I watched the 48 Hours Special last night on The Lord's Boot Camp. It is akin to the documentary Jesus Camp (which I'm trying to get a hold of) and outlines 3 youth as they attend a Teen Missions camp. Two of the students that they followed were being prepared for a mission trip to Zambia to work with children and one of the students was going to Indiana to evangelize at what looked like a county fair. The methods were pretty intense...providing "practice" evangelistic conversations on how to "lead" someone to the Lord and even going to a nursing home to "practice" on some elderly. They did personally challenging tasks that were designed to test their mettle and they came away with a clear sense of purpose and training for the tasks that they would undertake on their mission trips.
Okay. Hold up! A "practice" evangelistic conversation with elderly folks at the nursing home? Seriously? What makes it okay for a 13 year old (chock full of righteous training) to go into a vulnerable population and tell the woman how sinful she was just so that she can "pray the prayer" with her and write her name on a card. I'm not exaggerating...that's what happened. The other two students who were being trained for Zambia were shown to experience pretty rough conditions in order to be able to endure what they would physically have to endure. Their minds were shaped, their bodies were shaped, and then, just so that they wouldn't be a total mess, they brought in Billy Graham's grandson, Will, to build them back up and commission them for their trip. Hmm.
I'm all for evangelism, and I'm sure that the tv show was slanted to some degree, but I actually heard one of the leaders of the camp say that they "use" children to do the evagelism because who wouldn't want to talk to the children? Manipulation, anyone? I do not call what the kids were being trained to do as evangelism--sharing the good news. They were sharing a "hell fire and damnation" gospel (of which I was well acquainted during some of my formative years) that reeks of emotional (and temporary) conversion, the kind that requires asking Jesus into your heart again and again. Seriously? Unfortunately it is this manipulative, disjointed, fear-induced gospel that the world seems to be rejecting. I pray that the life-giving gospel of Christ is proclaimed and true evangelism--redemptive, faithful, hope-giving--is able to be shared.
This video is a part of a panel discussion that CBS engineered with a broad base of students to respond. There are several other videos and they provide some good food for thought to hear how teens themselves respond.