Friday, August 11, 2006

The necessary postmortem

Having had a few days to reflect a little on our camp, there are a few things worth noting/reporting.

1. Four children made a first profession of trust in Christ. This was obviously tremendous but there was a sobering note to the celebrations; one of the children in particular is a compulsive liar, frequently churning out the porkies in order to curry favour with all and sundry. Over the course of the week he told various people that he was adopted, that his parents didn't love him, that his Dad has cancer, that he's lived in five different homes - all not true, all designed to get sympathy or admiration. Some of us on the camp were concerned that he had merely figured out another way of gaining attention - say you've become a Christian. Some had similar concerns about one of the other children who professed faith.

2. This in turn (and other events during the week) underlined the inadequacy of a 'you've-prayed-the-prayer-you-must-be-a-christian' way of thinking, which at times is all too prevalent in evangelical circles. Ongoing exposure to the challenge of the gospel and serious discipleship that is not glib about eternal security is the way forward. We must not be presumptious by sitting back and saying 'job done' once someone makes a profession. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is a great help in this. Sadly, many on our camp come from backgrounds where this kind of teaching gets little airtime.

3. I also noted (again) the tension in camp-ministry (no jokes if you read this Big Pete!) between opportunity and frustration, both born of the once-a-year nature of the ministry. Because it's a one-off the children are often far more ready to engage in conversation and say what they really think. Because it's once a year there's an intensity and a seriousness about the leaders that results in bold prayer and direct speech. But because it's a once a year thing, at the end of a great week you have to hand the children back to their often-messy home and church situations. Camps can feel like an exercise in powerlessness.

4. Finally, being on camp exposed my sin (which reared it's ugly head when tiredness gave it opportunity) and general weakness. Why didn't I pray more for the camp during the year? Why didn't I pray harder during the week? Why did I let my bible reading lapse? Why did I think unkind things about other leaders? Why were there times when I grew impatient with the children? The answer is sin, my sin.

Of course, all of the above should serve to drive me to the sovereign mercy of our gracious God. He glorified his name and brought lost people to himself, in, through and despite everything I've just said. This was most clearly illustrated when Claire stumbled across two girls in the dormitory. Since we encourage the children to be outside even during free time (because it reduces the liklihood of theft going on) Claire was about to turf them out, until one of them said 'but we want to read our bibles' (which is exactly what they were doing) and announced that she was part way through reading the Johannine epistles whilst the other had already finished Jude and that together they were reading through Revelation just before lights out. These were the other two who professed faith during the week.


Big Pete said...

Probably fair to single me out for picking on 'camp' jokes!

I agree with your comments on camp and the weakness of not seeing the young people year round. The once a year top up, or once a year looking like a Chrsitian. Just been reading a biography of Edwards and his writings about visible signs of regeneration (indeed the puritans more generally) seem to be missing from so much of what we hear in churches.

I was also struck by my last minuteness for camp and lack of prayer year round. If I really loved the kids and wanted to see them grow I should prioritise this far more.

As an encouragement thought 4 kids have made a profession, make sure there are leaders following it up and helping them to show signs of regeneration.

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