I love camp. There’s no way that I could do justice outlining the profound impact camp has had on my life. The ways I have grown in my faith. The friends I have made. And let’s not forget that I met my wife Becky and her family at Beacon. My life wouldn’t be the same if I had never come to Beacon.
And that’s just the impact that camp has had on my life as an adult. I didn’t grow up going to Beacon as a kid; I was 23 the first time I ever came. My first camp experience was at Lamoka Baptist Camp, a Christian camp in New York state (where my family lived for 7 years). I consider Beacon to be my camp home, but Lamoka will always hold a special place in my heart because of the ways God used that ministry in my life. It was there, as a teenager, that I decided to take seriously the faith I had been taught by my parents and truly follow God. In fact, I decided that each year for three years.
Maybe you can identify with that experience. You come to camp, you get fired up for God, convicted about your sins, and you decide to start taking your faith seriously. And then you go home. You feel like you have changed, but nothing else around you has. You still hang out with the same friends; you still face the same temptations; you still deal with the same situations at work, at school, at home. And that fire for God flickers and fades. A year goes by and you go back to camp. Rather than being a year stronger in your faith, you’re in roughly the same place you were last year, and probably even worse because you’ve just spent a year building bad habits and mostly ignoring God. Rather than your faith being a year stronger, it’s actually a year weaker.
If you know what I’m talking about, then you look forward to camp each year as a breath of fresh air. A week (or more) away from real life where the flame has a chance to rekindle and burn for a little while. But after camp, you know what’s most likely going to happen. The cycle has happened enough times that you know what to expect. Maybe you’re even a little cynical.
That third summer that I went to camp in high school, I was cynical. I didn’t expect to make a decision to try again because I was tired of it. But, as God often does at camp, He punched me in the gut and convicted me and reminded me of His mercy. And this time… it stuck. Not that I was perfect, but my life was definitely different. I went home and got heavily involved with my youth group and my church. I started reading my Bible regularly and praying more often. I started fighting against sin and seeing some victory and obedience. I was willing to be known as the Christian kid at school and stand out for my faith. The next summer, when I went back to camp, I was a year stronger in my faith.
It took me a couple of years to figure out why that happened. For a while I thought that I just REALLY connected with God that year at camp. What I eventually realized, though, is that I really connected with God at camp every year, but that camp was the only time I really connected with him all year. And one week a year isn’t enough. Even the whole summer isn’t enough. We need that all year long. Camp isn’t enough. Even if we go back for Fall Forward and Winter Weekends. It’s not going to be enough. We need to connect with God in significant ways constantly or we won’t grow in our faith.
So what do we do?
Have you ever considered WHY the time at camp is so special? Why it seems easier to connect with God at camp? It’s not because once you pass the Beacon sign you are on especially holy or blessed land. It’s because you spend a week with other Christians learning about God, singing to God, serving together, challenging one another, being open and honest about your challenges. That’s what it is. That’s why the flame ignites and burns so brightly there.
That summer when I was 15 wasn’t particularly special. It was the year after that made the difference. I didn’t just go home and go back to normal life. I got involved in my church. I always attended church before that, but now I really got involved. I joined a youth group that encouraged me to do all the things I did at camp. We learned about God together, we sang together, we encouraged each other to read the Bible regularly and pray. We were honest about our struggles and held each other accountable. We didn’t just attend church, we served together, helping with kids’ ministries and other things.
That’s what you need. You need a church or assembly that will do for you all year long what camp does for you for a few weeks in the summer. And you need a church or assembly where you can do all year long what you do at camp for a few weeks in the summer. Get to know the brothers and sisters in Christ at your church and build into each other’s lives. Challenge each other. Find a few that you can trust and hold each other accountable. Get involved and serve together. Do this with not just the people your age, but those older and younger than you.
God’s plan for you to walk with Him is the church, not camp. Beacon knows this; their mission is to support God’s church in its mission to make disciples of Christ. So get involved in your church or assembly. If you don’t have one, contact the Beacon office and they will help you find one in your area.
God has done great things for us through Jesus. Hebrews 10:22-25 tells us how we should respond:
...let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.