In the story of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9), Jesus reveals himself on a mountain to Peter, James, and John. His face shines like lightning and Moses, Elijah, and a voice from heaven appear to attest to the supremacy of Christ over all of God’s other earthly authorities. Peter speaks up and asks permission to build three tents so Jesus, Elijah, Moses, and the three disciples can hang out for a while and enjoy this moment of awe. The text ends by saying that after God’s voice spoke from heaven, “they saw Jesus only (Matthew 17:8).”
The days after camp are kind of like that. The music, the food, the teaching, the fun, all of it creates a perfect storm where God does amazing things and has repeated that pattern for generations. I am so excited that the teens who were at ABK last week were able to get some concentrated time to consider God’s Word and His call on their lives before heading back to school.
Like Peter, we want life to be like camp, we want to stay on the mountain and make that the new normal. Unfortunately, we must go back down the mountain and live an ordinary life for God’s glory. Here are some things we can put in place to help us maintain the growth that happened at camp and keep our eyes focused on Jesus in the usual things of school, family, friends, and life.
One of the reasons camp is so impactful is because we are surrounded by people who share a common bond and goal. At camp, we are the Body of Christ taking special time to refresh itself. It is kind of like a spiritual pedicure or manicure. Unless you were one of the volunteers who felt it was more like boot camp. Boot camp is harder on the body, but has the same goal, to prepare you for what is next. The glorious thing is, camp is not the only way to get that result. It’s not even the primary way. Every Sunday, Christians gather for worship, fellowship, and teaching to practice the “one anothers” of the Bible. Being plugged into a Bible-believing and Bible-preaching church is the primary way you will be discipled and find new “mountain top” experiences throughout the year. Being with God’s people singing God’s praises can be done every Sunday morning all over the world. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)”
Other than the Sunday morning worship service, other programs at your church might help grow deep connections with God’s people, if you are in high school, the youth group is a place for that. If you are in college/university, a College and Careers group or a Small Group will bring that “cabin family” feel to your everyday life. The connections you felt at camp are not specific to camp, they are a result of God’s people gathering together with one spirit and one heart in worship all year-round (1 Corinthians 12:4-5).
While at camp, you may have had a moment of decision; a moment where you said, I want to live differently. It may have been a personal discipline of reading or praying; it may be a mission of mortification, meaning, putting sin to death in your life; or a spiritual gift you have discovered that you want to use for God’s glory. You may have even trusted Jesus for your salvation and life for the first time! To keep that goal fresh in your mind and heart you will need to bring other people into the journey.
Find a Christian friend, youth leader, or even your parents to share your goals with and make a plan for how you are going to accomplish those goals together. If you don’t share your goal with anyone there are no boundaries to stop you from simply forgetting and moving on. But another person coming alongside you to help you grow is what God intended for your spiritual growth, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, (Hebrews 10:24)”.
Pray for Fruit
Last week at camp, the speaker urged us over and over again to bring simple prayers for change to God daily. A prayer like, “Lord, help me to love you like you meant when you said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).” Prayers like these are some of the hardest to pray because they require the discipline to pray regularly, and the faith to trust God with the answer in your life. Most of the time we pray for things with an outcome in mind. When we pray asking God to teach us and shape us, we do not know how God is going to do that. We pray in faith that He will work everything out for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28).
I was so blessed to be a part of the rhythm of camp. To get to see young people discipled and encouraged in their walks with God was a privilege and I hope and pray that the experience of “camp” is more like walking upstairs. Each one is a little higher than the next, rather than a waterslide, where you climb simply to slide back down to earth. God is calling us all “further up and further in” and both the concentrated times like camp and the daily discipline of pursuing God in Christ will help us get there.