Deepening our relationships with Jesus Christ is often marked by what happens around events. It happens through life’s events as well as special events focused on calling us to a stronger walk with Christ. Spiritual Formation events often get described as mountain top experiences that are filled with hype and sensationalism on steroids. I’ve heard others say big discipleship events should not be offered because they are not real or even phony. I understand what the accusations are. Yet, I don’t agree with the often mis-placed descriptors. My life has been changed and shaped by many such events focused on taking an inventory of my personal relationship with Jesus.
Of course, if we live for big events to the exclusion of day-to-day, long-term community with others, we are limiting all God has for our spiritual growth. We were not made to go through life just from event to event. Rather, we are wired to go through everyday life with one another. In fact, one another is the most popularly used two-word phrase in the Bible. So, before we go too far with this discussion, let’s concede that there is validity in event discipleship as well as the need for community and accountability on a daily basis. It’s both-and.
Think about the events of scripture that formed individuals, groups, and even nations spiritually. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments, that one event shapes all followers of Jesus to this day. The day Jesus delivered the Sermon of the Mount was an incredibly impactful Christian rally. The scenes leading up to and including the Cross of Calvary definitely left an impression on all who participated. In fact, that one event has made it possible for my life to be completely transformed. What was it like to be at special feast days in the Old Testament or the events that occurred on ceremonial days like Pentecost? Imagine being with more than five hundred who met with the resurrected Lord at the same time! (I Cor 15:6) All of these are events that shaped and formed the faith of eventual millions. If this is the case, how can anyone say that providing events for spiritual impact are phony?
Yes – event discipleship often includes elements that are above the norm. There is a very intentional quality of preaching, music, and spiritual focus at events that is designed to do business with God. They are inspiring and they are marked by the most effective quality of ministry that we can provide, because we are hoping for more impact for Christ’s Kingdom. There is often a more focused emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit at events expecting discipleship. I was personally called into vocational ministry at a Wesleyan Youth Convention. Why is this sometimes criticized? We don’t analyze athletic or musical events with the same philosophy. Some of us love World Cup soccer, but still find value in kicking the soccer ball around the yard with the kiddos. We value all of it. Some of us love to attend a great concert, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to sing in the shower. It all has value, in its context. The same goes for event discipleship.
Tens of thousands will participate in special discipleship events this summer. Many will be introduced to Jesus for the first time. Others will make commitments to follow Christ more intently. Lives, churches, and communities will be transformed because of the spiritual events of the summer months. Youth camps and retreats have shaped my journey for the good of my walk with Christ. I am continually nurtured in my daily walk with Jesus through the ministry of a local Wesleyan church. What’s the point? Event discipleship is important. So are Sunday School classes and small group Bible studies. Do the math. Consider the validity of both sides of the equation when praying for the sum result of Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations!
And please, remember to pray for the children, youth, and adults who are being impacted by the Holy Spirit at church camps this summer.