GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Joshua Brinks attended Centrifuge Mega Week with a specific goal in mind — to become a better witness to his peers.
Sure, the opportunities to play sports, hang out with friends and make new ones were enticing to Brinks, a member of Applewood Baptist Church in Denver. But when it was time to decide what classes to take, the teen’s first choice was a session designed to help him become a better peer minister.
“I’m trying to figure out how to witness to people who’ve been in the Christian family and are starting to doubt their faith,” he said. “I’m trying to find a way they can really understand that the Christian walk is really the only walk that’s right.”
The class on peer ministry was offered during Centrifuge Mega Week, July 27-Aug. 2, at LifeWay Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center. Sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Centrifuge Mega Week is a Christian camp for teens in grades seven through 12. With resources to handle attendance between 800-1,200, Centrifuge Mega Weeks are larger events than regular Centrifuge camps.
During the weeklong camp, Centrifuge staff members, parents, counselors and youth leaders worked to help bring the 800-plus students who attended to a new understanding of the Christian faith. With the theme “Reel Life” and a Bible study of the Book of James, they sought to show students what it means to live the real Christian life — everyday, 365 days a year. That idea pervaded worship, Bible study and even recreation.
And it was the basis of the peer ministry class. Instead of learning set-in-stone, specific witnessing formats, participants discussed specific situations they had faced sharing their faith. The discussion, which often revolved around ministering to atheist friends, peers with self-esteem issues or family members, often helped generate new ideas and approaches to peer ministry.
While Brinks took the class on peer ministry with a specific friend in mind, other participants expressed a desire to share their faith in general with friends or classmates. But they weren’t quite sure how to go about it.
Led by Michael Cooper, a Centrifuge staff member from Oklahoma City, the class was full of straight talk and practical advice. The overlying theme of the class meshed with the theme of Centrifuge as a whole — it is not always what you say that makes for effective witnessing, but what you do. Becoming a peer minister is more about living out your faith on a daily basis.
“Your witness starts with your actions,” Cooper said. “They’re going to see that before anything else. So often today, people don’t believe because they don’t think God is real. If you’re totally living for God, then lives will be changed.”
Living as a Christian witness was an idea that resounded with Amanda Schmidt, a participant from Arapaho Baptist Church in Garland, Texas.
“Witnessing isn’t just about saying you know Christ, but actually living it,” she said as she offered her own advice during the class.
Though the class set its own agenda, Cooper offered some advice to students.
“The truth is, God doesn’t expect us to go out there and save people,” he said. “He expects us to go out and share the gospel. Our job is to present it, to live it out in our actions so that they come to the Lord.”
He warned the students not to blame themselves if someone they have witnessed to does not accept Christ. He said that reaction could easily lead to burnout and ineffectiveness.
“All we are is tools,” he said. “That’s all I am. At best, I am a servant.”
Pointing out peer ministry does not stop with witnessing, Cooper urged them to remember the power of prayer. And if a friend accepts Christ, he encouraged the students to take them to church and study the Bible with them.
“Christianity isn’t made to be a lone-ranger religion,” Cooper said. “It’s meant to be a community.”