The Perfect Local Church

Perspectives on the local church that are illustrated by a night at the circus.

Our family gifted Ms. Kitty and I with a night at Cirque du Soleil. As we enjoyed this magnificent performance along with hundreds of other guests I began to think how this illustrates the local church from three perspectives.

PERFECT PERFORMANCE – MODEL OF A “PERFECT” CHURCH

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us… Romans 12:6 

The first perspective looks at the stage performance. There were no spectators on the stage. Every performer had one or more various skills (gifts). Most worked in teams but all worked together to tell the story to the audience. There were four tumblers that had a see-saw routine. They spotted for each other during the routine. When one would stumble or miss the mark, their “brother” would catch them and guide them back into place without missing a beat. How wonderful it would be in the local church if when someone stumbles they were caught by a loving brother and quickly corrected and returned to service.

PERFECT AND IMPERFECT MODEL:

The second perspective looks at the audience and the performers. This is an observation. Please do not be offended. Many churches fill the stage with gifted musicians, voices, and teachers. There is an audience (some of whom are also gifted) watching this worship team perform on stage. There are certainly ministries within these churches for Christians to develop their spiritual gifts and put them into service. There are many that only come as observers (the audience) and never develop or utilize their gifts.

LESS THAN PERFECT MODEL – THE IDEAL CHURCH

The final perspective looks at just the audience. The audience at the circus illustrated what Jesus had in mind for the local church. In our row there was a young couple that wore tattered jeans sitting next to folks in more formal attire. There were young and old, many languages (all understood the story – which was primarily told visually), and many cultures represented.

What if the audience members discovered and developed their own gifts. What if they took their “show” to the streets! What if everyone cared for one another, catching one another in a stumble and helping them back into their place. What if everyone smiled and greeted the folks next to them (regardless of color, culture, age, language, or financial class). What if they took that joy to the world (the streets) and shared the story of Christ and Him Crucified to a lost world and brought them on-stage with them?

The is the local church. An imperfect people with every person having a spiritual gift to offer. They love one another, support one another, and they serve together to tell the world that Jesus loves them. Less than perfect, but ideal.

A New Year – A New Focus

Serving as the director of Camp Horizon began as the dream of a fifteen-year-old boy. As a young Camp Horizon staff member, I fell in love with camp ministry and with another staff member, Kitty. A few years later, Kitty became my partner in life and in the work of the Lord.

Our camp mentors Ted & Karen Thisse and Charlie & Norma Lacey would live to see us bring our family to serve at Camp Horizon full-time. Everything was in the perfect timing of the Lord when He had prepared us with the tools to serve His purpose.

Our full-time service began in May 2000. Over the last twenty-two summers, we have been blessed to witness hundreds of people of all ages come to faith in Jesus Christ. Others found the assurance of their salvation, met their life partners, discovered their spiritual gifts, and so many other good things. Children born since our arrival to camp have become campers, staff, and are now collegians. Former staff members are now parents, grandparents, and serve in a wide variety of roles including customer service, healthcare, government, public safety, military, and science. It is encouraging to see so many of them serve the Lord in missions, as camp directors or speakers, and various other fields of Christian Service. We feel privileged to be eyewitnesses to what God has done in the lives of so many people through the ministry of Camp Horizon.

…I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need (Philippians 4:12b)

Ralph and Lucy VanDemark joined us in January 2002. Together, we served through a period of growth when seventy-two beds were added. We saw the Lord add the elusive Railroad Right-of-Way and ten acres of land to the Camp Horizon property. We served through storms and the rebuilding of the docks. We served when the economy tanked, and available funds were very limited. We served through the peak of COVID. We finished strong with a Dining Hall flooring project and the replacement of our freezer hardware.

Through it all, the Lord has always provided all that was needed. We feel honored to have witnessed God’s provision for this work. For those that love statistics, when we leave on December 31, 2021, we will have experienced over 2,500 overnight events and 200 Day Events. These events were attended by over 48,000 Overnight Guests and over 8,400 Day Guests. Kitty and Lucy have prepared over 6,600 meals to serve almost 695,000 servings of food (not including second helpings). It is our pleasure to have served the Lord in this way.

When Kitty and I announced to the Camp Horizon Executive Committee on January 4, 2019, that it was time to find our replacements, we agreed to stay through the fall of 2020 to make a smooth transition. We were caring for an aging parent and felt the pull back to life in Tampa but did not really have peace about leaving yet.

We prayed for that peace and guidance these past few years. We thought that peace would come when we trained our replacements, but replacements did not come. As the third year since our original letter of intent drew near, we consulted with our family and the leadership of our home assembly. After much prayer and some tears, on October 14 we gave the board notice of our intent to end our full-time responsibilities at Camp Horizon on December 31, 2021.

Our plans are to return to Tampa where Kitty will have more time to enjoy being a grandmother and to continue to serve homeschool families. I plan to spend more time teaching, writing, and doing grandfather kinds of things. I will be serving as an Administrative Consultant to the new Administrative Director, managing the websites, monitoring registrations, and working toward a smooth transition of responsibilities.

We feel privileged to have served the Lord at Camp Horizon in the peak of our physical strength and abilities. We are refocusing our efforts in ways that are appropriate for this season of our lives and our spiritual gifts. Our hearts will always be with the work of the Lord at camp, but our labors are best used elsewhere.

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3)

So, how we have been able to serve at Camp Horizon for so many years? It is the prayerful support of folks like you that has made this possible. Thank you for providing decades of encouragement to us in this work. It is with grateful hearts that we reflect on our life of service at Camp Horizon. What a privilege it is to serve our Lord. Please pray with us for ready hands to continue the work at Camp Horizon.

Again, thank you for praying with us through the years and we value your prayers as we refocus our ministry.