His failed prophecy and spiritual arrogance didn’t just happen overnight. He didn’t just wake up one day last year and decide to violate the clear teaching of Scripture by setting a date for the return of Jesus. In fact, it all really began over 20 years ago.
In 1988, Camping was a popular Bible teacher at Alameda Bible Fellowship, part of the Christian Reformed Church. For 30 years, he had been buying radio stations and growing Family Radio. He hosted a popular call-in show where the self-taught Bible teacher answer questions and explained Bible passages to callers.
However, Camping had begun to be obsessed with the end of the world. He developed his own Old Testament dating system, which he used to calculate the exact age of the earth, time of biblical events and, supposedly, future prophesied events. His obsession troubled the leaders at his local church. When he refused to stop his controversial and unbiblical teaching, he and his local church parted ways.
Camping and the Church parted ways. He began to teach that many churches were no longer used by God. Later that turned into a call for all his listeners to leave their local church. Instead of attending church services and being involved there, they should study the Bible on their own and listen to his radio broadcast. The so-called “Church Age” ended in 1988. Hmmm. The year Camping was kicked out of his leadership position in a church is the same time God stopped using the Church and instead was using Camping and his Family Radio. Amazing how that all worked, isn’t it?
While Camping is obviously on a whole different level from the average Christian, many believe they can live their life as a Christian the same way Camping and his followers did – removed from a local church body, spiritually living entirely off radio and television sermons. God did not design you that. As a follower of Jesus Christ, you were created to be a part of His body, His bride.
This past Sunday, our local congregation celebrated the Lord’s Supper. As I sat there holding the elements, I began to think about how Jesus did not shed His blood just so I could be a Christian. He shed His blood so I could be a part of the Church. His body was not broken just so I could be an individual following Him. His body was broken so I would have the privilege of serving Him with others as a collective unit.
The people that were sitting around me, those I knew well and those I did not know so well, they are all part of my family. God saved me and gave me gifts and abilities for their benefit. I cannot serve them and serve with them sitting at home, listening to podcasts. I need to be there with them, involved in the life of the body.
Camping and his followers refused to be involved in a local church. Their distorted understanding of Scripture and heretical beliefs are no coincidence. They had no local church body to help them discern the meaning of difficult Bible passages. All they had was their own ideas and Camping’s radio broadcast.
Now that Camping has been proven false and made them all look like absolute fools, what do they have? Many of them will fall back in line with Camping and his lunacy because they are living isolated lives. They have no church family to help them see through their confusion and offer comfort and direction during the difficult time they are currently facing.
Listening to sermons can be beneficial, encouraging and convicting. There is nothing wrong with downloading some sermons from preachers across the nation and globe. The more you hear God’s Word taught the better, but church is more than simply listening to a sermon.
If you are a Christian, you should be a member of a local body of believers. Not only should you be attending services, you should be actively involved in serving the body there, along with the community.
Many of Camping’s followers probably never thought they would be where they are now – removed from any church setting, ridiculed by the nation and essentially dependent on an 89-year-old engineer to tell them what to believe. Their journey to this point was a long one, but the destination was established when they ignored the biblical commands regarding Jesus’ Church.
Don’t allow yourself the opportunity to end up like these people, find a local body of believers who gather, teach God’s Word, love each other and their community and live out the Word they have been taught. It’s biblical and it will keep you from becoming the next infamous false prophet.