This last weekend I had the opportunity to preach at Ponderosa Pines Christian Camp in Running Springs, Ca. I had a great time with the leaders and churches up there. As I was driving down the mountain, I had various thoughts running through my mind that I thought to jot down and share. In no particular order, here are some reflections from a weekend of preaching.
Preaching is terrifying. I think I can relate better to high school girls after all the range of emotions I felt from preaching at a winter camp. Throughout the weekend I felt emotions of terror, joy, grief, sadness, delight, and complete helplessness. There are few things like watching busloads of kids unload onto camp grounds and remember, “They will all look to me to hear God’s Word.” It truly is a burden of many colors. Pray for your pastors and whoever else preaches the Word.
I am very fond of my wife. Every day leading up to camp she made sure to ask how she can help me prepare. She freed me up to take some extra time for sermon prep. She packed all our bags and even bought us snacks for the road. Upon arriving at camp she was continually encouraging, comforting, and serving me as I experienced the range of emotions that come along with having the weighty task of preaching. Not one complaint or heavy sigh. Only intentional, selfless, sacrificial love and care. She wanted those kiddos to hear about Jesus and she made sure to do whatever was in her power to make that happen. Additionally, she is a crack up and had me laughing all through the trip which served my soul immensely as well. She is a gift from God, indeed. Truly, the epitome of a suitable helper.
Lovelite are some cool peeps. Chawna and I had the privilege of staying in the same cabin as the band who lead the the musical worship. At first I was somewhat wary. I looked on their website before leaving for camp and thought they were much edgier and cooler than I could ever wish to be. I mean, look at this. However, upon meeting them, all those fears washed away. Don’t get me wrong, they are still very cool, but they’re kind and welcoming too. From the gut wrenching laughter that came from epic rounds of Telestration to watching them lead the camp in song to Christ, I was thankful for the chance to get to know them and serve alongside of them.
Christians love God’s Word and get excited when they hear it. It was a blessing to see people come up to me with one sentiment to express, “Thank you for teaching us God’s Word.” They loved that they heard their Savior’s voice in the sermons. Even though we worked through hard truths about sin, judgment, and God’s wrath, they were thankful. In fact, I believe it was because we worked through those truths that they were thankful for there are few things that magnify Jesus like talking about the sin/wrath He saved us from. If you want to bless Christians, preach the Word and let them hear their Savior’s voice.
I really love Ponderosa Pines Christian Camp. Dan and Becky Skipper are my favorite kind of people: those who give their best effort and energy to tirelessly provide thousands and thousands of people the chance to encounter the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even as Chawna and I sat with them to eat they shared with us the various things they have in the works to reach even more people with the gospel. Cool people, indeed. Also, Dan is one of the coolest dressers I know. I’m taking notes, sir.
It is a lie that kids (especially middle schoolers) can’t sit still during sermons. Prepare for a minor rant. I have lost count of how many times I have been told this or things like it. Essentially, it is widely believed that today’s youth are unable/unwilling to sit still and listen to someone preach. “We live in a visual age!” “Kids can’t sit still and listen to sermons!” “Don’t dare go any longer than 10 minutes or you’ll lose them all.” Blah, blah, blah. Phooey.
Every week at The Ride and especially this weekend at Pondo was proof of the silliness of such thinking. I preached four times. Each time over 35 minutes at least and some close to 50 minutes. As I stared into 300 or so faces I saw nothing but complete focus. Additionally, throughout the camp I had student after student come up to me for no other reasons than to talk about the sermons they were hearing. In fact, the most excited bunch I met were a pack of 6th grade boys! Kids might not like boring sermons (who does?), but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
My goal here isn’t to toot my own preaching horn. You can ask my wife, I don’t think I have a horn to toot. But this is to show the power of God’s Word to do God’s Will. Preaching is the way God has chosen to spread His gospel to the ends of this earth and our day of technology doesn’t nullify that. His sheep will hear His voice and love it. You can have your visual media, I’m sticking with the rock smasher. Keep the Word and work hard to deliver it as clearly and compellingly as you can. Preach to those dry bones. (Note. I have nothing against visual media, only when it is used in place of sound, Biblical preaching).
Camp is a great way to get kids to focus on Jesus. It may be something in the air. It may be the fact that kids are away from their usual surroundings. It may be that their hormones are super-charged from being around members of the opposite sex. I am not quite sure. But there is something about camp that helps students get real with Jesus and where they stand with Him. I saw it this weekend. I hope to see it next weekend when we bring our kiddos up to Pondo. If you have the chance to help kids get to summer/winter camp or even help out a faithful camp in your area, I think that is money well spent.
In the end, this weekend strengthened my resolve to preach and increased my desire to truthfully say with Paul, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24