“I’m just not really the religious type,” Matt* told me when I asked him what spiritual lesson he had learned. “It works for my family, but not for me.” We had just finished a rock climbing activity where we challenged the students to consider what true faith is really all about. Matt is from a long family legacy of strong Christian leaders, a family that has been involved with Redcloud for 30 years. His grandfather was a strong example of faith, his father served on staff at Christian camps, and his brother is following in this legacy. But Matt just didn’t seem to get it.
Matt was part of a group that seemed to be completely unreachable. “These kids won’t say a word,” their very frustrated head guide Todd told me one evening after their evening discussion. “I just want to know where they are with Christ. How do I get them to open up?” I didn’t have a formula or quick fix for him, but I prayed with him and encouraged him to pull the students aside and talk with them each individually. “Help them see the difference between religion and having a relationship with Jesus Christ,” I told Todd.
Over the past few years I have seen a big shift in people’s reaction to Christianity. They think about Jesus Christ as a religious figure, and religion has become a vile thing to many people. It is understandable why: religion enslaves and it kills. It kills the minds and enslaves the heart of those who follow its systems. It condemns anyone whose outward appearance doesn’t match up to its rules and regulations. Jesus hung out all the time with the “Sinners” and the outcast of society, and they never gave Him any trouble. The little children who clamored to Jesus never hurt Him. But it was the religious leaders of the day who sought to have Jesus murdered. Jesus wasn’t the religious type either. Instead, He lived in perfect relationship with His Father. He confronted head-on the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His day. He showed us how to really care for those in need, to accept those who don’t measure up to the religious system, and to truly show His love to the world.
That evening, Todd pulled Matt aside, and as they each sipped a milkshake Matt opened up to Todd, who listened to Matt’s questions and answered as best as he could. Religion, Todd explained, is about trying to please God by our own effort. But it is impossible please God by our own effort. He explained the difference between human effort and faith. The milkshakes were long gone before they were done, and it was late that evening when Todd brought Matt in and introduced him as our newest brother in Christ!
This summer was one of the best summers of ministry I have experienced – this was just one of many times where God came through and revealed Himself. Matt was one of over 15 kids who began a relationship with Jesus Christ this summer. I am so thankful that God has allowed me to be a part of such a great summer and watch so many people Come Alive!
* Name Changed for Privacy