As I write this post I'm looking out the window enjoying the sunshine and singing birds. The trees are starting to bud and the perennials are blooming. All of these are tell-tale signs that winter is over and summer is quickly approaching. It puts a smile on my face when I think that we are only weeks away to summer. For many reading this it also means another summer of camp ministry. So I thought it would be fitting and helpful to consider what “camp ministry” exactly means. We use that word ministry is many different ways – music ministry, kids’ ministry, women’s ministry, nursery ministry, and seniors’ ministry, just to rhyme off a few.
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-12:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” The word he uses for ministry simply means to serve. I would suggest there is no better example of a servant then the Lord Jesus Christ and so I would like to consider his public ministry.
It seems appropriate to turn to the gospel of Mark as the gospel writer portrays the Lord Jesus as the “Servant King”. The Lord Jesus himself said the following, “I have not come to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35)
In the first chapter of Mark we see a story that gives us a good example of a godly ministry; the ministry of the Lord Jesus over the course of a twenty four hour period. It says in chapter 1 verse 21 that the Lord, “…went into Capernaum and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.” Undoubtedly, the primary focus of the Lord’s ministry was teaching. One of the things that made him different than any other teacher was that he taught with authority. When the Lord taught he preached the whole counsel of God with personal power and intrinsic authority that could not be duplicated by a Scribe or Pharisee. The result was that his audience was astonished. That word means completely awe-struck or dumbfounded. In today’s vernacular we would say the teaching “blows my mind!” The spoken Word of God carries with it the same authority and power it did when the Lord spoke it verbally and it is imperative that ministry involves teaching.
The very next verse tells us there was a man with an unclean spirit that cried out in fear and apprehension. With the clear and concise teaching of God’s Word will come spiritual warfare. It is important to understand that the more you involve yourself in spiritual things and in particular the spreading of the gospel you will experience resistance and opposition. The evil one will try to discourage you and make you want to give up. But just as the Lord dealt with this unclean spirit so must we and we can be assured the victory over the evil one.
Leaving the synagogue the Lord enters the house of Simon Peter and is moved with compassion to heal Peter’s mother in law. That is then followed with a series of healings and miracles. In the Lord’s ministry we notice that the Lord often performed miracles to heal people which served three purposes. First, miracles confirm the Lord Jesus as the Son of God. Second, they restored natural order. And third, they demonstrated his care and compassion. While you are not able to supernaturally perform healing miracles at Beacon this summer you can demonstrate the same care and compassion for your campers that the Lord showed. Your character of care and compassion provide testimony to the truths you will be teaching.
Lastly we see in this narrative the Lord rises early the next day and spends time in prayer with the Father, “…he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” My wife and I had the privilege and responsibility to direct a youth camp for about ten years. We would start every morning together with our staff for a very short devotional and then I would give my staff about 45 minutes to just go off on their own and spend time with the Lord. Some would spend that time praying, some would read, some would go for a walk and some would do all the above. The point is, if the Lord felt compelled during his ministry to be alone with God then I believe we must also make it a priority.
In conclusion, summer camps are a valuable and amazing experience for many. Camp is a time for fun and building relationships that may last for many years. If you have the opportunity to be involved this year in camp ministry I would encourage you to balance the fun and social aspects of camp with the spiritual considerations we clearly see evident in the Lord’s ministry.
Matthew Dent is the father of some excellent Beacon campers (and now staff), and has been volunteering with Beacon for a number of years as the speaker at our Fall Forward retreat on the Thanksgiving weekend.