Summer is full of spiritual harvest events in most Oklahoma Baptist churches. Camps have already begun at CrossTimbers and Falls Creek. Across our state, many fine associational camps will host groups for several weeks this summer. In every place, the Gospel rings out with clarity, and many children and youth will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Vacation Bible School (VBS) remains one of the most significant evangelistic harvest events in our churches. All week children sit under the teaching of the truth of Scripture. Some churches have a decision service where the pastor preaches the Gospel and children are given the opportunity to respond. Others do as I did when in the pastorate; I would go to each classroom of older children and sit among them, present the Gospel, and give an invitation to repent and trust Christ as Savior. The main point, no matter the methodology, is that the Gospel is offered and children have opportunity to respond.
But what will we do with these individuals who have responded to the Gospel after VBS or camp is over? I have, for years, heard people complain that kids who attend camp return fired up and cool off quickly, and these people blame the camp. I would suggest the challenge resides in the life of the church. The issue is not what happened at camp, but what happens when kids return from camp or after VBS comes to a close.
Following the harvest event, it is imperative that churches do all they can to engage parents of youth and children, which is not always easy. Many children come from homes where parents are disinterested and have no concern for their children’s spiritual journey. These parents allow their children to attend camp, VBS or church—but only because the child wants to go. Churches must develop a strategy of prayer and regular contact with the parents of these children. Once a child or teen comes to Christ, the church needs a team of prayer warriors who will engage in spiritual warfare on behalf of the parents and family.
Everyone who makes a decision for Christ in a harvest event should be led to follow the Lord in baptism. Baptism is not an optional event but the next step for a person who becomes a follower of Christ. Churches should not be nonchalant about baptism. Baptism is the public display of faith that acknowledges the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, as well as the person’s putting off of sin through the atoning work of Christ and the individual being raised to new life in Christ. The church should stay faithful in calling new believers to follow Christ in baptism.
Every child and teen deserves being discipled by an older believer. Follow-up must include one-on-one time with an older believer as well as class time. Every church should have a plan to help new believers understand the decision to follow Christ and how to become lifelong growing Christians. New believers should expect the church to teach the basic disciplines of the Christian life that will keep new Christians on the right path and growing in their spiritual walks for the rest of their lives.
I am convinced that many teens are only involved in church through Wednesday evening youth service. Teens who come to Christ at camp need aggressive youth leaders and pastors who work diligently to involve them in Sunday School and worship on Sunday. While I am thankful for the growth of Wednesday night youth groups, I am certain these groups can never become a substitute for being a part of the full body of Christ. These young people need to know their pastor and experience the love and relationship of the corporate body of believers.
An evangelistic harvest event is very important in the life of a church; however, the event is just the beginning of the work of the church. We dare not birth spiritual babies and leave them to feed themselves. We, the church, must be intentional and strategic in the way we nurture new believers into fully-devoted followers of Christ.