As a youth pastor summer camp is a must. It provides the greatest opportunity for relationship building and spiritual development and serves as a launching pad for he rest of the year. I have literally seen a youth group go from blah to BAM over the course of a single week of camp.
Summer camps are a dime a dozen. They are everywhere. There are a lot of theories and methods behind how to do summer camp. Some choose to do their own some go to camps that have a lot of structure, some little structure.
But the key thing is summer camp done right is a big deal.
Two years ago today I arrived at summer camp. Specifically at Crossroads Summer Camp a ministry of Clayton King Ministries. it would be the third year I had brought a group to Crossroads but it would prove to be a defining year in the philosophy of how I do ministry and how I choose camps and conferences.
As we arrived at camp, I was a wreck. My grandmother had just been murdered a few short weeks before, there were struggles at our church that had become unsettling and overwhelming, we had just had VBS which meant two solid weeks of 70 hrs of work for me. So I was toast.
I. COULDN’T. WAIT.
You see, I knew that when I got to camp my students were going to be ministered to, they would fall in love with Jesus all over again and they would fall to their knees and worship Jesus in sweet and beautiful tears.
I also knew that I would too.
Many times camps for youth are filled with good quality stuff but, if you have been in church for any considerable amount of time in church, it can seem superficial or elementary.
But, and this is where I have defined my philosophy, Crossroads doesn’t settle for superficial. They dig deep, they challenge students and adults to reflect on the truth of God’s Word.
I will never forget falling to my knees on the second day not able to sing a word sobbing into the shoulders of one of my students as we were led in the chorus of “You Hold Me Now”. As God ministered to my broken heart and I began to heal I realized that camp was as much for me as the students.
And now I know that a camp, conference or service that is going to be great will be great for both your students AND your leaders. And year after year I have experienced that with Clayton King and Crossroads Summer Camp.
And that is why for the first camp with my new church we are in Anderson SC for #CRSC15.
God is good and I already have so much to say. More on that later.
I see it all the time.
I get on social media and one person is calling a public figure a godly person while someone else is calling the same person ungodly.
Sometimes it is a prominent pastor, or political figure or actor etc
And then it gets ugly.
People start back and forth defending their position and someone else who shares the views jumps in and adds fuel to the fire and at the end everyone walks away mad.
Why? How can people be that sure one way or the other?
Well it starts with how we read Scripture and how we interpret the Scriptures
Now most Christians agree that their are issues that are negotiable and non-negotiable when it comes to certain doctrines or beliefs and can overlook differences over what we call non essential beliefs (If you want to know more about those you could start HERE) but what most people don’t realize is that those “nonessential” doctrines really change how people approach life in this world.
Then it happens
Down the long trail of extrapolation two individuals find their positions in conflict with each other, ready to tear each other to pieces and they don’t even know why.
A great example is the interpretation of the end times and the Millennial reign. Read over this CHART comparing the four major Millennium positions.
Anything stand out?
What do you think would happen if person A, a good church going individual, with a faith built on a Pre-Mil foundation became a politician and started debating person B, also a good church going individual but with a Post Mil foundation, about how much support to give to Israel?
Suddenly, what we claimed was “non-essential” to us is very very essential.Now do not get me wrong please I am not saying that we cannot fellowship with people who don’t share the same views of non-essential doctrine as we do. What I am saying is that we must all be careful when throwing out accusations against the spiritual condition of someone based on their positions on things that we don’t agree with them on.
Interpretation is THAT important. And I wager that most of us don’t truly understand our own beliefs and couldn’t defend them if we tried.
Maybe instead of starting with arguing over issues that are born from the foundation of our beliefs we should engage in conversations that help us to understand where the conclusions are coming from.
We can argue politics all day, and honestly we can argue Biblical interpretation even longer, but politics will never change someone’s heart nor will it determine someone’s eternity.
But the Bible?
The Bible changes everything
As I was driving around the other day I began to think about fatherhood. My two oldest children will turn 12 in a couple of days and it has me in a reflective state of mind.
Here are these two pre-teens that I have nurtured and disciplined, loved and cherished for the last twelve years and I the question that comes to my mind is “Am I doing a good enough job?”
Of course only time will answer that question but it is one worth thinking about (and one that more parents should consider) because if we don’t take pause to evaluate what we are doing we can never improve.
So I began considering our Heavenly Father.
