Tag Archives: Pinebrook Bible Conference

Called as (Youth) Leaders

by Heidi Swartley, Doylestown congregation, and Kate Hockman, Deep Run East congregation

Over the first weekend of September, we had the wonderful opportunity to attend  Franconia & Eastern District Conference’s youth leadership retreat. During this retreat we learned many lessons and met many people who we probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. It was a fantastic feeling to spend time with other people from separate churches in our conference who had the same willingness to lead. The weekend included a wonderful speaker, awesome team building exercises, and an overall feeling of excitement to learn and lead.

One of the first things we recognized on our retreat is just how hard leadership is. Showing up, being present, putting yourself out there, and trying with all of who you are, is taking a huge risk. Our doubt and fear will convince us that it is not a risk worth taking, and we are not the right people for the job. This doubt is a part of life. Our speaker for the weekend, Pastor Joe Hackman (Salford congregation), assured us that all leaders experience doubt—a reality we don’t often name or recognize. But as leaders, we do not stand alone, relying on our own strength.

Our theme for the weekend, “I Am Called”, grounded us in the confidence that we have been called: He will never leave us nor forsake us, and He will go with us as we work for the glory of His kingdom.

Scripture. As Pastor Joe talked to us about how we stay grounded in our faith in the midst of our doubt, he turned us to Scripture. The Bible tells the stories of many great spiritual leaders, who all grappled with doubt the same way we do today. Our theme verse from the weekend was 1 Timothy 4:12, in which Paul comforts Timothy in the midst of doubt over his young age. Timothy also had struggles with his family and his health, which likely contributed to the doubt. Jeremiah, in the Old Testament, tells the story of God using people, even in their doubt. God calls Jeremiah, and Jeremiah retreats into doubt saying: “I don’t know how…” and “I’m only….” Scripture not only tells us about the doubt of past leaders, but also provides verses of comfort and instruction in what to do with our doubt.

Values. Everybody has them, but sometimes it’s hard to tell what they are. Joe suggested saying the following statement. “If I took away___ from ___, they would cease to exist.” For example, If I took away empathy from Kate or love from Heidi, they would cease to exist. Identifying and knowing what your core values are is another way to handle our doubt. In order to identify our core values as leaders, we were given small cards with different values on them, values such as freedom, empathy, and helpfulness. After Pastor Joe told us to split our cards into different groups based on their importance, he asked us to pick three to five core values that were important to us. We realized that if we were ever experiencing doubt, we could fall back on the values that we picked. 

Community. Community is one of the most powerful ways to cope with doubt, and as Pastor Joe told us, “fear fears community.” In order to be a successful leader, we need to realize that somebody is always on our side. Our church community is always there to support us in any way they can, especially in times of doubt; they’re right there, cheering us on from the sidelines. Community helps to root us in the truth, in how truly loved, supported, and valued we are. Community is patient with us, in our fear, brokenness, and weakness. Seeing Christ’s love reflected in another’s love for us is a powerful thing. 

Overall, this experience taught us so much, and we are grateful we had the opportunity to go to this retreat. We learned so much about God and what it means to be a leader.

Expanding the Vision at Pinebrook

by Grace Nolt, Spruce Lake Retreat

On October 17, 2018, Spruce Lake took over stewardship of Pinebrook Bible Conference to refine and rededicate the ministry around its founding purpose of “Pointing People Toward Christ.”

The vision now, as then, might seem crazy at the start. Dare we believe that God is not done with Pinebrook, and wants even more people to see Christ through this property?

Young people gather in front of the sign for Pinebrook’s newly established “Church of the Air” Bible Conference. Circa 1933.

Percy Crawford, the charismatic pioneer radio and TV evangelist of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, founded Pinebrook Bible Conference in 1933 to strengthen the reach of his radio ministry, “The Young People’s Church of the Air.”

 The property, located at what is now 5339 Pinebrook Road, East Stroudsburg, PA, was just what Percy and his team were searching for. “We must have it,” Percy said to the real estate man. Never mind that they wanted too much money.

Furthermore, the bank would not even consider a deal without cash, and other buyers were closing in. But the bank conceded, giving them about four weeks to raise the money. This turned out to be rough as banks were closing right and left.

“Immediately I went to good Christian friends and explained my plight, “said Percy. “The day the money was due, I walked in and placed it in the bank’s hands.” Pinebrook had been acquired for God, and for the young people of the Pocono Mountains. Immediately they dedicated the place to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Percy brought the nation’s leading Bible teachers and musicians to Pinebrook – Billy Graham, George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows, Jack Wyrtzen and many others. He directed Pinebrook’s ministries for the next 28 years.

In 1968, the Bible Fellowship Church became the next stewards of Pinebrook, continuing it as a retreat and conference center with a “mission to the world.” Ongoing programs offered special ministry to the Bible Fellowship Church.

Representing PA Senator Mario Scavello, Jonathan Allotey (center) presented Mark and Jackie Swartley an award of recognition for investing in the community by revitalizing Pinebrook.

Then, on a day filled with bright sunshine and wind, over 200 people gathered at the open house service June 30, 2019, to witness the uniting of Pinebrook and Spruce Lake as one, refounding Pinebrook for “this day and this age.”

“I cannot tell you,” spoke Executive Director Mark Swartley, “how many people have stopped me since we have gotten involved with Pinebrook and said things like: I love that place!  I accepted Christ on those grounds.  I found my spouse at Pinebrook.  Those hills sing to me when I walk on the grounds.”

Pinebrook has had an amazing impact for Christ. As Billy Graham once said, Pinebrook is “where so many hundreds and thousands of young lives have been touched, and people are now around the world who were led to Christ and dedicated their lives to Christ at Pinebrook.”

Several hundred youth attended SnoGlo weekends in January at Pinebrook, programmed by the Bible Fellowship Church.

So, this is the day to carry forward the vision to reach more people for Christ through Pinebrook!

What might this look like? Spruce Lake is planning to:

  • Serve the Bible Fellowship Church and its members through its retreat ministries.
  • Invite churches in the surrounding local area and nearby states to retreat and seek a deeper relationship with Christ. As many as 13,000 new and returning people are expected through 2019.
  • Start a children’s Day Camp ministry the summer of 2021 to allow us to share Christ with Stroudsburg area children day after day.
  • Restore a ministry in this community so that it is fully flourishing – giving all glory to God for His provision and grace!

We will trust God and see where He leads as Spruce Lake continues “Pointing People Toward Christ” in the future at Pinebrook.

To this purpose we dedicate this property, O Lord!

For more information on the history of Pinebrook, visit percycrawford.com or pinebrook.org.