Releasing a New Generation of Camp Meeting Speakers and Evangelists
A New Generation
There is a new generation of men and women whom God is using to speak to the church this Summer in the Camp Meetings held across the nation. I have spent most of my tenure as General Overseer praying that open doors of opportunity will come to what I call The Jeremiah Generation and this year’s Camp Meeting schedule seems to indicate that those doors are indeed opening more and more.
I am grateful.
I recall when Church of God State Overseer, V. R. Mitchell, invited me to be the evening Evangelist for an Idaho Camp Meeting 42 years ago in 1981. I was 21 and ’I will never forget that week. For a young man at that age and totally lacking in experience, it was a huge moment for me. After 42 years, I do hope the content of my preaching is much better now than then. Nonetheless, it was an unforgettable experience. What I remember most though, was the night police officers came to arrest me and the State Bishop on a charge of disturbing the peace. It seemed that the neighbors didn’t like the loud music and preaching coming through the open windows and that cars parked in the streets were hindering the flow of neighborhood traffic. We did avoid going to jail but it was close. That’s a story for another time.
Sometime later, South Georgia Overseer C. E. Landreth invited me as a 30 year old pastor to the first South Eastern USA Camp Meeting I would preach, back in the day when the same evangelist brought the message every night for 7 consecutive nights, Monday through Sunday. In the years since, Paula and I have enjoyed sharing in Camp Meetings throughout the Church of God. But needless to say, time does what time does and just as it should, time makes a place for new voices to speak into the new generations. As one generation begins to exit, embarking on different seasons of fruitful purpose, new sons and daughters find their places on broader ministry platforms. God is pleased and the church is blessed when fathers release their sons and daughters to grow in their gifts and experience the opportunities to which they were called.
Mentoring A New Generation
For myself, I choose to embrace the mentoring role I may at this time or soon enter. While I’ve not quite yet finished my journey, my greatest goal in that journey is not to add one more Camp Meeting to my “been there and done it” list. My greatest goal is to now help a younger generation of ministers to succeed. And that includes those who may be given opportunities at Camp Meetings and other conventions. With that in mind, I have compiled a list of 25 “do’s, don’ts and some things to think about” when invited to be a featured speaker in a Camp Meeting.
Here we go:
Understand where you are and what you’ve been invited to. A Camp Meeting speaker steps into a unique arena and on to what can even be viewed by some, as an influential platform. If not treated with holy honor, humility and respect for God, the people and the ministry itself, then the altitude of the experience can quickly lend itself to dangerous shallow breathing and a light-headed, dizzy existence for the human ego. On the other hand, there’s something unique about the atmosphere, the anticipation and even the expectation that God is about to do a marvelous thing. While nothing compares to the ministry of and at the local church, a Camp Meeting is an opportunity for those churches to bring their uniqueness into a setting where the power of the combined unity among them produces unusual blessings from God.
Prepare spiritually, mentally and physically. The Camp Meeting speaker becomes the target of heat-seeking, satanic missiles aimed at your mind, body and soul. The enemy wants to deplete and defeat you before, during and after the event. Sometime, I’ll tell you my stories. Just know that God will protect you and keep you as you rest in him.
Consider the demographics of the region. This is important to remember if you are one who needs crowd response and feedback. The response to your preaching will be different from region to region. Don’t let it throw you.
In sermon preparation, lean toward what the Holy Spirit may have been speaking to you in recent days in your own setting of ministry. It’s fresh and inspiring to you and will most likely speak to many others in a Camp Meeting setting. Of course, if it’s a sermon or a series specific to your own congregation, few others may know or appreciate your context.
Don’t focus on displaying why you deserve to be there. It is assumed that God has invested something in your life that He is using to bring you to this kind of platform. Let your gift speak for itself.
Preach to encourage, inspire and strengthen the people. Preaching on current events and issues has its place and never be afraid to go there. However, the pastors you are speaking to have been gut-punched by something or someone, somewhere and they need a dose of hope. Don’t forget that.
Don’t buy into the idea of using “Camp Meeting Currency” to achieve a particular future. Don’t intentionally try to use this opportunity for paving any kind of particular pathway. Granted, the Camp Meeting platform has by its very nature, introduced many individuals to a broader audience. That can’t be ignored. However, this should never be a motivator for anyone to aspire to stand on such a platform.
Remember who your audience is. You are preaching to pastors, evangelists and laity. Honor them for their faithfulness to God and to the Church.
Publicly give honor to the Overseer and his vision for the region and show appreciation for him, his wife and their team.
Don’t rehash every name on the program that someone else has already listed. It’s just not necessary.
Don’t be imprisoned by the pressure to perform. Flow in your gift as a preacher. Be yourself and don’t try to be anyone else. In one Camp Meeting, a man actually said to me as I was stepping up to preach, “Tim, you’re only as good as your last Camp Meeting sermon.” He said it as a joke, but I wrestled with the reality of that pressure for a few minutes until I could preached my way out of it.
Preach with the end result in mind. The altar call and prayer time is what you’re working toward. Unfortunately, Camp Meetings have somewhat moved away from the evangelistic, soul-reaching revival they were originally birthed to be. However, the evangelist must never forget that it is still likely that in a Camp Meeting crowd, someone needs Jesus and backsliders need to come home. Give them that opportunity.
Worship along with everyone from the start of the service. It’s too late to study your notes at that point. Participate in the service. Everyone appreciates it.
Always express publicly your gratitude for the opportunity you have been given.
Depend on God’s ability to use all you lay before him in prayer
If after your first Camp Meeting, you’d like to speak at any more of them, then trust God to be your best promoter. I promise you, it will take care of itself. It’s fine to place on social media your expressions of joy and honor of being involved, but use good judgement, good taste and good sense.
Remember you’re in a Pentecostal meeting so approach it as such.
Respect and support the other speakers by attending at least one service in the morning when they are speaking.
Don’t make grand entrances and leave your entourage at home. It’s not that impressive.
Honor your spouse in your remarks. After all, she has likely heard this sermon at least twenty times already and she deserves some appreciation for that fact alone.
When possible, walk slow through the crowd when the service is over. Love the people and let them connect with you.
Go to your room at the end of the evening and thank God for giving you an opportunity to represent Him and speak into the lives of hundreds of pastors and others who possibly will even repeat in their own sermons what they heard you preach.
Acknowledge within yourself that you didn’t get “there” alone. God’s calling, the Holy Spirit’s anointing, your own personal preparation, an open door offered by an Overseer, a denomination that still values these kinds of gatherings, and of course, your own credibility and availability. It all works together. It’s kind of like the turtle sitting on a fence post. It didn’t get there without some help.
With much humility, be grateful that you were invited to participate in such a gathering. Not everyone will get to.
Give yourself to God for any future opportunities, remembering that your greatest goal in life is NOT preaching that Camp Meeting or a hundred more. Your greatest goal is to serve the Lord by loving your family, washing the feet of the beggar, feeding a hungry child and caring for “the least of these, my brethren.”
Jesus will never say, “Well done, thou good and well in demand, Camp Meeting preacher. You brought in the crowd and astounded them with your eloquent oratory.” The fact is, Jesus isn’t as nearly impressed that you preached a Camp Meeting as you think he might be.
What you do want to do though, is survive your success and not let it inflate your self worth. Lay it down at Jesus feet and rejoice when he refers to you as His “good and faithful servant.”
Now let’s have Camp Meeting and pray for the Lord’s touch on a new generation.