ChristianGovernance Report – July 25, 2011
ChristianGovernance WAY Camp Blessed by God
ChristianGovernance has just completed our first WAY Camp – Worldview and Apologetics Youth Camp – last week, and what an amazing experience it was. No, we didn’t have fireworks displays every night, or a world class French chef catering the food. And we didn`t receive a surprise visit from any famous athletes. What made the camp so amazing was the great teachers God provided and the fantastic youth who participated.
This is the first youth camp we organized, and we faced all the challenges and apprehensions that go along with an experience like that. I tend to worry and obsess about things despite trying to leave them in the Lord’s hands, so there was enough anxiety and concern in the days leading up to the camp. But the Lord blessed the event tremendously, and we pray that He would press down the truths that the youth studied into their hearts and uses His Word to transform their lives and to help them grow in maturity as His disciples.
One of the most amazing aspects of the camp was the evidence among the youth that they showed up ready to work hard and to learn. The camp took place in the middle of July. Many youth at this time are either fully devoted to R&R, doing little that is productive, or they are working at summer jobs. Studies are the farthest thing from the minds of many youth during summer months.
God sent us youth you were eager to learn, and to do so through an incredibly rigorous schedule. These young people were sitting in sessions, listening to lectures from Monday afternoon until Friday lunch. They were studying from 8am until 8pm Tuesday and Wednesday. This also would have been the case Thursday, but due to the record heat wave we were experiencing, we eased up on the Thursday afternoon schedule.
What was significant, though, was that these youth were engaged in all their lectures. They were interactive, answering questions and asking them. They were attentive and interested. They weren’t being dragged to the sessions or complaining about the work. And almost all the sessions were 1 hour and 15 minutes in length. These were dedicated, serious young people when it came to their desire to learn from God’s Word, and to study the truths from Scripture about apologetics, leadership and important aspects of worldview. It was a real honour to serve these youth and to be trusted by God to provide such a ministry to them.
And they had a lot of fun together as well. It wasn’t all work. And this was another wonderful experience for us. These 12 youth immediately connected and got to know each other, and they enjoyed each other’s company all week, sometimes playing games, sometimes just talking and talking… and well, talking… We had five young men attending and seven young women. They ranged in age from 15 to 19. They came from four different congregations, eight from Canada and four from the U.S.
No cliques formed among them. There were no conflicts that we had to mediate. There was just a lot of good clean fun… and intelligent conversation among them throughout the week.
We received good feedback from our evaluation forms with worthwhile suggestions for future WAY Camps so we will be looking at ways to make the experience even better in the future.
We received the greatest praise from the students for the caliber of our speakers. Since this was a study camp, the most important component was the caliber of the speakers, and God provided us with some of the best speakers we could have found. The youth greatly appreciated their ministry, and really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with some of them outside of the sessions. The speakers all shared some meals with us and some of them stayed overnight for a night over the period they were teaching.
We knew each of the speakers we asked to participate. I knew enough about them to know their teaching reflected the doctrine we wanted to be taught. But I had not heard all of them teach and did not know how they would connect with the youth. So there were some unknowns for us in this respect. We can say in hindsight that we don’t feel a single disappointment with our speakers. We are so grateful for their giftedness and for their willingness to work with us and to be used by the Lord in the lives of these young people – especially since we had to notify them close to the beginning of the camp that, due to lower than hoped-for numbers, we wouldn’t be in a position to give them even the modest honorarium we wanted to provide as a token of our appreciation for their ministry.
We heard great things from each of these speakers as well in terms of their appreciation for the interest and attentiveness of the youth. It was a blessing to teach them, and to see their thoughtfulness in the way they engaged with the content of the lectures. We all pray that the Lord would provide enduring blessing to these youth from this WAY Camp teaching.
We want to acknowledge this wonderful ministry last week by Christ Church (Utica, NY) pastor Aaron Goerner, Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian (RP) associate pastor Steve Zink, Creation Ministries Int’l speaker Calvin Smith, Hudson RP elder Brian Brodie and Grace Presbyterian Church associate pastor Brian Murray. Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your godly and sacrificial ministry with us at WAY Camp.
Aaron Goerner provided instruction on several important areas of worldview, including marriage and sexuality (with an engaging look at Song of Solomon), Islam and ultimate purpose (with a provocative message from Ecclesiastes on the comprehensive meaninglessness of life without Christ). Steve Zink taught had the youth engaged in lessons on apologetics and the inherent logic of Christianity over against the irrationality of competing worldviews. He also taught on the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Christ, illustrating the absurdity of some of the heresies that people believe about God and Christ. Calvin Smith gave three compelling talks on the historical faithfulness of Genesis when it comes to the scientific evidence on origins and the universal flood. He illustrated the way science confirms the literal 6-day creation account recorded in the Bible and he provided testimony to the constantly changing claims of evolutionary theory as researchers as atheists desperately attempt to shore up their ideology in the face of ever-new discoveries that demand the recognition of “intelligent design.”
