Thinking Out Loud

April 29, 2016

Camp Memories (4)

The camp that I worked at was large enough that the food services operations had been contracted out to a catering company. Some of the teens who got hired were friends of other people on our junior staff, but there was no screening of anyone in the sense that our staff had to have a recommendation from a pastor, a youth pastor, and enclose a copy of their personal testimony.

All this meant that our dishwashers and housekeeping staff — who were Christians — regularly interacted with non-Christians who were cooks and bakers. Furthermore, the cooking staff got to attend any of the special events that were taking place in the evenings — special speakers, concerts, etc. — which meant that over time they had a number of questions about what we believed.

Evangelizing the people from the catering firm became a priority for the dishwashers (guys who fell under my supervision) and the housekeepers (girls who lived with the female bakers and cooks).

As Labor Day approached, two of the bakers were close to crossing the line of faith, but there was no indication that this was happening anytime soon. This increased the level of concern — and prayer, I hope — on the part of the housekeeping staff to the point where they upped their game in terms of pleading with the two who had expressed some interest.

img 042916I will say this: Regardless of your views on soteriology, or any aspects of the monergism/synergism debate, there is something to be said for the line from the Billy Graham radio show, “This is your hour of decision.” And there’s, “Now is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation.” And don’t forget, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” Even if you believe that salvation happens as process and not in a moment of crisis, I believe there is still always a defining moment.

Then, on Labor Day Monday, in other words on the same day, and possibly within an hour of each other, the two girls decided it was time to make that commitment.

So the housekeeping staff were ecstatic.

And they ran and got me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I had never been in the spiritual delivery room before. I just thought it was interesting that after evangelizing and sharing their faith journey all summer with the two catering staff members, they felt they needed a professional to lead the actual conversion moment. And they thought that I was that professional. (We did have people with theology degrees on staff, but…)

So, not knowing what I know now, I felt it necessary to have them “pray a prayer” because that’s what the Bible says you do when you want to enter into eternal life, right? (Well, it does and doesn’t.)

Girl One joined me in the dining room, which was an appropriate setting given their summer had consisted of preparing the food which was eaten there. I told her that I was going to give a line and she simply had to repeat it after me. She did. Smiles. Hugs and high fives.

Then Girl Two came in and after a brief discussion, I told her to simply repeat the prayer after me. I was on a roll now. Any chance there’s a third person waiting outside?

“Dear Jesus;” I said.

“Dear Jesus;” she repeated.

“I acknowledge that I’m a sinner;” was the next line.

Silence.

“I acknowledge that I have sinned;” I repeated with slight editing.*

“I can’t pray this;” she said. 

Wait, what?

At this point I could have concluded that she just wasn’t ready; or that she’d felt coerced into this moment; or that peer pressure had resulted from the other girl’s decision. Or perhaps she just couldn’t give intellectual assent to committing to follow Christ. Or maybe I’d worded it wrong and she didn’t want to think of herself as a sinner.

For all those reasons, I could have just suspended this and suggested she think about it and get back in contact with the camp or her new friends at some point in the fall.

But I didn’t go that route. Instead I opened my mouth and this came out:

“Then just tell God, in your own words, what you want to say to him right now.”

I have no idea what she said next; I only remember that it was sincere, it was beautiful and it passed whatever was my ‘sinner’s prayer’ litmus test. And there were more smiles, more hugs and more high fives…

…Today I know so much more. Entering into new life is more than a prayer; it’s a commitment to live a new life in a new way under the Lord-ship of Jesus Christ even when the cost is difficult. But for that day, that would have to suffice.

There was little time to arrange for follow-up, but I heard some encouraging news in the short-term through my housekeeping contacts, and we did have monthly camp reunions — this was a huge camp — back then which kept some staff in touch in a world before email, texting and social media.

In the years that followed, I got to pray with other people while doing itinerant youth ministry** as a guest speaker in various churches; but there was never another moment like this one.

I’m just so thankful that I was there when needed and when the opportunity arose.***


*After 11 weeks at camp, I think the doctrine of sin had been clearly defined, but today, if I was going to introduce a prayer at all, I would probably word it differently.

