Saturday, February 19, 2011

Camp Christianity

3 July 2009

Screaming, laughing vanloads of teenagers arrive at their yearly summer camp ready to establish their rep as the most popular youth group at camp. Fun, laughter, drama, sleepless nights, flirtation, fashion, loud music, cute boys, hot girls, and emotional roller coasters in general are what attract countless youth groups to "Christian camps" during the summer months.

In the morning, a half hour of quiet is required to study the bible (or is it to pass notes to your bunkmate?) after which a morning worship service is held to get you pumped up for a few hours at a soup kitchen or a community center in the afternoon. Each night a comedian masked as a Christian speaker delivers a message candy-coated with jokes and funny stories to a hormonal audience jacked up on Red Bull and Monster. Then a Rock Band in tight t-shirts plays a few Christian tunes while lights flash, change colors and sweep across the crowd. With the help of subtle background music, the songs are toned down and a soft-voiced worship leader coaxes you to walk the aisle and "get right with God". Repentant teens tearfully make their way down the aisle, crying on each other's shoulders and confessing numerous sins to their youth pastors. After service, everyone files out and the spell is broken. Immediately following, a late night filled with giggling confidences for the girls and daring pranks for the guys. This process is repeated again each day for a week, sometimes more before a very tired youth group returns home.

An exhausted, hopeful youth pastor preaches the following week about "staying on fire for God" and not letting your light go out from camp. For a week, maybe two, parents notice less rebellious attitudes in their teens before they fall back into their old sinful habits. The problem is: there was never a real commitment. Repenting in the midst of soft music and swirling lights is one thing--it plays on your emotions--but feeling God speaking straight to your heart during the weekly drudgery of everyday life is another. One week of watered-down "Camp Christianity" is not enough to sustain your spiritual life until next summer. At home there is no one to make you read your bible every morning, no rock concert to pump you up for the day, and parents and troublesome siblings aren't just a distant reality.

So am I saying that Christian camps bad? Absolutely not! I've been to many Christian camps and felt truly moved by God, there have been some awesome speakers that convicted and motivated me, and I've found true fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters. But my generation of Christians is being overly catered to. The American church has created a special environment that makes it easier for us to “repent” without the follow up of accountability and commitment. True repentance should not be triggered by flashing lights and pretty music--it should be a real conviction that speaks to your heart in the midst of the raw reality of life! True Christianity should not be ruled by emotions or feelings. When we realize that, we will realize that to stay "on fire for God" we must read our bibles when we have no desire to, we must exert love when angry, joy when depressed, peace when distressed, patience when irritated, goodness when feeling bad, kindness when exhausted, and self-control when feeling lazy. Then we will experience authentic Christianity all year round--not just during one week of "Christian Camp".


Shyla said...

There is tremendous wisdom in this post - how I wish I'd had this when I was a young girl like yourself, and how I hope and pray my daughters come to such understanding.

Continue to proclaim the truth in love and boldness....

God's peace,

Catherine said...

Thank you for your encouraging comments. :) The spiritual immaturity of my generation is something that has always bothered me--I hope and pray God will give me the strength and the courage to create change.