It’s a typical summer weeknight inside Hatch Auditorium on the grounds of the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell.
Several hundred middle and high school students are gathered for worship, and their collective voices sing a song about a central truth they’ve been learning about during the weeklong camp.
“We are Your church / And we need Your power in us,” they sing in unison, many with hands raised high.
Those lyrics from the praise song “Build Your Kingdom Here” underscore a truth that many of the campers had not previously considered: the church is not a building. Instead, it’s a called out body of believers. The church is the people.
As they sing, the campers are testifying, “We are Your church.” And over the course of the week, many of them realize, some for the first time, that “I am the church.”
This scene played out repeatedly over the course of the summer as part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual summer youth weeks events sponsored by BeDoTell, the state convention’s youth evangelism and discipleship ministry.
‘On This Rock’
The 2019 camp theme was “On This Rock,” based upon Matthew 16:18 in which Jesus declares to Peter, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Nearly 6,500 attendees representing more than 275 churches attended one of the eight youth week offerings held from June to August. During each week of camp, attendees focused on Jesus as the foundation of the church. They also explored five areas of the church from Acts 2 — worship, evangelism, discipleship, missions and fellowship.
Through worship services, small group Bible studies, skits and more, camp preachers, leaders and chaperones challenged campers to be the church by engaging in each of those five areas.
More than 450 students trusted Christ as Savior, more than 1,500 made rededications and 125 more answered a call to ministry during summer youth weeks.
‘Be the church’
Being the church means being a true worshipper of Jesus while also growing and teaching others to grow in their walk with Christ.
“Discipleship and understanding how to be a follower of Jesus and what that really means really hit home,” said Donovan Turnmire, youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Maiden. Turnmire said 37 students and 12 chaperones from his church attended youth weeks.
Being the church means sharing the gospel with those who don’t know Christ. Camp leaders and chaperones trained each camper in how to share the gospel using the “3 Circles” evangelism tool.
Brian Thompson, youth pastor at Shady Grove Baptist Church in Boonville who also served as a camp small group leader, led three campers to Christ after explaining the “3 Circles,” a conversational tool that uses three circles to represent God’s design, brokenness and the gospel.
“That never gets old,” said Thompson, who brought 24 students and 10 chaperones to camp. “It’s so awesome to see students’ eyes light up when they accept Christ as their Savior.”
Collectively during the summer, more than 450 students made a first-time profession of faith at camp. More than 1,500 others recommitted their lives to Christ, and 125 more answered a call to vocational ministry.
Being the church means engaging in ministry and missions on a local and global level. While at camp, every attendee participated in a hands-on missions opportunity by packaging meals for Haiti through a partnership with the House of Abraham, a biblically based group home for children in Jacmel, Haiti.
Throughout the summer, campers packed a total of 285,500 meals and gave more than $70,000 in offerings to cover the cost of shipping and distributing the meals to Haiti. As part of the partnership with the House of Abraham, the gospel is presented to the recipient of each meal that is distributed. The partnership is now in its ninth year, and campers have packed approximately 2.3 million meals for Haiti during that time.
Being the church also means experiencing fellowship with one another based on a shared union with Christ.
“Be the church that stops looking at each other and starts looking after each other,” Mike Satterfield, founder of Field of Grace Ministries, told attendees. Satterfield was one of the weekly camp proclaimers who preached during daily worship services.
The emphasis on worship, evangelism, discipleship, missions and fellowship wasn’t just eye-opening for students.
Merrie Johnson, the BSCNC’s senior consultant for youth evangelism and discipleship who also directs summer youth weeks, said this year’s camp was enlightening for pastors and church leaders as well.
“The wake-up call — even for pastors who attended camp — is they say, ‘I’ve never evaluated my church in those five areas,’” Johnson said. “Maybe they’ve emphasized worship or fellowship, but they realize that they should be doing all of these things to be a healthy church.”
“It’s been neat to see how God has worked in the lives of both students and adults this summer. At the end of camp, many of them have said, ‘I want to go home and change our church.’”