Thursday, January 12, 2017

It's OK to not go to a Christian college!

One of the things that I'm trying to do more purposefully here in 2017, is work on at least one area of skill development or personal development each and every day (other than on my day off). I'm currently reading through a leadership book by Brad Lomenick, one of the main guys over at Catalyst. (How this applies to the title of this post, you'll see in a second.)

Since the very beginning of my time working in the field to which God has called Emily and me, one of the most distressing and saddening things is how many churches (sometimes inadvertently) 'excommunicate' or ostracize those youth in their congregations who make the decision to attend a 'secular' college rather than a Christian one. This past school year, just prior to the start of school, I saw on a Restoration Movement minister's Facebook page ministers talk about how we should take time to pray and support those students who are about to begin their semester at one of 'our' Christian universities. (Of course I couldn't simply let that pass without saying something, so I did so in the most loving and kind way that I could.) However the fact remains, I believe this post reveals an issue that is troubling and that has resulted in some drastic implications/consequences for our students who make the decision to go somewhere else other than a Christian university. From serving in campus ministry, I see many students who have grown up in youth groups and plugged into the 'typical' American church programs make the decision to simply walk away from the faith in which they had been raised. A lot of times, this is a result of their own lack of discipline, spiritual depth, etc. Yet I think the truth that a lot of congregations today would like to ignore, is that we very much so carry a part of the blame in this. What am I talking about? I believe it's rather obvious. By emphasizing our 'pride' of those students going to 'Christian' universities over non-Christian ones, we've effectively removed a support structure (even if it's just perceived by the student as removed) for those who choose the non-Christian college route. While working up in PA, this was one of the BIGGEST sought after things of why students got plugged into things such as sororities, fraternities, and why they looked anywhere and everywhere for a new support network.

 If you ask me, I believe that in reality, the students who enroll in non-Christian universities need our support even more than those who enroll in Christian ones. Now don't hear what I'm NOT saying. I still think that students who go to Christian universities need our support, but we shouldn't neglect those who feel God's calling into a career that requires them to study and train at a school other than a Christian university. Even the simplest of things can help combat this feeling of 'non-support' that these students deal with. For example, the next time your church decides to send care packages to your college students, DON'T FORGET THE ONES AT NON-CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS! (Not getting a care-package while hearing that your buddies at the Christian college got one communicates that you don't really care about them whether you mean that or not.) Another way to think about the importance of supporting these students is to think about it this way. While students who enroll in Christian universities are often training to be the next preachers, ministers, and pastors of our churches, it is the students who come out of non-Chrisitian universities who are (primarily) becoming the elders of the church of tomorrow. I firmly believe the 'church' today needs to stop only rewarding and supporting students who are obeying God and pursing their calling into vocational ministry (enrolling in only Christian universities), and start ALSO rewarding and supporting students who are obeying God (in arguably a more risky way) and pursuing THEIR calling into a field where they are going to be missionaries in their own right.

 What prompted me to write all of this and finally get it out of my head so others can read it, you ask? Well, it was a small blurb I read in Lomenick's book, that when I read it confirmed (once again) all of what's been bothering me for so long. I'll conclude and challenge you with this:

"When the time came to begin looking at colleges, I was naturally drawn to Christian colleges. I figured if I anted to apply my love for God to my full-time job, I needed to go into the ministry. Though I didn't fell called to work in the church world, I wasn't going to let go of my commitment to live out my faith vocationally. A Christian college seemed like the most natural next step. For months, I struggled with this decision. My mind was torn between what I believed I needed to do in order to follow Jesus and what I felt in my heart God was pushing me toward. One day, I woke up with a startling realization: I didn't need to become a minister to follow Jesus. The stress of the decision miraculously lifted off of my shoulders and I decided to attend the secular university I felt God was leading me to. Though I had accepted that the pastorate wasn't for me and didn't yet know where I'd end up, I felt confident that I could bring my faith to bear on any career."

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Review of 'Resident Aliens'

Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian ColonyResident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony by Stanley Hauerwas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a phenomenal book, and I can't help but marvel at how good and relevant it is even though it was published back in the 80's. I first heard of this book (and bought it) back when I was a sophomore in undergrad. It was an optional supplemental reading for my ethics class. I didn't really read it then, but because it had such high marks, I've had it on my 'to-read' list for quite a while. I REALLY like the concept that the authors take up and that reflects in the title, that we as Christians need to start living as we are meant to. We are resident aliens, living within a 'Christian colony' while here on this earth. In a nutshell, in addition to dealing a little with ethics theory and the like, this book very strongly deals with church and culture relations.

While I took my good 'ole time reading this book (mainly because I got sucked into other books or had to read/study other stuff for ministry), I remember liking and underlining a number of different places to come back and check out later. From the parts that I read just recently to finish up the book, I was able to remember some of the material that came earlier. Overall, what the authors attempt to do with this book, is challenge the 'safe' way of pastoring/ministering by many clergy, while at the same time encouraging laity to step up in their faith. I'd say this is an excellent book to read for any person in ministry. There are times where I didn't think the book was SUPER engaging, yet there were other parts that kept me turning the pages to even get through those times. This book served as an encouragement for me while serving in campus ministry.

I'm hopeful I'll be able to take away some of the challenges and encouragements that the authors issue here, and use them to spur me to be more faithful in my calling as a campus minister and in turn be more effective in mentoring and discipling the students that I engage with on a consistent basis.

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Review: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars by Mark Batterson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I remember first hearing of this book back when I was in college from a friend saying I should read it. When I learned that it was being rereleased and updated this year and saw that I had an opportunity to request a copy to review, I figured it was time that read it. Overall, I'd say the book isn't too bad. There are parts that I really like, and there are parts that I don't. The main premise of the book is centered around Benaiah and 1 Chronicles 11.22ff, specifically utilizing the account found here of Benaiah chasing a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killing it (hence the title of the book). From here, Batterson's message centers around facing opportunities in front of us (that often appear as lions) as Benaiah would, head on and fully abandoned.

For the parts that I really like, I love Batterson's encouragement for people to take more risk in their lives. Here in America, we as Christians play life too safe often times. We settle for the status quo, we allow culture to tame us down, and we often times (as Batterson believes) miss out on some of the great things that God has planned and wants to do in/through us. In terms of what I didn't care for as much, there are many times in this book that I feel Batterson will 'take a little liberty' with a passage of Scripture. I'm not saying this in terms of him blatantly misusing Scripture, but there are many of this conclusions on passages that seem a little forced (or at the very least those aren't the likely first/only conclusion that a person would derive from a text.)

Overall I think the message of this book is nothing new, but (as is the case with a lot of things) still needs to be heard and shared today. I encourage you to read this book if you are debating about a major life/ministry/etc. change. It might not necessarily give you answers to your questions, but it does provide helpful encouragement to pursue God and take risks, pursuing what He's calling you to.

Mark Batterson has a writing style that is highly engaging and very easy to read/follow. I haven't read any of the his other books, but I do look forward to checking them out (I currently own All In, Circle Maker, and The Grave Robber).

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