And I came to a very quick conclusion
I do NOT want to raise my children the same as God raises His!
I know that is shocking but hear me out.
I have a few goals as a parent. These goals are modest and are by no means revolutionary and most parents would probably agree that they are sensible. In addition, there are traits I want my children to develop but these traits are not the goal they are a means to an end. A few of these traits are
1. I want my children to grow in their faith
2. I want my children to learn to think for themselves
3. I want my children to become responsible
I nurture my children and discipline them in order to teach these traits. Eventually, the application of these traits will lead to the accomplishment of the goals I have.
1. My children will become self sufficient, independent adults
2. My children will establish their own lives
3. My children will have their own families
My goal is to raise my children and send them out.
Our Heavenly Father does not have the same goals
Yes He disciplines us
Yes He nurtures us
Yes He teaches us to be strong minded
Yes He teaches us to be responsible
But His GOALS? They are NOTHING like mine.
God does not raise His children to be independent nor does He raise them to establish themselves apart from Him. No, quite the opposite, everything our Father does is to make His children MORE dependent on HIM and to bring ALL of His children BACK to HIS home.
Earthly fathers raise their children to send out. Our Heavenly Father raises His children to be drawn back in
These post got pretty popular on Facebook so in case you missed it.
*My family wants me to find a church soon….or a hobby. I don’t know what their problem is I think it is perfectly normal to gather your kids and dogs together once a week for “small group”
*I told my fam “Hey if Josh Devinney can baptize dogs so can I!”
*My wife \wasn’t real happy with my idea to put a pulpit in the living room or replacing the windows with stained glass
*I might not be able to have my living room/ sanctuary but I bet I could convert the garage to a youth room……Wait. What? Oh. Nevermind
*My kids aren’t homeschooled but they are homechurched
*I made my 11yr old son a deacon. He promptly called a business meeting and made a motion to have me fired #TrueBaptistKid
*My son’s twin sister is head of personnel she seconded the motion #TrueBaptistKid #IJustCantWin
*I have been passing the plate all night…The kids still won’t give me any of their allowance #AGuysGottaEat
*I wouldn’t mind having my sermon critiqued by the music minister but she’s my daughter….and she’s 7…..
*I think I created a monster…The Hostess Committee voted to eat ice cream for dinner and the Building and Grounds Committee just voted to change the locks…..and not give me a key
Hope you enjoyed!!
I saw an interesting article on a friend’s Facebook today from The Huffington Post concerning divorce and marriage statistics in Red states vs Blue states. You can read the article here http://www.huffpost.com/us/entry/4639430 . Obviously the conclusion that they reach seems biased against the church and I don’t agree with them. What I can’t argue is that there is problem with divorce amongst Christians. Church leaders have been concerned with this for a considerable amount of time. What many have realized is that while in the secular culture marriage and relationships have become self centered and disposal at the same time they have made “falling in love” into an unrealistic fairy tale. Christians have bought into the fairy tale. At the same time the church has an epidemic running through it of pastors teaching that Jesus magically fixes everything. So when Christians get married and find out that the love fairy tale isn’t true they turn to Jesus the “fixer”. The problem is that Jesus isn’t a love genie who grants your wishes just because you tried the methods you learned at the latest greatest Christian marriage conference. Jesus gives us strength and understanding, yes, but his command is to love our spouse as he loves the world and, just in case you haven’t heard, the world rejected and crucified Jesus and he still refuses to abandon us. If we want to see successful marriages then we need to preach grace, mercy, sacrifice and long suffering and most of all work. Marriage is work, hard work. I know it isn’t the fairytale you have heard but it is much better than what Hollywood and romance novels have to offer.
One of the hardest things I have found in ministry is the knowing of when you have finished a chapter and it is time to move on to the next. There was a point and time this year that I felt like I may be at that point but I could not bring myself to simply walk away with no other ministry to go to. My wife and I talked at great length and I decided to steal a page from Gideon and ask for a sign. In my prayers I was very specific and asked God to show me exactly what He wanted and He has graciously answered my prayer. It wasn’t necessarily pleasant or an exciting moment when I got that answer but it was undeniable. And so last week I submitted my letter of resignation to Reedy Fork Baptist Church where I have served the last 5 almost 6 years. It has been a wild ride along with plenty of ups and downs but I can conclusively say that this chapter is over.
So what is next?
I don’t know.
