Is Camp Meeting Worth It?

Amid the pre-camp meeting duties, I was sitting in the new Upper Columbia Academy cafeteria enjoying the great food when a discussion started between two pastors at my table about whether or not camp meeting was “worth it.” The dialogue went something like this:

One pastor said, “Camp meeting costs a lot of money. We are not being good stewards of money when we hold this event every year. Think of all the ways we can win souls to Jesus that cost less.”

The other pastor replied, “I completely disagree with you. Camp meeting is important not just for non-members; it is important for the church family to get together once a year, to reconnect.”

The discussion went on with a few at the table piping in on one side or the other.

I came away from the discussion wanting to hear what guests at camp meeting thought, so I asked some of them, "Is camp meeting worth it?"

The weather performed beautifully for this year's “More Like Jesus” event, with the rain shutting off just in time for the Wednesday arrivals and the first meeting with John McVay, Walla Walla University president. He had some great words of wisdom Wednesday night. His talk “When Jesus Calls Your Name” reminded us that Jesus knows everything about us, therefore we should be careful how we treat His people — loving them and treasuring them just as Jesus does. When Jesus calls your name, the weak become strong and outcasts belong. When Jesus calls your name, prejudices are lifted and perspectives are shifted.

When Meghin Salmon was asked if camp meeting is “worth it,” she said, “Sometimes we get tunnel vision in our own community and churches. When we come together we have a more wholistic view and a wider understanding of our mission. So yes, it definitely is.”

The beginner class had a wonderful set, and the children enjoyed learning about Jesus as a young boy. Suzette McCrary and her team were appreciated by parents, who said the program was “awesome.” Kindergarteners learned about Moses in their “Wilderness Escape” program. Zaccheus, the little donkey, visited all the children’s programs, and the “Time Machine" in primary was a big hit. Community service projects accomplished by the juniors were appreciated and fit well with their theme, "More and More and More and More and More Like Jesus!"

Dan Jackson, North American Division president, arrived Friday and spoke about “What Jesus Did,” on Friday night. He confessed that he is a Christian because of what 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” During the Sabbath worship time, Dan spoke about “What Jesus Does,” reminding us that Jesus ate with sinners and hung out with them and we should be like Jesus. He also said, “If you are telling people about tofu, make sure it is connected in some way with Jesus Christ.”

Camp meeting ended with a talk from Paul Hoover, Upper Columbia Conference president. His solemn statement, “We are living in times that our spiritual fathers and mothers have talked about for a long time,” perked up many ears. He said, “We don’t have the luxury of time. We are becoming more like Him or more hardened to Him.” A shuttle driver reported that some of the guests had tears in their eyes as they left the Saturday evening service. They told the driver they were blessed by Hoover’s words, and they will never be the same.

Joyce Woods answered my question with, “It is important for us to see friends and fellowship with people from churches all over, who we never get to see just going to our own church.” What is the value placed on one soul who is saved? Jesus said He would come to die for just one person.

I caught up with the second pastor after camp meeting and shared more reasons on the value of camp meeting. He said, “Many people who never come to church on a regular basis come to camp meeting. When people come to an event just to have fun, they still leave with something else, and they learn more about Jesus. There is tremendous value in small congregations coming together at camp meeting and finding new joy worshipping with the larger, vibrant church and finding a new grasp on life.”

The one thing both pastors agreed on is that they would love to see camp meeting guests of all ages have the opportunity to do community outreach, to serve in a way that makes a difference to the community. They felt camp meeting must be more than a social event where we pat each other on the back, get great books and food on sale, and go home. These things are nice, but the bigger picture, that of becoming “more like Jesus,” dictates that we find a way to bring the “What Jesus Does” element to camp meeting and model that.

I enjoyed the pastors’ spirited discussion. Perhaps we can use it to help us zero-in on our focus, to help as many people as possible develop a closer, trusting relationship with Jesus. If that happens, I’m guessing all would agree that camp meeting is “worth it.”