 marked the start of the Timothy+Barnabas Retreat’s 25th year of ministering to pastors and their spouses.

“God provided the vision to use Timothy+Barnabas as a way to encourage and instruct pastors and their wives as they surrendered to God’s call to serve the local church,” said Hunt—the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., who now serves as the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) senior vice president of evangelism and leadership.

The 2019 calendar of events kicked off with two events held in Greensboro, Ga., at Lake Oconee. Between the two events, more than 320 pastors and spouses attended, representing fourteen different states.

“When we organized our first event those years ago, we thought we would have eight or so couples,” recalled Jim Law, executive director of evangelism and leadership at NAMB. “When around thirty couples showed up, we knew we had hit a nerve, and God has been blessing Timothy+Barnabas ever since.”

The March events included sessions with Hunt, psychologist and speaker Charles Lowery and Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Kathy Litton, director of planter spouse development at NAMB, and Susie Hawkins, author and teacher, led sessions for the wives. Jake Holman, contemporary worship pastor at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., led worship.

Hunt’s messages focused on personal evangelism and leadership. Lowery discussed the importance of overcoming the influences of sin. Gaines reminded attendees of the priority that a personal relationship with God has over ministry.

The youth and collegiate pastor from University Baptist Church in Thibodaux, La., David Scott, said on Twitter, “Thankful for such an incredible few days being encouraged and growing together with Johnny Hunt.” Scott also reported that he was able to share the gospel at a gas station on his way home from the retreat.

Shane Russell, pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Deatsville, Ala., came to the retreat with his wife Shannon. The March 2019 event marked their fifth time attending Timothy+Barnabas.

“Timothy+Barnabas has been such a blessing to us,” Russell said. He and his wife arrived at Shoal Creek nearly 13 years ago and began a process of revitalization at the church. He now brings his staff to experience the getaway.

“This was a retreat for us, a way to be fed…to receive words related to leadership and what God was calling us to do,” Russell said.

Litton and Hawkins also shared about the trials and joys of ministry from the wife’s perspective.


Kathy Litton (left), director of planter spouse development at the North American Mission Board, and Susie Hawkins (right), author and teacher, led sessions for wives during the Timothy+Barnabas Retreat in Greensboro, Ga. NAMB photo by Daniel McCullough.

“It’s a time that you can be challenged to do some self-reflection that relates particularly to ministry,” Russell’s wife, Shannon, said. “It’s always a great opportunity to facilitate and initiate conversations that we need to have and a chance to open up in a setting that fosters” openness.

NAMB began partnering with Timothy+Barnabas six years ago, which allowed the ministry to expand and offer scholarships to pastors who otherwise could not afford to attend. In 2018, Hunt gave Timothy+Barnabas to the North American Mission Board in the hopes that the event would continue for many years to come.

NAMB president, Kevin Ezell, addressed attendees on Wednesday night (March 6) and thanked Hunt for his generosity and for entrusting Timothy+Barnabas to NAMB. Ezell also thanked Hunt’s wife, Janet, for her years of service to pastors’ wives through the event.

Three more Timothy+Barnabas Retreats remain in 2019—one in Gatlinburg, Tenn., March 19-21, another in Palm Springs, Calif., September 3-5 and a third in Branson, Mo., Sept. 18-20. For more information and to register, visit timothybarnabas.org.


Published March 19, 2019

Brandon Elrod

Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.