Monday, December 21

Young Adults and Spirituality

From the Ivy Jungle Report. The thoughts are mine ...

Most Young Adults Think They are Spiritual: A survey conducted by LifeWay research indicates the vast majority of unchurched young adults consider themselves spiritual. This contrasts a view of young adults as uninterested in God or spiritual matters. 73% of 20-29 year olds said they think they are spiritual and want to learn more about "God or a higher supreme being." Among those 30 and over, that number is only 62%. 89% of 20-29 year olds said they would be open to a conversation about Christianity – 14% higher than those over 30 years old. 63% said they would attend church if it presented truth to them in a way that "relates to my life now." 58% said they would be more likely to attend if they felt the church "cared for them as a person." ( September 16, 2009)

These numbers reinforce what has been said in other places - the vast majority of young adults are interested in spiritual matters and have a very positive view of Jesus. But those who aren't involved in a church tend to have a negative view of the church. As someone once said, we have a message that young adults should want t0 hear - it's about something they are interested in and someone they admire. But our "delivery system" needs work!

Some things that we who are Christians need to think about:

* We need to listen more and talk less.
* We need to care more and judge less.
* We need to demonstrate in visible way how the message of Christ affects our lives.
* Relationships based on trust and love are the bridge over which the Gospel travels.
* Spiritual conversations are not taboo. People are interested if they know you care.

Friday, December 18

A Small Church Doing Big Things

It was in the auditorium of Oak Manor Christian Church, in April of 1982, that Gina and I were asked to come to Fayetteville and begin the ministry of Christ on Campus. It was there that the first pledges of financial support were given. A few weeks later, folks from Oak Manor moved our meager belongings to Arkansas and stored them in the church basement until we moved in to our apartment. Until we began having Sunday services at the Rockhouse in the Fall of 2005, Oak Manor was our family's church home. And, in many ways, it still is.

Oak Manor has never been a large church, or even a medium-sized church. Their attendance right now probably runs at about 40-50 on Sunday mornings. But they have proved themselves to be a Body that reaches far beyond what most would expect and that has a vision and a heart that is Kingdom-wide.

In regard to our Christ on Campus ministry, they support us in important and personal ways. Yes, they give financially. But they do much more than that. For 28 years, they have provided and prepared our Thanksgiving Banquet. What began in our living room in 1982 now serves about 300 students each year. It's a huge undertaking for a small group of people, but one that they do joyously and abundantly. They also provide "Finals Survival Kits" for our students each Fall and Spring. And they do these things, knowing that the vast majority of the students who are served will never attend their services and may not remember the congregation's name.

When our Board discerned a few years ago that God was leading us to start a service geared for students next to campus, Oak Manor graciously sent us out. They saw what we were doing on campus as an extension of God's Kingdom and their part in it - even though the change meant that they would lose some key people from their congregation.

But their vision is bigger than just that. My wife is a kindergarten teacher. Her school is one that faces many challenges. At least 75% of the students don't speak English as their first language. But more than that, about 95% are on a free-lunch program and many return to homes where hunger is often the norm. So Oak Manor decided to adopt the school. During this school year, this small congregation with a huge vision and heart has supplied hundreds of pounds of food for families in the school who are in need. This week, they provided Christmas gift bags for each of the over 600 students in the school, as well as the teachers.

Keith Mackey, the pastor at Oak Manor, will probably never be invited to preach at big conferences or interviewed by Christianity Today magazine. Those things are reserved for mega-church pastors with big attendances and buildings and budgets. The congregation will never make a list of the largest or most influential churches in the nation. But in the lives of those 600+ children, they make a huge difference. In the lives of the college students they serve through our ministry, they make a huge difference.

The title of this post is a misleading. To call Oak Manor a small church is inaccurate because it uses the wrong standard of measurement. My guess is that in the eyes of God, they are huge. After all, God is in the habit of judging people (and churches) by the size of the heart.

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7

"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

Monday, December 14

Changing Attitudes Toward the Bible

This fall, the Barna Group released research on the differences between generations and how they view and use the Bible. The study found that the younger generations (especially those who are labeled "Mosaics" - 18-25) are more skeptical of the Bible and what it teaches than those of older generations. That probably isn't unexpected by any of us, especially those who spend time on a college campus. There are many ideas valued on a college campus that can work against one giving the Bible serious consideration. Some of these are:

1. A dichotomy between science and faith and the belief of many that one can't be committed to both. This is unfortunate because I believe that all truth finds its source in God. The exploration of science just helps us more fully understand God, His truth, and His nature. Sometimes we cannot see from our perspective how the truth fits together, but I believe that it ultimately does. We need more people who are committed to God and to the exploration of creation involved in science at all levels - but especially at the university level.

2. The elevation of the kind of "tolerance" that pushes to affirm that all religious or spiritual perspectives are equally true. (This relativistic tolerance may well be the "highest value" of today's college campus.) We do need to practice the kind of tolerance that shows respect to those of other religious perspectives, but it is foolishness to believe that all religions can be equally true. You don't have to study comparative religions for long to see that they teach very different things about the nature of God, man, sin, and salvation. But our world has bought in to this view of "tolerance" so that many see all religious perspectives as equal without any exploration.

The fact is that there is much evidence to attest to the reliability of the Bible and the truths it reveals to us about God, man, our world, and our lives are unique and life-giving. We who are older need to be diligent in helping those who are younger see their world from a spiritual perspective, using God's Word to help them understand what they are hearing from science, society, and other religions. We don't have to be scared of any of those things. We just need to see them from a perspective that includes God and His Word as that by which everything else is evaluated. (Note: This where we have to be careful not to let our presuppositions become as authoritative as God's Word. History is full of religious people who let their interpretations of the world or sacred tests - or their prejudices - lead them to acts of atrocity or foolishness.)

Though Barna's study may seem bleak (and the trends aren't encouraging), there are many in this generation of students who are diligently seeking to know God through His Word - who are reading and studying and learning. I'm excited to be serving with them and helping them discover the truth of God's Word and see how it can enlighten their view of science, business, education, and more.


On a lighter note:

Here is one place I probably will never go to on vacation unless there is another way to get there.

What do you think of this list of the 20 Best TV Characters of the Past 20 Years? Any other suggestions?