The yearly camp meeting is one of the most farsighted and important programs of our entire denominational pattern. It is humanly impossible to measure the tremendous benefits that our people derive from these yearly convocations. It is likewise impossible to fully measure the strength that the denomination as a whole receives from these annual gatherings.
It is an interesting observation that the camp meeting of a half century ago was the spiritual bulwark to many denominations. Little by little the spirit of modernism has overtaken the rank and file of present denominations, so that today the camp meeting may be looked upon as something only for the Ozarks.
There is a very close correlation between the strength of our denomination and the evangelical fervor of our camp meetings. Thousands of God's people on one campground, having in their midst a tremendous potential power rightfully developed during the camp meeting, could set the world on fire for God!
Throughout the Spirit of prophecy writings, counsel is given us relative to the purpose of these yearly gatherings. It is in the interest of this denomination that every minister and layman keep before him a clear vision as to the real purpose of our camp meetings.
Camp meeting to promote spiritual life among our people.—"Our camp meetings have another object. . . . They are to promote spiritual life among our own people. . . . We need to meet together and receive the divine touch."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 32.
Every effort should be put forth to place the divine imprint upon all who attend. Some will be on the grounds for no other purpose than to holiday or vacation. Such have a tendency to bring in a social atmosphere that might well jeopardize the spiritual.
Campground to be a vast school for soul winning.—"The ministers should be ready to act as teachers and leaders in the work of the camp when occasion requires. . . .
They should be able to speak words of cheer and courage, and to drop seeds of spiritual truth into the soil of honest hearts, to spring up and bear precious fruit."Ibid., p. 45.
It is no secret that there are those on our campgrounds who are wavering between two opinions, faltering, looking for strength of soul and mind. Should not our entire ministry be so organized that the spiritual condition of every pilgrim may be ascertained, and abundant help measured according to each one's need?
Camp meeting to be a time of counsel and prayer.—"Those who labor at camp meetings should frequently engage together in prayer and counsel. . . . There is far more being done by the heavenly universe than we realize in preparing the way that souls may be converted."—Ibid., p. 50.
Among the thousands that attend our yearly gatherings there are those who come burdened. Some have home problems. Some struggle along throughout the year in divided and broken homes. There are those present on the grounds who are spiritual delinquents, tithe delinquents, et cetera. Some on the grounds look for divine healing. Still others come burdened with the guilt of sin and evil habits. Such an array of men and women present the boldest challenge to God's servants. Wise efforts must be put forth so that all may receive proper attention and spiritual uplift.
Revivals to be conducted at camp meeting.—"At our camp meetings there are far too few revival efforts made. There is too little seeking of the Lord. Revival services should be carried from the beginning to the close of the meeting. The most determined efforts should be made to arouse the people."—Ibid., p. 64.
The spirit and fire of evangelism should be predominant throughout the meetings.
Especially are we cautioned against the use of such valuable time for the repetitious reporting of finances, business transactions, and other matters of little spiritual value.
Camp meeting devoted to spiritual interests.—"As far as possible our camp meetings should be wholly devoted to spiritual interests. They should not be made occasions for the transaction of business."Ibid., p. 44.
When scores, often hundreds, of people turn away from meetings for the sake of wandering or loitering on the grounds, then is it not reasonable to assume that the appeal from the pulpit is inadequate, and that power should replace person?
Camp meeting to be a time for praise meetings.—"In our camp meeting services there should be singing and instrumental music. . . . There would be much more power in our camp meetings . . . if more praise flowed forth from our lips to the honor and glory of His name."—Ibid., p. 62.
Should not the old-fashioned Amen be heard again and again throughout the services? Would not the spirit and power of the servant at the desk be increased if the unanimous Amen were heard repeatedly from the ministry?
Well-organized services of praise in song or testimony can be a power for good. And what could be more stirring than thousands of voices lifted to God in full-throated song? It is a well-known fact that the Roman church feared Martin Luther's meetings of praise and song more than it feared his polemic theology. It would seem that after a ten-day session on the grounds, every worshiper should have cleared his soul of the tunes of the world, and depart with songs of God in his heart and upon his lips. What a challenge for the ministers of music!
