During the summer months, I was scanning over twitter in some down time during my day and ran across a tweet from Jared Wilson. Now, I am sure someone said it before him, but that is irrelevant. The tweet said: “what you win them with, you win them to.”
Now that really started turning the wheels within my head… especially considering I had been thinking recently about the summer camp that my home churches student ministry attends every year. I attended this camp somewhere around 8 years in a row (forgive me if I am off by a year or two… I claim an inability to remember much of my past in a linear manner) and have missed it the past two years. If you are unfamiliar with the camp, I would recommend going to their website.
I have often thought about why so many who attend this camp never *stick.*
Many *profess* faith or *proclaim* life-change… yet… 3 weeks later… 3 months later… they have disappeared. What happened? Where did they go?
Many I see singing along with the *worship* songs while hoisting their arms high in the air, reading their *devotionals* every day, having *spiritual* discussions and the like… yet it never sticks. What is up with that?
My normal conclusion has been: Nothing ever changed to begin with. They faked that whole thing. But I say it in a much more politically, or should I say “spiritually,” correct way.
But after marinating on this tweet, I think that previous conclusion is only half of the equation. Did they really have a heart-felt, Spirit-motivated, Jesus-driven, *insert other cool hyphen here* change? Unlikely. But the equation needs more than that. The other part of the problem is that they have been sold a slight deception.
These students buy into the concert quality music, bagillion dollar stage set ups and lights, hilarious videos and skits, fantastic speakers (who are funny in their own right), the beach, and friends. They never really are told about the cost of following Jesus. They are told about the love of God but not the holiness of God. They are told about compassion and grace but not wrath and tribulations. In all honesty… they arent really told much about God to begin with… but that is an entire different topic. It seems to be some type of back room hidden trick. Hide the cost of following Jesus until after you make the decision to follow him. To quote Matt Chandler: “a seeker model of church is simply a model of church that says lets not offend everybody and lets keep it as light as we can to get them in the door and then we will switch it up at some back room Bible study and tell them what the Bible really means, what it really says.” They make Jesus seem amazingly awesome with no recoil at all. This is backwards! *Now, they don’t blatantly preach prosperity, but it becomes a driving force without realizing it.*
According to the ministry style and preaching content of Jesus himself… any time the crowd really started to follow him… he would always turn it up a notch and explain the extreme cost of following him… and most often… it kept everyone from *sticking.* This was not done haphazardly – it was intentional.
Maybe the reason why so many *quit* after bigstuf has to do more with bigstuf than anything else. We have won them to something that is not the Christian life. We have tried to hide the normal Christian life from them without realizing it.
Once those who bought into the whole “Jesus = bigstuf” mentality begin to lose that “high” and the memories begin to fade… they realize they were jipped… this is more than I thought it was going to be! Peace.
How about we just be honest up front? Less numbers? Definitely. But I would rather not confuse people to death [literally and figuratively – I would recommend this short clip from David Platt on this divergent issue]. I would rather not make them think they are Christians… or possibly take the classic… “oh, you have just back-slidden *every* year for the past 9 years and the only time you show *growth* is during bigstuf and immediate after… but you are okay! Its a hard world.”
How about win them to Jesus… over the lights, the music, the friends, and the beach? Why do we need to travel to Florida to see God move? I had no idea God had only particular places that he changed lives. I had no idea that people could only share the gospel at youth camp. Apparently I missed that in Galatians or something. Why is it God moved without all of this stuff for the past 2,000 years but suddenly needs someone to filter his word… to hide the hard stuff?
Maybe there is a reason my home church takes 200+ people every year to bigstuf to only see half of them stick… on a hopefully *bi-weekly* basis.
Not only does bigstuf negatively impact confused non-christians, but I can be sure to tell you that those who *are* Christians arrive back from bigstuf more excited about bigstuf than about Jesus. I can say this because not only have I witnessed it time-after-time but I have been one of those people.
Now, know that I am not some guy standing on the sidelines blasting bigstuf and the like without ever being apart of it or knowing the peoples intentions, etc… I previously was a bastion of this movement… causing some of the same problems. Inviting people to follow Christ without delineating the entire cost. I also have a very good friend who worked there – knowing the ins and outs of this business. These observations are not off-the-wall.
Therefore, remember – at the end of the day…. “what you win them with, you win them to.” Make it be Jesus. Make it be the gospel. Make it be the glory of God. Not lights. Not music. Not games. Not stand up comedy routines.
**I am fully aware that I may get “hated” on (that is the new “pastoral” term for criticism, right?) for this… that is why I saved posting this for months… But I think it needs to be said.**
*This principle transfers to far more than just youth camps… this is merely a case study to illustrate the point.*