Camping for Christ
This article, and a complimentary one to appear next month, was written out of the much experience of brother Kenneth Baird as Director of the children’s camp at the Rocky Mountain Summer Conference, Estes Park, Colorado, U.S.A.
Within the range of the memory of many Christians there was a time when tent meetings were the most effective way of reaching the unsaved, especially in new areas.
Certainly one of the factors that marked the decline of tent work was the insistent noise of some groups who continued meetings far into the night until city fathers became reluctant to grant authority for tent meetings. The writer was frankly told on one occasion that as far as he was personally concerned permission for tent services could be granted, but in order to be fair and consistent and in order to eliminate certain noisy demonstrations, no group was permitted to have tent meetings in that city.
Before World War II, and for a few years following when the scarcity of materials hindered the building of television stations and receivers, extended series of gospel meetings in halls and chapels were often successful in the numbers attending and in the souls won for the Lord.
Eventually, as television facilities increased, a corresponding decrease in public response to any kind of meetings became sadly apparent. The general attitude is, why should people be expected to leave the warmth and the comfort of their own living rooms to go to a gospel meeting to which they are already indifferent when by staying at home they may enjoy the best acting and professional talent that money can purchase?
Perhaps television should not be blamed for all the spiritual lapse of our day of material prosperity, but it is our considered opinion that it is the greatest single factor in the declension.
The foregoing is not to infer that tent meetings or gospel campaigns in assembly quarters cannot still be relatively successful under certain circumstances, but successful efforts along these lines seem to be the exceptions and not the rules. One could hope that the recent television scandals under investigation would cause the pendulum to swing the other way and turn the public interest against the obvious sham and deceit to that which would profit for Eternity.
Present Collective Efforts
One of the cardinal rules of the good fisherman is to change his methods and lures when the fish are not biting. Since the Lord referred to His own as fishermen, we do well to adjust our methods to the situation at hand, and to consider, for example, the opportunities that await us in Bible Camps.
A Confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forrest, who served in the cavalry during the war between the States, when asked the secret of victory is said to have made his famous reply, “To git thar the fustest with the mostest men.” No more important application could possibly be made of such strategy than in the reaching of children with the gospel.
The story is told of a servant of the Lord who came home from meetings with a good report. “Four and a half persons were saved “ he said. “What do you mean?” He was asked by his friends. “Did four adults and a child get saved?” “No,” was his reply, “four children and one adult!” The mature person’s life was already half spent, but the lives of the children were still before them, lives that could be yielded to the service of the Lord Jesus.
It has been well said that when a child is saved, both a soul and a life are saved; however, when an elderly person is saved the soul is saved, but most of the life is lost. The salvation of an elderly person is a rightful cause for much rejoicing for he is indeed a “brand plucked out of the fire” (Zech. 3:2), but how much better are the olive plants (Psa. 128:3) whose lives of fruitfulness are still before them! There come to mind the examples of rejoicing over the salvation of an elderly person when only slight attention was paid to the salvation of a child whose life with its vast potentialities for good had been announced.
Above the recognition of the significance of the salvation of a child in the terms of glory brought to the Lord comes the realization that, if the child is not reached when young, he may never be reached at all! In Ecclesiastes 12:1, we read, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.” Although this verse may also quite properly apply to our ability to serve the Lord in the vigour of our youth as compared with old age, the gospel application which is frequently given is not without good foundation.
Experience and statistics show that the overwhelming majority of those saved are saved a considerable time before they reach the age of twenty.
In the present, the fields “white already to harvest” have their counterpart surely in the lovely harvests of boys and girls awaiting to be gathered through the efforts of Bible Camps. Of all the collective efforts within the range of our memory this is the most fruitful and the most important. The Lord help us to make the most of this golden opportunity.
With a little reflection the reasons for much of the blessing in summer camp work becomes apparent, but with the much blessing there is a grave danger. We know that wherever the Lord is pleased to work we can be sure the devil will do his best to hinder that work. In another article we shall discuss further details of camp work among children, and some of the dangers which we must face.