As of right now I have no job to go to , no church to attend, no house to live in. I have some time to figure all that out and have some options available to me. What I do have is peace and clarity. There is something very exciting about knowing that God gave you the exact thing you asked for even if it was the last thing you really wanted and knowing that this is exactly what He wanted.
It hurts to say goodbye. It hurts to walk away from something I built up from near nothing. It hurts to know that so many that counted on me for things in the community will have to find someone else.
But I have no worries for myself. No worries for my family. And I look forward to the day when God reveals more about the next chapter of this thing I refer to as my calling.
Oh and if you happen to know of a church looking for a really great guy to be their youth minister….
Tell them I am available anyway
A little over a week ago I wrote a post about getting beat up everywhere you turn. Today’s death of Paul Walker in a one car auto accident brought again to mind the fragility of life and how quickly it can be snuffed out
One of my safe havens is my alone time in the car.
There I am safe from all the noise of the world…… until..a couple of weeks ago
I had left home and wasn’t 2 miles from my house. It was one of those moments we have all had. We are driving along when someone shoots past us hot-dogging the accelerator, their exhaust bellowing as they move past you at a rate of speed that not only exceeds the speed limit but also the limits of common sense and safety.
It frustrates, annoys and enrages you….and you say to yourself or out loud “That idiot is going to get himself killed”
And you believe that…..maybe even hope that they have a close call so they learn a lesson
But you never desire that they actually lose their life
And you never expect it to happen….
Not while you are watching.
There I was, in my car, as the words were dropping off my tongue, watching the little two door car speed down the road leaving us further and further behind and then…
In an instant the back end of the car shifted left then right then left again. Obviously out of control the driver most likely tried to correct but only manage to make things far worse for in the next instant the car was rocking side to side on two wheels. Before I knew it the back end off the car lifted itself into the air, dragging the nose of the vehicle diagonally across the road from the oncoming lane back into the proper lane and towards the shoulder of the pavement. The suddenly the rear end dropped back to earth as if it had been slammed down my an invisible hand and the car shot off the shoulder and into the ditch on the side of the road. As I watched this final movement I held my breath and gave a gasp of relief when the car avoided hitting three small trees head on managing to only make a glancing blow on the passenger’s side of the vehicle.
My heart raced
I couldn’t breathe
I had no phone (left it at home that morning)
I stopped and got out of my car. The truck in front of me pulled over as well the other car behind me kept driving. When the guy in the truck saw me they too left the scene and so it was just me alone. I wish I could say my first reaction was to run and help or even to pray……. No my reaction was far more rooted in the flesh
And then I ran….
As I ran to the car another vehicle was stopping I motioned to the gentleman as to indicate the need for him to call 911. He was already making the call. I walked to the door and looked in…..and shuddered
The driver wasn’t in his seat
He was on the other side of the car…
I backed up, took a breath and looked in the back seat through the rear hatch window, at this point praying there wasn’t a child inside.
I went blank…. I couldn’t open the door…. I didn’t want to see
The gentleman on the phone ran up and opened the door and went in he tried to make contact but couldn’t get a response. We knew he wasn’t moving and that we could not under any circumstance move him. We couldn’t even tell if he was breathing. It was very cold that morning and the driver was wearing several layers including a hood that was covering his face.
I haven’t decided if I am thankful for that or not….
The paramedics were there very quickly. Their station was right around the corner. They hooked up monitors, we helped break back brush, and in the matter of just a few minutes it was over…..
The guy with the phone said he had overheard those two words no one wants to here in a situation like this…
He was gone. Nothing to do but call in the coroner…..
I never did see his face and only learned his name and age from the obituary in the local news. An African American man who was the same age as myself who was probably just late for work and in a hurry.
That image will haunt me. Not because of the trauma or the death but because of how quickly it passed.
10 seconds? 20?
We are told in the book of James that life is nothing but a vapor. Again we see this today another one car accident and two people dead in an instant. But of course this one we see on the news and we are grieved because this was a celebrity and I am sure much will be made of what and how this happened because of Paul Walker’s popularity. Which I will be glad to hear about because it will remind everyone how tomorrow is promised to no one. And that living recklessly even for a brief moment of indulgence can result in tragedy.
For me, though, Paul Walker’s death, as special as he was, will never impact me the way the death of a man whose name I never knew and whose face I never saw impacted me.
I learned that day that all it takes is……
A one car crash and nothing is ever the same again