This year’s Central Bible and Leadership Institute was awesome! The youth tracks–our specialty of course–all wrapped with great reports of fun times and powerful experiences of God moving among his people. Young people got saved, sat under anointed teaching, were affirmed in their value to the Kingdom of God, and made many spiritual breakthroughs while on the mountaintop. So let’s call it a success, link to all the photos and videos, and move on to the next thing, right?
Yet, If you’re anything like us, you returned from CBLI blessed by the great experience, but totally wiped. You had to jump right back into the stream of deadlines, projects, and programs competing for your attention. And just two weeks out, you too might feel like CBLI is just a distant memory. You can bet your young people feel something similar. So what’s it all for, if everything just returns to “normal” once we get home?
Our young people too have a tendency to “reset” after arriving home from camp or youth councils. We see them connect the dots and make good choices; we see the Holy Spirit work a breakthrough in their hearts and minds… and then the school week starts and they’re back into their routines, and fall back into old habits/old identities. But really, in what way are they any different? And don’t we, their leaders and pastors, fall into that same trap?
There’s nothing magical about camp. Sure it’s “holy ground” and blah blah, but we are the only earthly temples of the Living God, so that’s not a great explanation for what we see happening in our lives and those of our young people. A better explanation, and one we’re probably either too proud or too scared to admit, is that at the spiritual retreat we actually do the things that connect us to who we are in Christ (worship, prayer, study, fellowship, confession, joyful giving, etc.). And equally as important, those times of spiritual retreat are the infrequent moments when we actually fast from or neglect the things that deaden our spiritual senses and grow the gap between us and Jesus (porn, laziness, materialism, too much TV, selfishness, etc.).
Yeah, at our Corps most of us participate in regular Christian community, pray a bit, and study the Scripture. We spend time singing, maybe even serving others, and we definitely love to debate churchy stuff. But I’d guess that, both for our young people and most of us leaders, we spend more time messing around on Facebook each week than we do on all the rest of that combined. Am I off the mark? When was the last time you spent more time praying and studying the Word than you did watching television in a week (not at camp)? If you take out all the “spiritual” stuff you have to do in a day because it’s your job, how often do you intentionally worship and adore Jesus just because he’s the God you love? How does that stack up against the time you spend relaxing on the couch?
The danger here is to begin to think legalistically, and start drawing up lists of “good” things and “bad” things, or come up with some sort of chart and add a prayer meeting to the schedule. But really, that misses the point and avoids the deeper issue. How have we not discipled our young people to hunger and thirst for a daily encounter with Jesus, and taught them to abide on the vine? How are we so easily distracted from our God given mission to win the world for Jesus… by HGTV, twitter, and the Times’ best seller list?
We all recognize our need for Jesus in the day to day grind, we just so infrequently die to ourselves and allow him to live through us. And more often than not, it’s not due to a lack of time, but just our misplaced or misunderstood priorities. I know that I’m not the only one who sees this in my life; at CBLI a group of youth leaders from around the territory all confessed their misuse of their time each week and committed to making greater space for God to work in their hearts and lives and families. For some this meant developing a disciplined Bible study habit that wasn’t just for sermon prep. For others it meant scheduling regular fasts from things that had become distractions (TV was a common theme). What might that look like for you?
More importantly, what might our world look like if the Church was more committed to its Christ than worldly things? What if we forsook even good things, like rest and comfort, when it meant staying filled up by the Spirit daily? John Wesley said, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.” Let’s not waste another CBLI! Let’s give up our faithless fears and our worldly desires and see God’s kingdom come in power in our Corps and neighborhoods!
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is God doing in my life right now, to make me more like him?
- Am I where I should be spiritually? If not, how am I “straining toward what is ahead, pressing on toward my heavenly goal?” (Phil. 3:13-14)
- What things in my life might be distracting me from hearing God’s voice clearly?
Ask your young people these questions:
- What were the highs and lows of CBLI for you?
- How did God reveal himself to you while at CBLI?
- What’s been different in your heart or life since you returned home?
- How can I encourage you to be faithful to the commitments you made to God at camp?
- How do you keep yourself from worldly distraction throughout the busyness of the work week?
- How can we intentionally model deep commitment to the things of God for our young people?
- What thoughts do these considerations bring up for you?