Brian Murray talked to the youth about the law of God as the enduring standard against which God measures our obedience. Looking at the fifth and sixth commandments, he unfolded the comprehensive nature of the law as summarized in the 10 commandments. Brian Brodie provided three excellent sessions on leadership. He spoke bluntly about the pitfalls of leadership as well as the preparation for leadership, drawing from the lives of Moses and Joshua. I spoke about the incompatibility between Environmentalism (pantheistic and humanistic) and Christianity, challenging the youth to rediscover the ethic of conservationism as the constructive Biblical alternative to the ideology of Environmentalism. I also spoke about Socialism and Messianic State. Lynette Bloedow spoke about life-purpose planning and the importance for serious Christians to discover God’s will for their lives as early as possible so they can cultivate their gifts and aptitudes and set the trajectory of their lives in a way that enables them to be of maximum use to God and His Kingdom. The alternative is to follow the trend in our world of aimlessness bouncing around from one idea to another with many wasted years.
We made arrangements to record all the lectures thanks to the use of the recording equipment from the Russell RP Church. We look forward to making these recordings available first to the youth who attended the camp, but also to all others who would like to benefit from this excellent material.
We are also extremely grateful for the excellent work in the kitchen and dining room by Lia Lindeman and Lynette Bloedow. Even though it might be a “secondary” matter, the food at a camp can make or break the experience, and we had great and healthy food throughout the week. Thank you very much for all the work that went into that accomplishment.
Of course, the Camp was a success because God saw fit to bless the ministry that took place there. We especially want to thank all of you who were praying for God’s blessing on this ministry. Please continue to pray for these young people: Chris, AnnaRose, Matthew, Lydia, Ryan, Laura, Mariah, Adam, Bethany, Martha, Audrey and Daniel.
Thank you very much to each of you who provided financial support for the Camp. You helped to make it possible for each of our attendees to be there and be blessed by the Lord. Thank you for the faith and confidence you placed in us to make this ministry a success.
I also want to thank Gisele Baribeau who has organized a Biblical worldview camp in Guelph, Ontario, called CYWAL (Christian Youth Worldview and Leadership). Her vision, success and advice were a great help to us as we organized and planned WAY Camp. There are very few other models for Biblical worldview camps, so we drew a great deal from her model in structuring our first camp. As we reflect on the success and feedback of our first camp, there probably won’t be much that we would change. We are also grateful for the opportunity Gisele gave me to speak at her camp last year, and to actually experience some of her camp in that way. All of this was a big help in God’s providence as we worked towards launching WAY Camp this year.
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Biblical worldview vs. dying churches
Contrast this wonderful experience with discipleship and Biblical worldview teaching with our vacation experience this weekend at church. We arrived in Florida early Sunday morning and found a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) congregation which still holds evening services. We arrived at a beautiful looking building that we were told is only 10 years old. The sanctuary could seat at least 400 people. We were told that the church attendance swells in the winter, which would reflect the presence of snowbirds who live in Florida over the winter. The permanent congregation would then be somewhat smaller.
Of course there would be some people away for vacation. The pastor was away too. We prayed for a woman in the congregation who had just given birth, and we were told that they have a youth ministry at the church.
As a PCA congregation, the church holds to the theologically robust Westminster Confession of Faith as its subordinate doctrinal standard. It flows out of a vibrant evangelical tradition of Reformed life and doctrine.
Instead of a worship service, we showed up to participate in a time of singing with no central theme, followed by a very elementary devotional. There were about 13 people in attendance – in that 400-seat sanctuary – and they were all 70 years old and up.
Why do I mention this? BECAUSE GOD IS NOT MOCKED! This is your church and my church in a few years if we don’t take seriously the mandate for intergenerational discipleship and Biblical worldview teaching. Parents who don’t disciple their own children have abandoned one of their most important responsibilities. Older Christians who don’t mentor younger believers are not fulfilling a key command of God’s. These Christians are contributing to the decline of their congregations.
Discipleship does not take place by osmosis. It doesn’t happen by accident. It’s dishonest, even fraudulent, to claim that churches rise and fall for reasons we cannot know. Congregations wither and die because Christians refuse to do the work necessary to sustain them, especially faithfulness to orthodoxy and godliness, and that through intentional discipleship and training in Biblical worldview. Those who have no vision for such multigenerational faithfulness will be part of a church in decline – or they will be living vicariously off the obedience and faithfulness of others. Too many churches today have lost their way.
Our youth – all of us, in fact – need to be discipled intentionally in the truths of Scripture and the life of God – by parents and those more mature in the faith. Perhaps such training can’t be made mandatory, but it’s even more INEXCUSABLE to make such a priority strictly voluntary instead of compelling those in the church to participate in such activity for the glory of God and building up of the Body of Christ.
Please pray with us that WAY Camp will be a vital tool in this work as long as we are faithful to God’s leading in this vital ministry.