From the vicarage August 2009


In the busy summer season I missed posting this:

From the vicarage

The Next Generation

What makes grown men and women dress up as clowns in the streets of a north Devon town, act out plays as jugglers, trapeze artists, grumpy old men and sanitary inspectors? What makes them dash around all day until they are run ragged playing football, frisbee, basketball, flying jellyfish, trampolining, death sliding, assault coursing, grass sledging, tennis, surfing, swimming and water sliding? Why at the end of the day do they collapse into a tiny bed, with rubber covered matress in a boarding school house where the teenagers take longer to settle than than a cat on a hot tin roof? The answer is this: grown men and women become like teenagers so that some teenagers might hear the gospel and be saved. The last week in July, I’ll be on a Christian Venture Camp for around sixty 11-14 year olds. Camp is great fun and exhausting and we have great fun teaching and learning about God and about Jesus as we follow the Apostle Paul’s example:

“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” ( 1 Corinthians 9:22-23)

For the past four years I have been a leader on a Pathfinder venture at Bideford in Devon. The camp is lead by a young pastor friend from Tipton called Tim Ambrose. On camp we have around 60 teenagers and 30 adult leaders. The camp is spread over seven days where each day have a mixture of bible teaching based on Luke’s gospel and activities based on the theme “Roll up, roll up, the circus is in town”. As well as the activities listed above, we’ll have a talent show, craft activities, silly games with no real winners and a dorm competition involving games of wit and intelligence, dexterity and skill, balance and sleight of hand. As you might guess, I never win. Big ticket items included a trip to the beach, an afternoon in Barnstable playing Hunt the Spy and, a barbecue on the beach and probably everybody’s favourite, the Wet Wide Game and water slide. My dorm, the Lilly-Livered Lion Tamers, are in their last year on camp before moving up to the CYFA age, 15-18s.

There are four bible teaching slots each day. This sounds like a lot but the methods were varied so interest could be maintained. We begin with Swords at Sunrise: personal study for every member of the camp. After breakfast we met for Buzz Groups, an interactive and dynamic way of thinking through different aspects of the Christian teaching, using the headers, “What would Jesus say to Amy Winehouse, Madona, David Beckham…”

In the evening after dinner we had a main meeting, where, thanks to modern technology, we watch photographs of that day’s events, sing a Christian song or two and listen to a talk. Last thing at night before we go to bed, we hold Swords at Sundown, a small group bible study in our dorms. The bible teaching programme is based around key passages in Luke’s gospel this year and is designed to give the youth a full and wonderful view of the life, teaching, miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus.

There are lessons we can learn at Holy Trinity from the experience of camp. First, God’s concern for the next generation is obvious when we read the bible and yet so much of what we do as a church is geared toward the adults. We need a passionate concern for the faith and direction of the next generation and we do this by teaching. And Paul points out that as we teach, we grow as Christians.

Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! (Hebrews 5:12)

Second, leading on a Pathfinder venture challenges us to think, “If we can become like youth for a week, sharing not only our lives but the gospel in an appropriate setting, medium and language then what setting, medium and language should we be willing to learn, understand and adopt as Christians to communicate the gospel to our peers in the MTV generation or to our Asian neighbours, to take just two examples?”

A mission shaped church will be traditional on the message of the cross and the bible but contemporary in it’s style and culture. That means thinking head about how we get the message across in a way which people understand and is culturally relevant.

We must be willing to change style but not content. Why? For the sake of those who have not yet heard the gospel. As we continually change, just be thankful that you will probably not need to dress up as a clown.

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