We recently had an inquiry from a well known Christian youth ministry about the use of our camp one week this coming summer. I was quite happy to receive their call and even more elated when they they told me that they were looking for a long-term relationship with a camp such as ours.
In my mind I could not imagine a more perfect “partnership” based upon what I vaguely knew about the reputation of this Christian youth ministry. But as we talked more and more, it became obvious that this relationship would not work and we had to politely walk away from a “deal”.
I don’t want to suggest that we are in any way more mature or more knowledgable about youth and summer camps than these folks. They’ve been working with youth a lot longer than we have and they are the professionals. But the requests they placed upon us were simply unacceptable.
-They permitted their youth to smoke—we do not.
-They do not confiscate or prohibit the use of drugs—we do.
-If one of their youth use profanity or vulgarity in speech, their staff do not reprimand or discipline.
-They have no dress code; we do “pass judgment” on what is appropriate or inappropriate at a Christian sports camp.
The list went on, but it was obvious our idea of helping youth come to understand God’s love and Christ’s call to discipleship and their’s is vastly different.
What piqued my attention in all of this is what I am witnessing across our country, spiritually speaking. Consider the decline in church attendance as well as a decline in professed Christians in general. There’s also a rise in atheism and agnosticism. We can blame Hollywood, social media, and the entertainment industry I suppose, but I think that these things are not the real reason—-I think organized Christianity is the problem.
As a whole, we offer NO CLEAR MORALITY. We are afraid to speak truth because it is not politically correct or might be interpreted as “hateful”, and we teach and preach that Jesus came to teach us how to be better people, when in fact, of course, He came to save us from the consequences of sin. We pander to the folks that visit our churches as if God were desperate for our love and approval and make no reference to what God expects of humankind.
“Mega-churches” might be on the rise in the USA, but I wonder if their growth is the result of being the true bride of Christ, or offering “Christianity-lite” to folks that prefer to be a part of a church that allows them to function under the radar screen of morality and accountability. My opinion is that they (the mega-churches) are pulling membership from mainline churches that offer (or once offered) standards and expectations for membership as well as discipline for those within the membership that life lives inconsistent with the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
The early church grew for many reasons, but a primary reason, I have heard, is that it offered a principle and way of living that was clear, focused and not cheapened or watered down by culture or accepted norms of the day. Perhaps we need to be reminded of that.