Camp: Make the Good News of Jesus Your Aim (not Pain)


For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes – Romans 1:16.

1. God’s power to save people is found in the gospel.

2. In our desire to see our friends believe in Jesus and find salvation, unashamedly tell them the gospel.

I’d imagine that most people reading this post would agree with these statements. The challenge then is to understand how to share the gospel.

I’ve spent my entire Christian life trying my best to understand the gospel and the more I study it the more I am in awe of its simplicity and its mystery. I went to seminary, received an MDiv and wrote on the gospel anytime an assignment could be turned in that direction. I went to Scotland and wrote an MLitt dissertation on how the gospel was communicated in the early church. I am currently writing a PhD thesis on how evangelicalism understands key components of the gospel. I’ve done my homework and still have lots to do, but any simple search online will tell you that the gospel is the “good news” based on the meaning of the original word. Good news. Another foundational understanding is that the gospel includes God’s response to our sin in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus (I can back that up if anyone needs that info).

In summary:

1. The power of salvation is found in the gospel.

2. The gospel is good news.

3. The gospel is primarily believing in the full life of Jesus to save us from our sin.

I’m guessing you are scratching your head if you read this far saying… duh, I know that. Or there are a few of you who want to discuss/debate much further the summary I gave.

Here is why I am writing this post… A lot of us are going to camp soon and I want to plead with you that we keep the main thing the main thing… the gospel… Jesus… responding to the gospel. In my limited personal experience, which has been affirmed by others who can help me conclude this is happening broadly, there is a trend where cabin times and one-on-ones can tend to be aimed at having kids reveal the biggest difficulties of their life as a mark of gospel success.

There was a time when it felt like a successful sin cabin time was when everyone was mad at God. There was a time when it felt like the effectiveness of a speaker was if kids were crying as they walked out of the cross talk. I think those days are mostly behind us (thankfully). But I think right now many speakers and leaders feel successful if their cabin time or one-on-ones become a place where students share their deepest challenges and hurts. That is not the aim of camp nor a situation that leaders and staff are equipped to handle. More than that, that is not the aim of the gospel.

I have been a leader, as well as a summer camp speaker and summer camp director enough times to know that God certainly can use camp as a place for healing and bringing tough issues to light. We don’t need to avoid this when it comes up naturally. Unfortunately sometimes camp talks, and other activities like lifesigns/real life/etc. really set their aim on getting the deepest details of our stories out in the open (a while back I may have emphasized this too much too). What I’m advocating for is to make the good news the aim of camp, that we put all that we have into communicating:

1. The power of salvation is found in the gospel.

2. The gospel is good news.

3. The gospel is primarily believing in the full life of Jesus to save us from our sin.

Here are a couple thoughts for those who are tracking with me on this…

1. Trust that the Holy Spirit will do His job when we proclaim the gospel (John 16:7-8).

2. Paul’s approach was to tell the story of Jesus and to rely on the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

3. Every day at camp pray for the Holy Spirit to move and talk to your club kids about Jesus, if you do those as faithfully as you can, then you have done your task, well done.

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