The Camp/Conference/Concert High
Maybe you know the feeling: adrenaline, passion, conviction, and determination all rolled into one emotion that makes you want to change the world and gives you the confidence to feel like you actually could. This buzz is often known as a camp or conference high. You go to an amazing Christian camp, conference, retreat, mission trip, concert, etc., where you listen to funny, passionate, inspirational speakers, worship with vigor to great songs led by great bands and worship leaders, spend time reflecting in personal prayer or discussing in small groups, and see how God is at work in other people’s lives. It’s awesome while it lasts— until the church van ride home, the next day, next week, maybe even the next month. But much of the time, it eventually fades.
And that, right there, is why many people turn up their noses at mass Christian gatherings, whatever they are. It’s also why many people attend such events expecting exactly that— a temporary high to get them through until the next big thing. And that’s what they get— because that’s all they expect, and frankly, all they want.
So what’s the point? If these gatherings don’t have lasting effects most of the time, why continue to do them? Because sometimes, they do. And even if you don’t recognize how they’ve affected you or others around you, they probably have in some way.
The following are some reasons mass Christian gatherings are important:
Solid, eye-opening, dynamic Bible teaching. If the event you’re attending doesn’t have this, you need to look for a different one, because there are plenty out there that do. As a teenager, I had friends who only actually paid attention to sermons at gatherings such as these. No, it shouldn’t all be about the show or the presentation, but if a speaker can engage someone who wouldn’t normally go to church, or who is so numbed to the repetition of church that they don’t actually hear what the preacher says anymore, then it’s worth it.
It is always thrilling to me to see other people “get” certain truths about God. One of my favorite parts of the Passion Conference for the past two years has been sitting in community groups after John Piper’s sermons, listening to other people process and come to understand the facts that we exist for God’s glory and that he should be the bottom of our joy. Coming to understand those truths changed my life, and watching other people come to that same place is so exciting.
When I heard David Platt speak at a Passion 2011 Breakout Session, I had a personal moment of “getting it.” What he said in that message has been the driving force behind the changes and passions at the forefronts of my own mind, life, and heart in the past year. And all he did was teach what the Bible says.
I am grateful to have a wonderful home church, but it’s had its ups and downs, and others are not so lucky. Events such as these may be the only times some people get to hear true, practical, biblical teaching.
Unrestrained corporate worship. There is just something about a big event that lets people let loose. If you come from a charismatic background, this probably doesn’t resonate with you as much, but in a Southern Baptist church, even though I know it’s ok, it is very difficult for me to be able to do so much as raise my hands. Only recently have I found myself able to worship in such a way in my home church. It’s not that anyone has condemned me for it, it’s just not common, and I don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to myself when we’re trying to worship God.
But take me to a camp worship service or a conference and I feel free to worship in whatever way I feel led, as do many other people my age. We are tired of static worship stances. If we are going to pour our whole hearts into something, we want our bodies to be able to express it.
Once again, I’m not saying it’s about a show or being able to jump up and down. We should always check our hearts in worship and never express ourselves for the sake of attention or what is expected. But being able to breathe after months of stifled worship is a relief.
Side note: Man, I miss chapel at Taylor University. I’d love to get some gospel choir “You Are Good,” thunderclap included, up in here.
Showing that the Church is a global family. Many Christian events have a missions emphasis. They even highlight organizations that reach out in social justice and evangelism. Passion’s Do Something Now program is a great example. They have an area at the conference where people can walk around to creative and interactive displays for the different missions organizations the conference is supporting. Getting Christians engaged in global awareness and outreach is crucial, and I think, maybe the most important function of such events.
By gathering together to pray for other Christians around the world, many of whom are greatly persecuted, we show them that we are with them. In Richard Wurmbrand’s book, Tortured for Christ, he says that one of the greatest boosts to the Underground Church in Romania during the time of the Iron Curtain was when Western Christians began to send in resources and support. Those believers who were sacrificing their lives and freedom for Christ could finally see that they weren’t alone. In a time when this kind of persecution is far from dead, we must show our brothers and sisters that we are not indifferent, that we do care.
Even so, it may not be long before we, as Western Christians, begin to experience more persecution. Would we not take solace in the fact that our brothers and sisters around the world were rallying together with us? We should gather together, supporting one another, worshipping and learning together, as long as we still can. When we do so, we do not gather merely as those of similar interests or common goals, we gather as a family, as one body, with one head— one name we want to exalt above all others— Christ.
There are a lot of other great events out there besides Passion— that’s just the one I’m excited about right now (less than 2 months)!
COMMENT: What is your experience with mass Christian gatherings? What is a reason you think they are important?