Strange, isn’t it—how we can so easily develop misconceptions about almost anything, especially people, and especially in the ministerial world?
For years I’ve heard how “impossible” (or at least very difficult) it is to reach the young people of Great Britain or Europe with the Gospel. However, as I sit here in my usual “office” at Frankie and Benny’s at the Birmingham (England) airport, awaiting a flight to France, and reflecting on last week’s youth camp at Cefn Lea Park in Newtown, Powys (Wales), I’m not sure that I how accurate the assessment of others has been.
Let me explain.
Four years ago roughly, Dan Brown of LIFT Student Ministries, along with one of his board members Ben Robinson, accompanied me on a whirlwind exploratory excursion to Great Britain. Dan has operated a growing number of “LIFT Camps” in the eastern half of American for several years—and quite successfully. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, I spoke for one of Dan’s camps, even before he called them “LIFT!” in Monticello, Kentucky. (How could I ever forget that camp, because they had more frogs hopping around the property than were in the plagues of Egypt! Of maybe it’s my guilt for encouraging several of the campers to collect dozens of frogs and put them in his father Harold’s room that I remember.)
Somehow, I felt that if I could get Dan here to see what I was seeing in the potential of reaching young people for Christ—and it worked! Few men (or women) that I know share the level of burden or passion for young people that my friend Dan Brown has. I see it and sense it increasingly.
Our first year camp was actually quite small—but the results of young people coming to faith in Christ as their Savior were quite large! I also remember thinking that it was the toughest youth camp that I’d ever been involved with, simply because of the behavior of my of the young people who attended. Several of them came to us from social services, and were known to be “problem teenagers.” But we loved them, and I think they sensed that, and responded accordingly.
The second year of LIFT-UK the numbers climbed in every way. An impact for Christ was growing—and the impact was affecting young people from not only Europe, but also on the American college-aged staff of LIFT … and on me! Many of the first-year campers returned and the spiritual growth in them was self-evident. Once again by week’s end, many campers had made significant commitments to God for salvation, holy living, and Christian service.
This year the groundswell continued with even greater evidence. First, we jointly operated LIFT-UK 2010 with the BBF-GB youth camp, a collection of ministry partner churches scattered around Great Britain, but representative campers also came from other European countries. In the analysis of the executive director of Cefn Lea Park, this was the largest gathering of a group of Christian teenagers in the history of the conference centre!
At times the crowd noise was almost deafening, especially when you have nearly 300 campers and staff all assembled in the dining room, everyone talking, laughing, dishes clattering, etc.! And to listen and watch this crowd in action during the praise and worship time was almost beyond description—especially if one is expecting the misconception to be the reality!
And the behavioral difference over a three year period is also notable. While are a couple of layers of workers between me and the campers these days, I do believe that this was the most well-behaved crowd to-date. The difference that Christ makes in the spiritual lives is readily seen from one year to the next. The pastors and other Christian workers were all abuzz with excitement with the spiritual advancements!
While I can’t say that the volume of decisions made by young people coming to faith in Christ, surprised me, I must admit that it just doesn’t fit the misconception. What did arrest my attention was that on opening night, rather than somewhat typically closing night, most of the young people who accepted Christ as their personal Savior during did so that first night! By the closing assembly on Friday morning, 42 teenagers had come to faith!
But that isn’t all—great as that is!
At the conclusion of his Thursday evening message, my friend Ed Trinkle, speaker for the week who did a masterful job of connecting with the audience, plainly asked all from the audience who were ready to say to God, “I’ve been allowing you to speak to my heart and I’m now ready to ‘lay it all down’ and serve you full time for the rest of my life,” to stand to their feet, then come and gather in front of the stage for special instructions, prayer, and then counsel.
I was in tears as I stood at the top level of the auditorium and counted 76 teenagers standing in front of that stage in response to Ed’s clear instructions! When it was all sorted, and the individual counseling was concluded, 40 young people had truly committed themselves to ministry and service for Christ!
That kind of scene, with that kind of result, just doesn’t fit the misconception that so many in kingdom work have. Each of us who have been a part of this new phenomenon believes that we are on the leading edge of a new wave of the working of God amongst the young people and churches of Great Britain! And we’re witnessing it firsthand!
BTW, do you pray? If so, would you join several of us praying for the 42 teenagers who are new believers as they return to their homes and friends? We understand the spiritual battle that will surely take place in their hearts and minds. Several of them will certainly struggle in the months to come as they decide daily whether to follow the old life or the new.
Would you also pray for the 40 young people who committed their lives to service for the King of Kings? They too will be waging war to live out that which they committed on that closing night of LIFT-UK 2010.
Finally, would you pray that the Lord would continue to use me in leaving a lasting impact on an entire movement of God to reach young people in Europe? There aren’t a lot of 60-year-olds who still pursue a vision aggressively in youth ministry—but I’m asking that you pray for one—me!
And to those individuals, pastors, and churches who invested financially and prayerfully through our ministry, you can know that your investment has yielded history-making and eternal results! Thank you!