This blog entry is coming to you from wonderful Leakey, TX. That’s right, I’m at Master’s (Youth) Camp 2018. For almost 20 years now I have seen wonderful things happen at this camp. I have seen thousands of kids say “yes” to Jesus Christ for the first time right here. Moreover I have seen many delivered from different forms of bondage and many say “yes” to God calling them into various ministries. On the other hand, after camp I consistently see something not quite as exciting. I see a condition commonly referred to as CCDS, or “Camp Come-Down Syndrome.”
Okay, I just came up with the CCDS name, but it is real. I have even heard the youth themselves call on each other to avoid the dreaded affliction. To paint a picture of CCDS, picture a thermometer in your mind. The bottom reading of the thermometer is 0 and the top is 100. This thermometer measures “on fire-ness” for the Lord. Typically youth come back from camp on fire for the Lord! So, let’s say the typical reading for Christian youth leaving for camp is 25. Well, we often see that child register a 99 upon returning! They testify at church the following Sunday about the greatness of God; they tell their friends about Jesus; they pray; they worship expressively; they live with an attitude of gratitude. Youth returning from camp are the quintessential “on fire Christian!” Then…. they settle in with us. They get back to their routines. They fire up the old smart phone (most of which didn’t work in Leakey, TX). They go back to school…. You know, get back into the old routine. And the next thing you know the “on fire-ness” reading is at 30. Higher than it was when we left – but certainly not near the level in late July.
So what takes place at camp to set the Spirit ablaze in the hearts of campers? Also, what goes wrong when we come back? I believe we can begin to answer those questions by taking a look at the passage below:
14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5 NASB)
Let me give you just a brief background that led up to the words above. The Apostle Paul passed through Thessalonica on his missionary journeys and visited the local synagogue to reason with the Jews about Jesus. Enough people were convinced / convicted and became Christians that a church was born. However, the Jews who rejected Jesus subsequently ran the Apostle out of town. After a very short time in Athens, Paul hungered for a report from the church in Thessalonica, so he sent his ministry partner Timothy back to get one. Timothy came back and to Paul’s joy gave a good report. It seemed that this church of brand new believers were still “on fire” for the Lord!
Overwhelmed with thanksgiving, Paul wrote the Thessalonians a letter. Paul wanted to encourage them to stay on fire for the Lord. The passage above is toward the end as Paul is wrapping up the letter. He encourages the church to: always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. This is a pretty good description of a Christian who is passionate for the Lord. I get a glimpse of this every year after youth camp. After the on-fire description Paul instructs them as to what NOT to do: Do not quench the Spirit. In other words, don’t allow your Spiritual on fire-ness to drop back down.
Perhaps do not quench the Spirit could be reworded in the positive to read: Continue allowing the Holy Spirit to express Himself in your actions and attitudes.
In order to avoid “quenching the Spirit,” it is important to first realize what makes us catch on fire. What causes Christians to rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks? I believe I have the formula. I believe I have empirical evidence that the formula is WWF2. My evidence is drawn from about 20 years of watching youth go to camp and come home on fire. What takes place in the middle (at camp) seems to be a formula that renders on fire results! As I said the formula at camp is WWF2. The non-abbreviated formula is below:
W = Word. Hear the word preached; every night at camp the word is preached.
W = Worship expressively; every night at camp expressive, uninhibited worship takes place.
F = Fellowship with like-minded believers. Camp is full of believers (shepherds and fellow campers) who build each other up in Christian fellowship.
The last part of the formula is 2 or “SQuared.”
S = Study Scriptures; the Bible is studied several times a day. They are educated by camp teachers and shepherds. Scriptures are studied by lecture and in interactive settings.
Q = Quiet time; this one is a bonus. Each camper is encouraged to take time out of their day to meditate on what has been revealed. Preaching and teaching often answers: This is what the Scripture passage meant then, and this is what the Scripture passage means now. Quiet time often allows the Holy Spirit to say, “This is what the Scripture passage means to YOU.”
Okay, we have a formula that seems to work for catching on fire for the Lord. So the natural follow up question is, how then does one catch CCDS? I propose to you that it is fairly obvious. When the formula is broken, CCDS sets in. Below is a typical post-camp experience:
- Campers don’t hear the Word preached the same way they did at camp. They certainly don’t hear it as often, and when they do they aren’t quite as engaged.
- Worship isn’t as expressive or uninhibited as it was at camp. Perhaps because their home church members are not as expressive or uninhibited?
- Fellowship is split between Christians and non-Christians at best. Sure we ought to have non-Christian friends. But we also need to be built up by fellow believers on a regular basis.
- If Scripture study takes place, it’s not as intense.
- Quiet time is replaced by the cell phone.
Adults, you do know that you don’t have to go to youth camp in order to catch fire for the Lord? Notice the passage says for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. In other words, that high the youth group is on after camp is how God wants you to live your entire lives! Perhaps we should try an experiment…. all of us? Let’s try the experiment below for four weeks (camp takes place in four days):
- Word – Go to church and hear the Word preached.
- Worship – When at church, do corporate worship expressively. Whatever the Spirit leads you to do, you do just that. Whether it’s lift hands, sing out, bow head in reverence, jump up and down and dance, don’t worry about the rest of the congregation. You aren’t worshiping for them but with them!
- Fellowship – Hang out with like-minded Christians who will build you up with their words.
- Scripture – Study the Scriptures: By yourself or with a group; with curriculum or with your Bible and a dictionary.
- Quiet time – Spend time each day meditating on Scripture or asking God a question and then listening. Listen for the Lord to speak to you (Spirit to spirit).
Let’s do this brothers and sisters! Don’t quench the Spirit…. : Allow the Holy Spirit to express Himself in your actions and attitudes!!