Oops, I guess my blog took a vacation last week with me! My scheduled post didn’t go up, so here it is.
While many of my friends went to church camp every year, I was in high school the first time I went. I’d been going to church my whole life, attending Vacation Bible Schools, Sunday School, and youth group. I was baptized when I was younger, read my Bible fairly regularly, and prayed often.
So even though I went into that week knowing I was a Christian, I was convinced that because I’d never prayed that specific prayer and made that long (really long – it was a huge camp and we were sitting at the very back) walk to the front, I wasn’t saved. For years I told my testimony that way, stating that was the night I got saved and started my life as a Christian. Never mind the recesses spent in 6th grade sitting with friends, praying and singing worship songs. Never mind the baptism I experienced a few years before. None of that mattered because it was before I was officially saved.
Now, nearly a decade later, I wonder if that night was really the moment I became a Christian. I don’t think it was. I don’t think that one little prayer I prayed with hundreds of others saved me. That long walk to the front didn’t save me. The overwhelming emotion I felt wasn’t Jesus entering my heart for the first time, because He’d been there for a while. I’d prayed to Him many times before, I’d even prayed similar prayers before.
I think I was a Christian long before getting saved at the Baptist church camp. But there was something very appealing about that experience. It was a rush, an amazing moment where I felt like God was speaking to me, drawing me down to the front. Which leaves me wondering if it was really God drawing me down there, or just my subconscious desire to have some dramatic moment to make my beliefs feel real.
Clearly, I still don’t know how I feel about that experience. On the one hand, I do think some pastors(not all!) use specific phrases and tactics to manipulate the crowd’s emotions. They want to see hundreds walk down to the front to get saved, even if half of them made the same walk last year. I think there is a reason there are so many verses in the Bible about not trusting your heart/emotions, because they can be swayed so easily. On the other hand, I know many people who legitimately met the Lord at events like this. Their emotions might have been toyed with a bit, but it was a real experience that brought about real life change. These events do make a difference.
Overall, I think these events are still worthwhile. Yes, they magnify emotions to an extraordinary level. Yes, they may even use some minor scare tactics to prove a point (again, may! not all do). But if just one person comes to know Jesus through them, they’re worth it. You can call it “getting saved”, “coming to Christ”, or whatever you want. But if one person’s life is changed, that’s what counts. At least in my opinion.