Discouragement, Disappointment.  Frustration.  These words could describe any pastor facing the trials of shepherding God’s flock, but they are especially decimating for the church planter.  Usually, every four years the Home Mission Board holds a conference for our church planters.  Due to the pandemic, that conference was postponed, intensifying the need for encouragement for those laboring in our missions.

Front, then back, left to right – Lucy, James Zhou, Cynthia, Gary McNamee, Stephen Mulder, Rom Prakashpalan, Carnel, Jim McFarland, Heather Panachelli, Misty, Chris Myers, Brian Panachelli, Carl Watkins, Eric Watkins, Lori, Tim McCracken, KJ, Doug Chamberlain, Hunter Jackson, John Edgar, Anna, Drew Poplin, Maria, Steve Rockhill, Vicki, Ken Smith, Paul Martin. (missing, Grace Mulder)

Rom Pakashpalan, Friday evening’s speaker


Our Board President for the last few years, Romesh Prakashpalan (Rom), provided a fitting and inspiring start to the weekend as he opened to us God’s word in 2 Peter 1:4 regarding “Persevering through Precious Promises.”

Rom shared many of God’s precious promises, especially:

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

Matthew 16:18

His focus on God and his promises was a great encouragement to those working in the trenches of new works.

Pete Smith who led our Saturday morning workshop

Pete and Vicki

Pete and Vicki Smith spent 20 years as church planters outside of Washington, D.C. The experiences they had were invaluable as they shared with those going through similar struggles today.

The Saturday morning workshop touched on many subjects pertinent to life as a pastor and, especially, as a church planter. The nitty-gritty of life as a church planter was explored. 


Dr. Eric Watkins’ first plant was that of a mother church creating a daughter congregation, a process that is very similar to many of our missions.  He was also a part of a plant wherein he was dropped into an area with minimal support.  In both cases, his churches flourished.

Dr. Eric Watkins was the main speaker for the retreat.

Through Eric God used building a “culture of evangelism” in his congregations.  He began looking at his “go-to” text for dealing with afflictions in ministry, Colossians 1:24-29.  Eric stated that “people who are intent on proclaiming the gospel will suffer for Jesus’ name.” Is that message encouraging?

In Acts 9:1-5, Jesus doesn’t tell Saul that he is persecuting his church, but rather himself.  Filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions involves the building of Christ’s church. “Old Puritans use the language of godly far-sightedness.  Our vision for the things of this world a little bit blurry, and slowly fading.   But our focus on the things of heaven more and more fixed, and ever increasing.”

Two of our speakers engaged in a discussion – you’ll have to ask Pete what he was sharing.

In the evening worship, we were pointed to a beautiful thing from Mark 14:1-9.  The woman in this story pours out her time, her talent, and her treasure upon Jesus.  Eric tied this woman to the proclamation of the gospel and asks a probing question:  What will you do with your time, your talent, and your treasure?

Eric told us how he believes in seeker-sensitive worship.  In relating the story of the woman at the well from John 4:1-30, he pointed out who is seeking.  Our God is seeking true worshippers.  The “I am” of Israel has come like a shepherd to seek and save the lost.  “Great sinners need a great Savior, and we’re really great sinners. But Jesus is a greater Savior.”  

Thanks to Doug and KJ Chamberlain for putting together this article. Doug and KJ live in Endicott, NY, where he is pastor of the Christian Heritage RP Church.  They enjoy getting outside for a variety of activities including hiking, cycling and canoeing.  Their latest addition has been disc golf – but they are terrible at it.

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