When I was a teenager, One Way Camp at Jumonville, PA was the highlight of my summer—those camps gave me the most vivid experiences of God in my entire life.  At the end of every camp we were treated to the message,

“This is a mountaintop experience.  When you get back to the ‘real’ world you need to stay strong in your faith because your church is not like summer camp.”

But why?  Why wasn’t my church like summer camp?

What made Jumonville so special that it could not be experienced at home?

Why was summer camp a powerful encounters with God and why was church so dry?

The answer is simple… summer camp was community as God designed it to be.

After all these years, I have come to the conclusion that these so called, “Mountaintop” experiences should have been held out as my ideal for church.  I should not have been told to go home and settle for the same dry and boring church community.  Those Jumonville camps should have been held-out as my model for “real” world church… instead they were set-aside as fond memories of warm summer days.

Each summer on that mountaintop we ate together.  We played together.  We sang songs of worship together.  We prayed and studied God’s word, together.  We laughed and cried… together.   Every day, we experienced God together!

The message at the end of summer camp should never be…

“your experience here with God is only a mountaintop experience”.

“this is the way God designed you to live out church.”

“You experienced God at camp because you experienced His community of Faith in action.”

“Don’t go home and settle for a Sunday morning faith.”

“Don’e go home and settle for the self-centered life that typifies the average Christian experience.”

“Go home with faith like a mustard-seed and move this mountaintop community into your church.”

My days at summer camp should not have been the exception to my Christian life, they should have been the model for how to live my Christian life.. with, in, and around the community of saints!

After too many decades of status quo church, I have come to believe that “Mountaintop Church” is what we need every day.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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