By Martin E. Willoughby, Jr.
In the midst of the routines in life, and even in the church, it is easy to lose sight of the center of our faith—Jesus.
Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola in their book Jesus Manifesto describe this as a “Jesus Deficit Disorder.” Without Christ, all things lose their meaning. Christianity can quickly become just another religion among many. It can be a series of “do’s” and “don’ts.” We might follow the rules with our head, but without love in our hearts.
Sweet and Viola encourage us to “Seek Christ, embrace Christ, know Christ.” They remind us that “Christianity is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is not an ideology or a philosophy. Neither is it a new type of morality, social ethic, or worldview. Christianity is the ‘Good News’ that beauty, truth, and goodness are found in a person.”
When I see people who have that vital, connected, loving relationship with Christ, there is just something different about them. They are on a different agenda than the mainstream. They are not simply sprinkling in some “Christianity” into a busy life pursuing worldly goals. Christ is at the center of their lives. Not just as Lord, but also as the loving Father. They connect with Him in prayer not out of obligation but out of joy and love.
My good friend Shawn Dean, who is a regular contributor to this magazine, is an encourager to me by his passion for Christ. Just like all of us, Shawn is imperfect and experiences challenges in life, but he has a love of Jesus that is infectious.
Several years ago, he felt a stirring in his heart that he was to help others experience the true vibrancy and love of Christ. He wanted to help others have a more intimate experience with Jesus to know and love Him more. Shawn had been leading a prayer group for years, but he felt like the men needed more time away from the hustle and bustle to be still and hear the voice of God.
Using his own resources, Shawn organized the first Camp Jesus. He rented facilities at a retreat center for a weekend and invited any man who was hungry for Christ to show up. With a loose agenda, the men sang together, prayed together, and heard the Word of God shared by gifted speakers. Men were real with each other, candidly shared about their challenges, and all were united in seeking more of Christ. Camp Jesus has turned into an annual event each fall, and last year he started a Camp Jesus for Women. It was a tremendous success and will be repeated again this year in April.
I share this story because what is noteworthy to me is that Shawn is not a pastor, missionary, or in full-time ministry. Shawn works as a manufacturing representative and is a father to three young children. He has no more time than the rest of us in his day. However, he is motivated by his own love of Jesus and the desire for others to experience that love as well.
February is certainly a time of the year when we are encouraged by the marketplace to do something special to demonstrate our love. While that is certainly a good thing to do any time of the year, perhaps this year we can also reflect on the true source and object of our love, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. For those interested in learning more about Camp Jesus, you can contact Shawn Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Martin E. Willoughby Jr. is a Principal with Butler Snow Advisory and the author of Intentional Faith. He and his wife, Nicki, have two children, Ally and Trey, and live in Memphis, Tennessee.