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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Modern Religion

Notah and I were talking this morning. He was saying that the youth in their congregation were doing a spaghetti dinner to earn some money for the youth group.  They aren’t sure what they are going to do with it but they decided to do it as much for a youth activity I think as a real money making venture.

There had been some talk of using the cash for the kids to attend the youth campmeeting in the summer, but the adults weren’t too enthusiastic about that since rather than a real bible learning/teaching experience that Youth Campmeeting is more of a summer recreation camp.  Several adults from the congregation had gone a year or so ago and didn’t seem too impressed with it.

I remembered when I was a teen.  We didn’t have such a thing as a ‘youth camp.’  We went to real campmeeting for a week.  There were three main services every day and an early morning prayer service.  There was also an afternoon youth meeting for those of us between 13 and 19 or 20 years old.  We stood in a circle meeting at a designated place where there was not a lot of foot traffic.  There was a short bible reading or lesson, time for testimonies and a prayer time where the youth were able to request prayer for the sorts of things that burden young people.  The prayer time lasted until everyone who had a burden of prayer had voiced their petition.  Sometimes three or four prayed; sometimes only one, but it was a ‘real’ prayer time.

My friends and I were in all three main services and generally in the prayer service at 8:00 AM and the youth meeting.  The local youth from the congregation there were not so diligent, but they did show up for most of the services and youth service—kind of like their parents who had jobs and family responsibilities that couldn’t be put on hold for the week of campmeeting. 

We heard the testimonies of the old saints (and the younger ones, too.) We learned that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man could accomplish.  We learned to pray with a simplicity and burden that is seldom found in modern congregations.  We learned to remain in prayer until prayers were answered.  We saw men and women coming for healing trusting the Lord for His Promises.  And we saw bodies healed of crippling afflictions, tumors and twisted bodies. 

The old brothers used to talk of stakes being driven in out lives.  It was a strange reference for me for many years. Now I understand it.   Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken Isa 33:20  Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes   Isa. 54:2    That is what they meant about having a stake driven in our heart.

Those testimonies and prayers and eyewitness experiences drove stakes in my heart.  They were direct evidence of the Holy Spirit’s power in the lives of men and women who were sold out and devoted to following the Lord.  They left an indelible imprint on my heart.  Those ‘stakes’ were the thing that anchored me solid and secure during high school and college. They fastened my focus on God and the things of God.  They held me when other youth were leaving the Church for the World.  They blessed me when everything around was pulling away from God. 

I wish our youth today could experience those old campmeetings.  

Shortly before my father died, he wanted to go to a campmeeting site that we had gone to when I was a child 7, 8, 9 years old.  I can remember it from those days.  The campmeeting was filled with godly men and women.  They spent their days in prayer, praise and preaching services.  They dressed in modest apparel and made their kids behave themselves.  The children were right beside them, leaving only for a short trip to the bathroom.  There was an afternoon service for the kids while the adult service was going on.  Some of them returned to their parents when the kids’ service was over; others played under the leaders’ supervision in a selected area.  We had friends that we played with between services and for a while after the night service, but by and large, we spent the time with our parents in services. 

I believe my dad wanted to meet an old friend there so we went down.  It was only about an hour from where we lived in Sugarcreek. 

We were shocked at the change!  The only thing I recognized was the layout of the grounds!  We arrived about the latter half of the morning service.  The tabernacle was only about half filled.  There were as many people wandering the grounds as there were in service.  There were kids running everywhere, but very few in service. 

We had lunch in the dining hall.  (At least that was the same.  Everybody ate.)  It was about an hour and a half until afternoon service.  I didn’t see anyone I knew, but dad met a few people his age who were there.  He enjoyed talking with them about old times.  The camp grounds had many large trees scattered over it and there were benches or chair under them where folks could sit and visit.  But when the bell rang for service not very many bothered to leave their shady seats to go to the tabernacle.  A shelter that could have held a couple hundred or three people had a scattering of around a hundred.  There were more people outside.

The other thing I noticed immediately was that there were NO youth around any place.  When I mentioned it to someone, they said, “Oh they took the youth to the ------ Water park in Columbus!”  I couldn’t believe it but everybody there treated it as common place and completely acceptable.  No wonder the Church of God denomination has such a shallow stand today.  They don’t guide their youth into even the superficial experience the adults hold!

I’m burdened for my grandkids and for the kids of this generation.  They are never having the experience of honest-to-goodness spirit led preaching and spirit filled singing and testimony.   Consequently they accept any noisy, enthusiastic ‘concert’ for real praise and worship. They swallow any little lesson with several scriptures incorporated into a social dialogue as ‘good messages’  And when they are exposed to spirit filled worship and preaching, they don’t like it.  It makes them uncomfortable.  They are brought under conviction and it isn’t something they know how to deal with.

God help us!