The Obligatory Campfire

This summer begins my 39th summer of camp speaking. WHAT? Yeah, almost four decades.

I’m not a numbers guy, so I have no idea how many different camps I’ve had the joy of speaking at, nor how many were in the collective audiences.

I do feel that every camp had one “event” in common.

The end-of-week campfire. Teens, counselors, staff gathered around a bonfire; singing; and giving all an opportunity to share.

Done well, it is a good thing. Done poorly (however unintentionally), it becomes an “I can top that” thing or a place of hurt, as in every one applauds every speaker…except one.

One of my favorite movies is “Glory.” If you’ve not seen it, do so. It’s historically pretty accurate, features some of my favorite actors (to include number one, Denzel), and is simply well done.

It features a campfire.

The scene is one of my all time favorites, with one of my all time favorite lines…I shared the line with about 80 guys at Crossroads Correctional a couple days ago; where there has been some tough stuff happen and, as a maximum-security prison, is more tense than usual. The line? “Let my people know that I went down, standing up.”

Enjoy:

>Snaps from Penn York

>A sampling from the week just ended; Corning (NY) Area Bible Club meeting at Penn York Camp in Ulysses, PA:

Due to weather had only one outdoor meeting (other than obligatory campfire), but it was great:

Taylor is Ron Snavely’s daughter…when I first moved to Family Life in 1987 Ron was on staff…and she had yet to be born…

Volunteer adults make camp happen:

>SNAPS FROM KOREA KAMP

>One evening at Korean Kamp we had “Viking Nite”…all tables removed, plastic placed, 1300 wings etc…no silverware…it was rather fun:

The annual “Big War” featured hundreds of water balloons, dozens of cans of shaving cream, and “yuck”

But all that “stuff” is to set the stage and provide a venue for the Lord to work, such as pictured here:

>Wanna Know the Theme of This Week’s Camp???

>Here I am at my21st consecutive summer of speaking at “my” Korean/American camp near Quakertown, PA. Here is a video their staff put together explaining and proclaiming the theme for the week…very well done, worth your time (and, yeah, I’m proud of them!)
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=13992834&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=010 Theme – He Covers Me from Pioneers For Christ on Vimeo.

>Dangers of Christian Camp

>As I start the first of seven weeks of teen camp, I reflect yet again on over thirty years experience at these potentially life-changing events.


And, as I looked back over this blog; I realize I wrote about this a year ago…here is that post:

As the calendar races to the first of several weeks of teen camp at which I’ll be speaking this summer, I again reflect that youth camp is like R & R (Rest and Recreation) when I was in Vietnam.

One moment you are in a warzone, the next you are (in my case) in Australia enjoying seven days of relaxation. But, from the first moment, in the back of your mind, in ever increasing volume, is the tick-tock of the clock…four days, three days, 73 hours…and, boom, back to the war zone.

Students who come to Christian camps are, in varying degrees, leaving the war zone of “real life” and coming to what, prayerfully, will be a taste, a nibble, of heaven. Surrounded by staff/counselors/speakers who love Jesus, away from the all negative media and so forth…enjoying life, laughter, and being challenged by the Word of God.

Oh yeah, and exhausted!

But, in many of their minds, the reality of time slipping away thunders in their heads…three more days, two more, 27 hours…and, boom, back to the war zone.

So our goal should be to equip and arm them to fight the good fight when they get back to the real world. Obviously we want to declare the gospel to those outside the family of the redeemed; and we want to challenge and encourage Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” and give them tools and ideas to accomplish that growth; but we dare not get so “numbers” oriented that we think it is all about “decisions” and “going forward.”

After all, profession of faith is not the same as possession of faith.

But too often the emphasis is on “decisions”. Obviously some wonderful transformations take place when God’s Word is preached; but by the middle of the week the students are so tired and emotional that a careless or impurely solely emotional “altar call” will get plenty of “results,” but not often Spirit-prompted commitments.

And we must emphasize that Ephesians 2.10 is just as inspired as Ephesians 2.8,9; salvation works! And we must combat the sloppy agape stuff that indicates it is all about us, and emphasize that the life of a Christian is one of sacrifice,inconvenience, and great joy.

The battle is the Lords, yes, but we are participants in the battle. Lock and Load!
 
Then I notice I did a similar entry a year prior to that…here it is:
 
Janelle and I board a train this Thursday evening headed to Kansas City and ultimately Polo, Mo to speak at two teen weeks. I am amazed –

Amazed I’m in the family of God, redeemed, forgiven, justified…

Amazed I get to spend time bragging on Jesus to teens…almost three years of my life have been spent speaking at youth camps over the last 29 years…

Camp is an amazing thing.

The crucial ingredient is good, committed counselors. The best speaker with apathetic counselors is horrendous; an okay speaker with great counselors will work well.

Good food, good discipline, and good acoustics are key ingredients.

Notice I’ve not listed “programming” yet?

Doesn’t matter what programming you have…if you don’t have a good (meaning Bible-based) speaker, good counselors, and the other things listed doesn’t matter what kind of programming you have…

I also think camp can be a dangerous thing; if everyone is pushing for “decisions” rather than asking the Spirit of God to work in His way and His timing. I am not against altar calls; I am against “easy” altar calls. Why?

I read the Bible. And I notice that Jesus always made it easier to say “no” than “yes.”

Again…I am not diametrically opposed to “invitations,” as long as the invitee is the Spirit and not someone doing “business as usual”.

All too often, especially in camp situations, students are exhausted, emotionally drained, and a well-meaning but careless speaker can provoke “decisions” born of peer pressure, tiredness, and emotion rather than birthed by conviction and drawing of the Spirit of God.

So I ask prayer that I’d be bold in preaching, clear in communication, discerning in one-on-one counsel…and that the Wind of the Spirit would be pleased to change us during the coming two weeks of camp ministry. (the photo is Camp Polo two years ago)

Do you agree, disagree, or not understand my observations of camp ministry? I ask you to make the time to “comment” so we can, together, learn from each other.