Our church community had a great and very productive summer this year. Firstly with our holiday bible club. This year we did not use the typical holiday club material that churns out the same 'gospel' message every year. Children you are all guilty of sin. Jesus died for your'e sin so if you give your life to him you will be free from that sin and live for ever with him in heaven when you die. This year we used material from CURBS www.curbsproject.org.uk called peacemakers. This material did not set out to count the conversions at the end of the week but simply shared kingdom values with the children. The response from children, parents and school alike has been brilliant. We have had a number of conversations with parents about the values taught and how that has affected them as children have come home and talked about what they have been doing that day.
My two teenagers went this year to a charasmatic christian youth festival. Our parent church takes a group of young people every year. The young people, away from home, have a great time with their friends and youth leaders in worship services that are highly charged with emotion, energy and euphoria. At the end of the worship service a call is made to 'give your life to Jesus'. Those that pray that prayer are taken out into a seperate tent where they are given a goody bag and counted. Then that evenings result is given in the main tent as the 'new christian's' are bought back in. My son (I think tongue in cheek) said he looked in his mates goody bag and decided not to respond as there was nothing he wanted in it.
We took a group to Greenbelt from our church. The group we took were quite a mix and in various stages of their spiritual journeying. All came back having moved a little or a lot in that spiritual journey. There was no highly charged, emotional meeting, there wasn't even an opportunity to pray the prayer or get a goody bag. There was lots of opportunity to explore and discover more about God through the arts, through seminars and through good conversation. One guy with us, was bought up in a Christian home, but hasn't been near anything church in years having been put off by the more confrontational evangelistic style. He was really grateful that we took him and said how much it had helped him.
I say all this not to be critical of many who are my friends, who do what they do I believe with a right motivation. I am also not denying that God meets people in those moments of emotional high and some continue the journey. However my concern is that we are just immunising young people against the gospel. We also narrow down the gospel to be about pie in the sky when you die and nothing to do with what God is doing in the here and now, on earth as it is in heaven. Our parent church each year come back from the Christian festival with the head count of how many people became Christians, we cheer and applaud. A few months later we will have a baptism service where those young people still quite excited by their experience in the summer will tell how their life changed at the summer festival and will be baptised. A few months later when life has been tough at college, or the church tells them they can't sleep with their boy/girlfriend, or someone in their family gets ill, they start to cool off. Until they dissappear and the church doesn't see them again. The problem is they then feel they've tried the Christian thing and it didn't work. This makes it harder to ever express to them that actually a relationship with God is far more than an emotional high at summer camp or singing with the angels when you die.
It occurs to me Jesus never asked anyone to pray the prayer. He did make disciples and called his disciples to make disciples. Yes he called people to follow him, but not just that day but to come with him on a journey of spiritual discovery. Incarnational mission has taught me the importance of journeying with people in the highs and the lows and together making sense of faith on the mountain tops as well as in the valleys.
Let us be disciple makers and not convert counters.