A Week at TLC: Reflections on Camp Life and the Mission of the Church
I (and many others) spent the past week serving at TLC (Triumphant Life Camp). TLC has been, and will be, bringing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to campers ranging from 4th-12th grade throughout the month of July. As one of the two camp pastors for this week’s camp, I have had the opportunity to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to campers and staff alike all week long during the morning chapel service, lead staff devotions every other morning and spend my days speaking the life giving message of the gospel into the various life situations of the campers and staff. It has been a privilege and joy.
Camp life is a beautiful picture of the body of Christ at work serving in all its diversity and strength. In order for camp to run smoothly there are various positions which must be filled. I, for instance, am a camp pastor. I spend my time preparing messages for chapel, helping the counselors know how to handle certain situations, and providing spiritual oversight. The counselors spend all their time watching, loving, instructing, and living with the campers for the sake of the gospel. Along with the counselors there is a kitchen staff who keeps us well fed and alive, there is the clean-up and maintenance crew who keeps the facilities usable, there is the band who leads us to praise God in a manner befitting His character, there are the game and craft leaders, there is our nurse who keeps everyone in good health, and countless others who are necessary in order for this camp to run.
Not only is camp life a beautiful picture of the body of Christ serving together in all its blessed diversity, it is also an amazing time of sowing and harvesting. People are hearing and responding to the message of the gospel as the staff labors together with precision focus for this one unified purpose of gospel ministry. Counselors and pastors work together discussing the spiritual conditions, needs and realities that individual campers face inside and outside of camp. The staff comes together on a daily basis to pray for the campers and each other; seeking the presence of God in Christ Jesus as fuel for the mission which lies before them. Every decision and activity is a calculated maneuver for the sake of the gospel and every moment is seized knowing that they are few and fleeting as the week progresses. In many ways, camp life is a triumph of the Spirit’s work in the body of Christ as we come together in unified witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ and are completely (and I mean completely!) focused on the disciple making mission with which Jesus commissioned His Church.
This reflection gave way to another reflection … a less triumphant and exultant reflection. Isn’t this what the Church is supposed to look like all the time? Isn’t this single-minded focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ what we are supposed to be doing all the time? Shouldn’t prayer for the mission of the gospel—for our strength in witness and the salvation and growth of others—shape all of our days? What would our churches look like if camp life was everyday life? And, please, don’t hear me wrong. I am not suggesting the untenable reality of running camp, or camp-like atmospheres, throughout the year as the local church’s means of evangelization. But I am suggesting—actually I am proclaiming loudly and passionately—that this single-minded focus and all-encompassing devotion to gospel ministry, to sowing and reaping, must be what defines the Church.
Can you imagine what our churches would look like, what our communities would look like if this ‘camp’ mentality defined us throughout the year? Can you imagine what our churches and our communities would look like if we poured the resources and focus into local gospel outreach on a regular basis like we do here at camp? It is hard to imagine that it would be anything less than miraculous. Miraculous … like in the book of Acts … as those believers labored and lived together by the power of the Spirit with a single-minded precision focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ … the same Spirit that we have received … the same gospel that we have believed … so what was the difference? This single-minded precision focus on the ministry of the gospel defined their existence and not just their week.
Life is busy … I know, but can you imagine? Can you fathom what it could look like if we forsook all for this purpose, if we laid down our lives for the sake of this purpose, if our desires and hobbies took a back seat for this purpose, if the blessedness of others and the glory of Christ compelled us to live radically for Jesus all the time … can you imagine that? Not only can I imagine it, I have seen it. I know that, by the power of the Spirit of God, this is not mere fiction. I have witnessed this kind of single-minded precision … and it has left me hungry for more, far more! It’s time for the Church of Jesus Christ to let go of everything else and to lay down our lives for the mission of Him who laid down everything for us. It’s time for the bride of Christ to open her eyes to the glory and beauty of her bridegroom and start living with the kind of precision single-minded devotion that He is worthy of … all year long.