Summer is here! And that means students from all over the country will be attending church camp. New friends, crazy games & competitions, times for worship, bible study & prayer – all this combines and intersects with the work of Jesus in students lives and create an incredible experiences. Thousands will make decisions for Christ over the next few weeks, but what does that mean? How will they move forward in their faith when they go back to their ordinary lives? That’s what this post is about.
The decision to follow Christ is not just a decision. It’s a commitment. I would say this decision is like a wedding. (and I believe I can show that Jesus likens it to a wedding too, but that’s another post.)
Before Miranda and I got married we lived separate lives. We lived in different homes. She had her job and bank account and I had mine. Although there were some who had in common, we had our own sets of friends. Our own habits and routines, our own lives. We were separated. On our wedding day, we stood before almost everyone we knew and proclaimed the decision that we had made – a decision which was a clear reflection our relationship. From that day forward, we were choosing to live differently. . . . . to live “with” each other. . . . . to live together.
This is what the decision for Christ is. It is a reflection of the relationship you have with Him. It is a decision to live “with” Him. . . . . to live together with Jesus.
At our wedding the pastor asked us a few questions. You probably know the questions.
He said, “Steve, will you take Miranda to be your wife, to live together in a holy marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her, for as long as you both shall live?”
Notice how the questions are worded. “Will you take. . . . .” Will you love. . . . .” In our pre-marital counseling, the pastor explained that the answer to those questions would simply be, “I will.”
What would have happened if I had said, “I will, if I feel like it?”
The crowd would have gasped and Miranda probably would have slapped me across the face. “If I feel like it” isn’t a commitment.
The correct answer is simply “I will.” There are no ifs. When we make a commitment, we are saying that we’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. We’re willing to make sacrifices and do the right thing even when things look bad. I will choose to act in love for Miranda even when she treats me bad – even when I don’t like her – even when things are tough. Love is not a feeling. It is a choice. Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross. He chose it in spite of how He felt. (Remember, how He asked God if there was another way, but then committed to God’s will? Check Mt 26:39) “In sickness and health, for richer or poorer,” no matter what, Miranda will receive my love. I will choose to love her. That is commitment. There are no ifs.
Our relationship with Jesus is like this too. If we want a real relationship with Jesus our answer is also, “I will.” Unfortunately, I see people adding many “ifs.”
– I’ll spend time with Jesus if I don’t have to get up early.
– I’ll go to church if my friends are going to be there.
– I’ll do what He asks as longs as it doesn’t cost me something.
– I’ll read the Bible if I have time.
– . . . . if it won’t be awkward.
– . . . . if I can still hang out with my old friends.
– . . . . if I don’t have something else going on.
NO!!! The answer to the question is a simple, “I WILL.” If we’re committed to Jesus, we must make time. We must be willing to put Him first. We must make sacrifices. We must be willing to follow Him even when it’s awkward or uncomfortable.
Church camp is great in many of the same ways as a wedding. Miranda and I had an incredible wedding. The people who surrounded us mean the world to us. That day we hung out with friends. We laughed. We read Scripture. We cried. We worshipped. We prayed. We ate. We danced. And then we left. Our family and friends threw stuff at us as we ran to our cars. Miranda jumped in her car and I got in mine and then we drove off and went our separate directions.
. . . . . . . Hold up.
. . . . . . Wait.
You did what? Separate cars? Separate directions?
NO – of course not. We rode off together in one car and began our life together. There’s sort of a crazy story, but we actually had a friend who drove us. The commitment that we had just made was starting and from that day forward, we have been together. Scripture says that the two of us “became one” that day, and since then, our lives have never looked the same. It’s been 17yrs and our commitment has grown over time. It’s a beautiful relationship.
Unfortunately, I think church camp decisions for Christ often look the other way. Students have incredible experiences at camp and decide to follow Jesus and live differently, but they don’t really understand the commitment side of it. The church camp experience has offered them all the things my wedding did: Friends. Laughter. Bible Study. Worship. Tears. and incredible joy. Students begin a relationship with Jesus, but on the last day of camp, they leave in separate vehicles.
Charles Spurgeon (Mark 4 Commentary) says, “There are many more, whose religion must be sustained by enthusiastic surroundings. They seem to have been baptized in boiling, water; and unless the temperature around them is kept up to that point, they wither away . . . the religion that is born of mere excitement will die when the excitement is over.”
Friends. Don’t let this be you. Don’t leave camp in your car. Get in Jesus’ car and let Him drive you home. Allow Jesus to be in control. Remember that if you have committed to following Him, then you are “one” with Him. He also gives you the Holy Spirit to empower you to make the right decisions. Recognize that He is always with you. Allow Him to shape your daily schedule and calendar. Find time – be intentional about doing all the things you did at camp. They will deepen your “oneness” with Him.
– Hang out with Christian friends
– Study Scripture
– and find ways to serve others.
I understand that none of these things is probably as easy to find as it is at church camp, but they are all important in deepening your relationship with Jesus. Your relationship with Him IS absolutely worth it. The effort you put into these things is a reflection of your commitment to Him – that means that your effort in making these things happen is actually an act of worship. By working behind the scenes to deepen your relationship with Jesus, you are honoring and valuing Him and that is what worship is all about. The effort alone will draw you closer to Him.
Oh – and by the way. You’re not alone. God has given us the church (His people not the building) to help us. Find someone else to help you with these things or to walk you through the process of starting your relationship with Jesus. It could be a friend or someone more mature in their faith. Youth ministers and youth leaders usually love this sort of thing too so they’re usually easy to ask. There are also some great books that can help. Here’s one from the guys at YM360: New: First Steps for New Christ Followers
PS – I just spent an incredible week of Church Camp with a bunch of really fine people! Although I spent more than 20yrs in ministry, this was my first time back with them in over 10yrs. It was great! Everyone was wonderful! Shout out to:
- The YM360 staff (rec leaders, bible study leaders, drama team, administrative team, and I’m sure there are others I’m missing)
- the band (Logan Walter)
- the speaker (our own pastor, Chad Poe)
- the Louisiana College staff who housed and fed us
- the youth leaders and volunteers who brought their students
God used this team to stretch our students in their spiritual lives. He used them to draw them closer to one another and to help them see the bigger picture of the body of Christ outside their own church walls and even into other parts of the world. God used this team to strengthen relationships in people who have attended church together for years, but have never really spoken to one another. God used this team to convict us of sin, to direct us to the forgiveness found in Jesus, and to begin to think about new ways of living in light of the Gospel. Thank you for serving. Thank you for allowing God to use you.
Our students won the volleyball tournament!