A Note from the Editor-In-Chief: At Worldview Academy Leadership Camps we are not fans of the traditional “camp high” experience. Just like we are not fans of camp “fluff.” Instead everything we do serves the purpose of deepening the student’s understanding of the Biblical worldview. Our students often experience an emotional “camp high,” but we want them to also experience a different kind of excitement. A lasting “high” which comes from experiencing real christian community and knowing that God’s word is trustworthy and applicable to every corner of their lives.
In this article, one of our staff reflects on these different kinds of camp highs and on the dangers of equating all emotional experiences with fluff. The excitement of a camp high isn’t bad, unless it’s excitement without substance. When we disparage a student’s excitement, we threaten to disparage his or her faith.
Summer nights? Check.
Camp fire? Check.
Two hundred young trusting minds? Check.
Soul-moving messages? Check.
Big things happen at summer camps; big life decisions and big emotional highs. This experience is often referred to as the “camp high.” My first “camp high” happened at Rock’n C Ranch in Lindale, Texas. I was 14 and my spiritual journey was just picking up pace. I’d heard great teaching, participated in moving and tearful worship. I’d even made commitments to Christ. I loved this camp and I went back for several more years.
It is good to be joyful about truth and hopeful about the promises of Christ . . . It is hope that gives us the strength to live!
One night, I had an experience that I still vividly remember. Overwhelmed with the reality of God, I wept in front of the whole camp. As I tried to communicate the magnitude of my experience, my mind swam with the messages I had heard, my youthful zeal boiled over. I wept harder than I ever had before, or have since. I vaguely remember my youth pastor praying for me, but I clearly remember feeling God’s presence. I left that camp changed and deeply impressed with a knowledge of God’s love for me.
Too bad, it was just a “camp high”.
Or not. How sad would that be if that was the conclusion I came to? If I believed that moment of realizing God’s love and being broken by the reality of a living God was nothing more than an emotional experience? That there was no substance to my joy?
Some look at summer camps and the “camp high” experience as manipulation. After all, how fair is it to keep a bunch of kids up late and, while playing emotional music, push them to share their souls?
Does it follow that their experience of God isn’t real?
Hell swallows hope . . . Hell denies and doubts God’s work. Hell is death and it is the enemy of joy.
First we ought to define our terms. What is a “camp high?” There are at least two kinds. One is created by an intensity of experience. The other is grounded in reality, in truth, and in real good. The first high is often as short as it is intense. It dies away as the “moment” is forgotten. The second high can be similarly intense at first, but because it is grounded in truth, part of it “sticks”—if it is not snuffed out.
Where does the good “high” come from? It is fostered at camp when truth is discussed with others who love the truth — when students feel that it is normal to talk about God and the reality of Scripture. From this sanctuary, students leave knowing three things:
1) Scripture is trustworthy.
2) There are are other people who really believe that Scripture is True.
3) They are not alone, and they are loved.
This is the great secret to a good camp high. Seeing clearly the reality of Scripture lived out.
Don’t smother youthful zeal, instead rejoice with it and take the time necessary to see that its roots are sunk in the truth of Christ.
The fruit of this knowledge is an attitude of calm boldness, perhaps even zeal, that was not present before camp. Students start talking of “witnessing” and starting a Bible study with their friend groups. Some find the course of their lives altered forever.
Yet, sometimes these young people hear, “Give it a few weeks, we’ll see if you’re the same after the high’s worn off.” Their feelings of joy, boldness, and clarity are de-legitimized by a single comment. The message is: “What you just experienced is not real.” “Your confidence has no substance.”
If you were to take Hell and gift wrap it in a sentence, that is what it would sound like.
Hell swallows hope. It kills joy. While love hopes all things, Hell scorns them. Hell denies and doubts God’s work. Hell is death and it is the enemy of joy. It devalues what is good and makes a mockery of what God made life to be.
Affirm and guard sprouting hope in the wake of tasting real good.
Hell suggests that all emotional experiences are empty and fatigue-induced. But is that reality? Or could it be that there was true community? That there was real joy from being with the body of believers? Could it be that the truth we hear and the revelations we have are actually little tastes of heaven? That they were real?
God is good. So let us affirm what is good as being from God (Jam. 1:17). It is good to be excited about community experienced at camp. It is good to be joyful about truth and hopeful about the promises of Christ in this life. It is good to boldly share your hope. It is hope that gives us the strength to live!
Why? Because the hope we have is that one day we will know the “camp high”—real joy—in full without the possibility of loss! On the day of our resurrection, we will have life and have it abundantly. So go! Encourage the good kind of “camp high!” Affirm and guard sprouting hope in the wake of tasting real good. Don’t smother youthful zeal, instead rejoice with it and take the time necessary to see that its roots are sunk in the truth of Christ.