**I got to experience some interesting situations and meet some great people in itinerant ministry, but there is something to be said for working in a local church environment where you really get to know the same people over an extended period of time. At camp, working and living and sleeping in community created some close relationships, but eleven weeks seems like such a short time and the nature of the organization made follow-up challenging. I love the context for ministry that camp creates, but it’s important to recognize the shortcomings of any evangelism model.

***It’s easy for an organization to miss the importance of ministry to its workers. Some of the greatest life-changes are taking place at the staff-level and it’s important for senior staff to see the summer as a two-pronged program.

 

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February 7, 2011

I Love You With All My Intestines

Okay, I’m a little behind on post-weekend blogging, and I can only blame so much of that on the Superbowl, since I missed most of the first quarter anyway. So here’s one from the February, 2009 archives that I’ve had to do some major remixing on, since it hinged on a link to something else which no longer exists…

accept-jesus

  • easychristianityI LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY LIVER
  • I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY GUT
  • I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY SPLEEN

From what I’m told, any one of these expressions is an acceptable translation — in some languages — of the English, “I love you with all my heart.” For most of us, while the brain is the center of all cognitive activity involving the senses, memories, logic, reason, etc.; we use the heart to represent the will, our emotions, our affections.

So it’s not a stretch to imagine some preacher in some time past, trying to get across what the “Lordship of Christ” means, or attempting to communicate the idea of submitting everything to His will, being the first to voice the phrase, “accepting Jesus into your heart.” Perhaps he was speaking to children at the time. It’s not in the Bible, but it does get the point across.praying-boy-and-dog

Or it did. Now it’s become trite. So, just as we need to constantly update Bible translations, now is the time to update some of the ancillary or peripheral language we use when conversing with our friends. (Also, is a ‘personal’ Savior anything like a personal computer?)

The problem is that it is very hard for some people — especially new Christians — to know where the Bible ends and additional, peripheral language begins.  Of course some terms — like Trinity — don’t occur in scripture at all, but no one would want to jettison them entirely as unnecessary.

But the other problem comes when our children get older, and we find ourselves in the position of having to ‘undo’ certain terms that we’ve used ourselves.   Where might our children be in their understanding had we never introduced the “accept Jesus” phrase, only to have to make mid-course corrections in their understanding of what it means to make Jesus Christ lord of their lives?

The Bible says that we should “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength,” (Deut 6:5) but hopefully we realize that loving God with all our hearts is a simple turn of phrase for something that is much deeper, and much more real.

Bonus link: Danny Spence suggest six other phrases that are equally extra-Biblical (i.e. outside the Bible) in this short post.


February 19, 2009

I Love You With All My Stomach

Filed under: Christian, Jesus, parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:45 pm

accept-jesus

  • easychristianityI LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY LIVER
  • I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY GUT
  • I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY SPLEEN

From what I’m told, any one of these expressions is an acceptable translation — in some languages —  of the English, “I love you with all my heart.”    For most of us, while the brain is the center of all cognitive activity involving the senses, memories, logic, reason, etc.; we use the heart to represent the will, our emotions, our affections.

So it’s not a stretch to imagine some preacher in some time past, trying to get across what the “Lordship of Christ” means, or attempting to communicate the idea of submitting everything to His will, being the first to voice the phrase, “accepting Jesus into your heart.”   (Maybe he was speaking to children at the time.*)  It’s not in the Bible, but it does get the point across.praying-boy-and-dog

Or it did.   Now it’s become trite.   So, just as we need to constantly update Bible translations, now is the time to update some of the ancillary or peripheral language we use when conversing with our friends.  (Also, is a ‘personal’ Savior anything like a personal computer?)

Tony Cathey is a Tennessee blogger who picks up a long article from Andrew Storm which you can read here.   (You can link to the original source there, too.) It’s interesting, but some history or even conjecture — as I did above — on where the phrase originated might have been more fun!

And as always happens, the comments end up focusing on something else entirely:  a discussion as to whether or not the first century expectancy that baptism should accompany salvation means a salvation by works.   If you want to engage that one, leave your comment at his his blog, not mine.   That kind of discussion just wears me out, and at the end of the day, doesn’t advance the Kingdom.

Bonus link:  Danny Spence suggest six other phrases that are equally extra-Biblical (i.e. outside the Bible) in this short post.

*Where might our children be in their understanding had we never introduced the “accept Jesus” phrase, only to have to undo it when they reach an age where they can truly understand what it means to make Christ Lord of their lives?

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