This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Camp versus House Mortgage by Ritch Boerckel

This week I am in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with 160 teenagers for summer camp.  What a great week as we focus on our theme:  Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.

This topic is drawn from John Owens classic work entitled, "The Mortification of Sin."  When John Owen wrote his treatise on sanctification in 1656, he could little imagine the kind of world that teenagers in 2012 would encounter.  Yet his message is timeless as it is drawn from the pages of holy scripture.

The teens have been learning that sin is a serious wound that must daily be put to death (cf. Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:1-5).  Sin is not only a work of our hands, but a foul condition of our hearts.  We must strike at the root of sin and not just at the bitter fruit of sin.  Sin that is not killed will deprive our soul of strength and comfort.  Such sin will untune our hearts so that we cannot enjoy God.  Yet no one can put to death a single sin without the death of Christ.  Killing sin is the work of redeemed, blood-bought people.  As born again believers, we are able to kill sin only by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We dare not strive to wrestle our sin in the power of our own good efforts.  The messages this week have not be airy marshmallows tossed to sugar starved youths!  I wish you could see the enthusiasm that the teens have for biblical substance in teaching and consecrated faith in living.  What a joy to be here with them.

Before I left for summer camp, I shared with my sister-in-law, Carol, about our plans for camp.  She looked at me and said, "Every year I tell parents and grandparents, 'Find a summer camp that will tell your children/grandchildren about Jesus .  Then do everything in your power to get them there.  Sell the car, remortgage your house, dig into your retirement savings . . . do everything in your power to provide a way to get them to camp so that they can have a week to hear about Jesus.'"

I could not agree more! Why is this particular investment such a significant one?  Let me offer you five reasons why a church summer camp that clearly teaches the Gospel can :

Reason #1:  Summer camp provides extended time for teens to learn the glory of God in the Gospel message.

At our summer camp, the teens meet two times each day to hear a message from God's Word.   At camp we have opportunity to control the schedule of a teen's day so that they have opportunity to think without interruption about God and His design for their lives.  They are free from many of the distractions that keep them from such focused concentration while they are at home.

Reason #2:  Summer camp provides opportunities for teens to spiritually evaluate their own lives and to commit their lives to Christ.

Each morning, the teens meet in small groups to discuss how they are personally interacting with God's Word.  The week is designed for spiritual life change as the teens think about where they are in their relationship with God.  Today I talked with one of the teens about their walk with God.  They said that last year they gave their life to Jesus while at our camp!  They talked about the struggles that they continued to have, but how Christ has made such a difference.  God used last year's summer camp to open this young girls heart to the Gospel.

Reason #3:  Summer camp provides access to spiritual leaders who can talk individually with teens about problems in their lives.

This year we have 28 adult volunteers who have committed themselves to spend this week with teenagers in order to personally talk with them about Christ.  How thrilled I am when I see a group of girls huddled around one of our female volunteers in deep conversation.  Summer camp has reminded me that many teens yearn for adult interaction to talk about spiritual issues in their life.  Summer camp gives the teens access and comfort for deep conversations with godly adults to occur.  My practice at camp is set aside a couple afternoons to plant myself in the sweet shop.  I bring my computer to do some work, but I never get any work done.  Teens will come up to the table, sit down and want to talk about a myriad of subjects.  After we talk for about a half an hour, one set of teens leaves and another appears.  My sense is that teens really want to talk to Christian adults about issues that they are facing.  As a dad of a camper, I am thankful that my teen son has other godly adults who interact with him during his week of camp.

Reason #4:  Summer camp provides an opportunity to develop Christian friendships with other teens.

Many teens share Elijah's discouragement.  They wonder whether there are any other teens who have not yet bowed the knee to Baal and who are faithful to Christ.  One teen that I talked with today remarked that he does not know of any peer in his school who is following Jesus.  He wishes that he would have at least one school friend who would share his fight against sin and his desire to proclaim Christ.  Here at camp, he seems really joyful to be around other guys his age who share his love for Jesus.  Camp is a great boost to his faith.

Reason #5:  Summer camp provides impetus for the teen to connect more deeply to the church when they return home.

While huge decisions can be made for Christ during a week of camp, those decisions can easily fade if they are not followed by a year long commitment to Christ and His church.  Camp often makes a deep commitment to church more inviting to a teen.  Often teens feel that they are on the outside of their peer group when they are at church.  Camp can change that perception.  Often teens feel that the youth group is cold to them.  Camp can change that perception.  Often teens feel that the youth leaders do not know or care about them.  Camp can change that perception.

So if you have to, remortgage your house and send your children to camp.  Oh wait . . . our church provides a scholarship every teen who needs one.  We tell parents, "Pay whatever you are able to and the church joyfully will cover the rest of the cost for you!"  We believe that the week will be worth it for you, for your child, and for God's glory.

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