By Mic Thurber
What are your earliest memories of camp meeting? For me it was Lynnwood Academy in Southern California where we were living at the time. I was very young, so the Academy grounds seemed massive and intimidating. There were tents everywhere—some huge and some small ones, all neatly pitched in rows.
We lived close enough by that we didn’t need to camp, and we were mostly there for the main meetings, though I do remember going to the tent for my age group and seeing a sea of faces that I’d never seen before. Somehow, I felt I belonged even though I didn’t know anybody there.
As I got older and went to more and more camp meetings, though the settings, of course, changed, many things didn’t. Tents, campers, people, meetings, singing, and preaching even a young person could understand and enjoy. And the sense that I was part of something larger than just me and my family. As I grew, I grew to understand that the others there believed like I did. They loved Jesus and wanted Him to come back soon. There was something that always encouraged my young heart that what we believed and held to was real. And seeing so many others with the same hopes and yearnings just cemented them in my heart.
Now, of course, I’m older. Gone are most of the tents, though there are still a few of those kind of camp meetings to be found. Though the times have changed, and the facilities as well as time and financial availability of families to attend has changed, the same need still exists. The same benefits can still be found today at camp meeting.
It’s an old story that was really about a man who had no longer been coming to his church, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe it might apply to our relationship to camp meetings, too.
The backstory is that he had gotten crossways with a few members of the church and, in a moment of frustration and disagreement, left vowing never to return. A new pastor was assigned to the church and heard about the man’s decision and decided to visit him. So, he showed up unannounced.
The man’s wife, still faithful in her attendance, ushered the new pastor into the living room where the disgruntled man sat in his favorite easy chair staring at the fire. He didn’t even acknowledge the pastor’s presence. So, the pastor settled into the chair opposite the man and simply waited quietly with him. Still with no words exchanged between them, the pastor got up from the chair and picked up the fireplace tongs and reached into the fire and drew out a single, large, chunk of ember and placed it on the hearth and then sat back down.
Still intwined in their silence, the two men stared at the red-hot glowing ember and watched as it slowly grew first hot, then tepid, then finally … cold. It had died while in its background the fire from which it was separated was still burning strongly and brightly.
A few moments after the ember had completely died out, the man finally looked up at the new pastor and said, “Ok, preacher, I’ll be back next week.”
It’s hard to keep the fire of our heart’s yearning alive when we feel like it burns all alone. I can’t help but wonder if perhaps that wasn’t in the back of the mind of the author of Hebrews when we counseled the not to give up meeting together.
Of course, we hope that you stay committed to the fellowship of your own church family. But camp meetings can be a help even beyond your local church. Worshipping and fellowshipping with others even outside your local church can help further fan the flames of your commitment to Jesus. Realizing that you are part of something larger than yourself and your immediate faith community can bolster you in so many ways.
That’s why I hope that when camp meeting comes to your area, that you’ll make a commitment to join with so many others in celebrating what Jesus had done for you and pray together for His soon return.
Click here to find the full schedule and program details for 2023 RMC Camp Meetings.
—Mic Thurber is RMC president. Photo by Rajmund Dabrowski.