Camp meeting to give last warning message.—"The third angel's message is to be given with power. . . . We are in danger of giving the third angel's message in so indefinite a manner that it does not impress the people. So many other interests are brought in that the very message which should be proclaimed with power becomes tame and voiceless."—Ibid., p. 60.
Does it not seem reasonable that the camp meeting should be the very center of a high-powered preaching of the last warning message? Should not our people return from such gatherings on fire for God because they have been touched by that fire on the grounds? All too often other interests crowd out the real purpose of these gatherings.
Camp meeting to promote spiritual life among those not of our faith.—"In our work we have been perplexed to know how to break through the barriers of worldliness and prejudice, and bring before the people the precious truth which means so much to them. The Lord has instructed us that the camp meeting is one of the most important instrumentalities for the accomplishment of this work."—Ibid., pp. 31, 32.
Every effort should be put forth to advertise the camp meetings in the local newspapers. Reporters should be on hand to turn over to the great public presses the topics of news value. The radio should be employed so that several services of the series can be broadcast to the cities and towns around. Think of the effect "on the air" should thousands of our people join in singing "Faith of Our Fathers.- Such a broadcast would do wonders to stir the community into interest. All too often we conduct a full-dress camp meeting and the thousands of residents in our neighboring cities are totally unaware of it. Full-page advertisements in many of our smaller city papers would be rewarding. The opening night of camp meeting might be conducted, if convenient, in the city band shell. Why not? Then continue the series in the auditorium on the grounds.
The camp itself an object lesson to the worshipers.—"Every camp meeting should be an object lesson of neatness, order, and good taste. . . . Everything should be so arranged as to impress both our own people and the world with the sacredness and importance of the work of God."—Ibid., p. 34.
Everything of the appearance of a carnival should be removed. Often food stands are conspicuously placed, and a stranger wandering by the grounds sees gathered about them a laughing, joking, frivolous crowd. It would seem that all these stands, if needed, could be less conspicuously located, so as not to detract from the general appearance of the camp.
If ever there was a time when God's servants should work in a co-ordinated program, it is at the camp meeting. That is the time when every worker should have a definite spiritual office to perform. Surely none should be idle. Every servant should be girded with the towel and ready to give the water of life to those who come for refreshing. Yet how often are meetings forsaken even by fellow ministers because a "lesser light" occupies the desk. This attitude has been seen too often. Our worshipers are quick to notice a platform desertion when a lesser disciple occupies the pulpit, and they leave the meeting too. On this matter the servant of the Lord has spoken freely and pointedly.
Success of meeting depends upon you.—"Each one should feel that in a measure the success of the meeting depends upon him. Do not say: 'I am not responsible. I shall have nothing to do in this meeting.' If you feel thus, you are giving Satan opportunity to work through you."—Ibid., p. 41.
On this point I shall relate an incident that has stirred me. I once attended a large non-Adventist revival in a stadium seating some fourteen thousand people. The place was packed. A great build-up had been prepared for the speaker. The platform was lined with ministers of many faiths, many gray with years and ripe with experience. Then the speaker of the evening came in, a young man, hardly thirty-five. His preaching was good, but not at all tremendous. His topic was very average. The matter that impressed me so much was the overwhelming support this man had from the many on the platform. From the greatest to the least, all gave such tremendous support to this young man that it reflected through the audience and stirred thousands of hearts. Is there a greater tragedy than failing to support the man at the desk? What better suggestion can be presented to the audience for deserting the auditorium than to have an exodus from the platform? Brethren, these seemingly trivial acts often have a wider influence than we care to acknowledge.
I believe that the thousands coming to camp meeting again this year can be stirred as never before if we will once again review the purpose of the gathering, and once again take advantage of the fact that great power is in our midst. Rightly trained and stirred, these thousands could go home and set America on fire for God.
This can be the greatest year in our history of camp meetings, and it will be if we allow the spirit of evangelism to permeate throughout. What could be more thrilling than a huge baptism at the close of camp meeting? And would it be asking too much to consider plans for a great communion service on the last Sabbath afternoon of camp? Think it through.