Friday, May 27



Last August, I pointed you toward a book by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay entitled, The Tangible Kingdom. It is a book that expresses the concepts of missional and incarnational ministry that I believe reflect the heart of God. Over the course of the past year, our staff has read it and we have used their Tangible Kingdom Primer with our student leaders and in some of our Cords (our missional communities on campus).


Last week, I finished their sequel to The Tangible Kingdom. It is called AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. In the book, they discuss the balance of a Biblical church (or campus ministry) – where people are both scattered through incarnational communities and gathered through structures that hold them together and provide encouragement and vision. It is, again, a book I would highly recommend to church leaders and church planters.


Here are some highlights. Hopefully some of them will provide you with food for thought.


"In Genesis 12:2-3, ... the people of God are being sent to live in a pagan land. Why? So they may bring the blessing of God wherever they go."   p. 34


“Missional isn't a form of church. It's a label we give to the qualitative or descriptive aspect of how a church actually lives. It's about how much like Jesus those people become and how much they influence, woo, and transform the culture in which they are placed. In other words, how 'missional' you are is largely determined by the extent to which your people model the life, activities, and words of Jesus."   p. 52


"Being missional is about our sentness - it represents the directional impulse of every church and every Christian in the world. Being incarnational is not so much about our direction; it's more about how we go, what we do as we go, and how we are postured in the culture God calls us to engage. Incarnation is the personality of our proclamation."   p. 56


"The principle is indisputable: the great things of God cost us our life. The more missional you want to be, the more incarnational you're willing to be, the more you release your people out into the world, the more you desire to equip and empower young leaders, the more effective and faithful you want your church to be ... the more you'll have to die to yourself."   p. 80


"Sadly, many people really are content to live as consumers, and they are just looking for a place to hold their beliefs together and to provide a sense of belonging relationally. In other words, all they want are some sermons and some friends.... We have to realize they aren't looking for transformation, either for themselves or for the world."   p. 106


"If you're worried about how to keep halfhearted, recreational Christians from leaving your church, I fear you've lost the big story."   p. 108


"What brings meaning to your gathering is how well you scatter. Jesus gave us the key to helping people find meaning when he said, 'Whoever wants to save their life will lose it.' (Mark 8:35 TNIV). Corporately, it's the same. If we want people to find meaning in our church gatherings, we must help them to gather for the purposes and people outside the gathering."   p. 174


"God's highest goal for our children isn't to keep them busy and safe. Our roles as stewards over the spiritual life and legacy of our kids is to model a holistic life of apprenticeship under Jesus - to invite them and include them in as much as you can and to trust that God will grow them, protect them, and use them to change the world."   p. 182-183


"Sermons have been an important part of our spiritual formation and will continue to fill that role, but we must also face the fact that even though we preach well, our focus on preaching as the main thing has not produced the level of discipleship we had hoped it would. Even more, our priority for pulpit-centered Christianity may actually be one of the most consumer-oriented aspects of evangelicalism today. Just as we must reimagine the church gathering, we must also have the courage to reimagine how we teach our people the Scriptures."   p. 183-184


What think ye?

Wednesday, May 25

News from the World of Higher Education


Here are some not-so-positive trends that have an impact on the students we minister to and the environment in which they live and we seek to represent Christ …


Some observations on recent college grads in the current economy from HuffPost College:


“A new survey of college graduates from the last five years finds that the Great Recession has hit them hard, forcing them into low-paying jobs often unrelated to their educations and leaving half of them expecting less financial success than their parents.”


* Eighty-three percent of them worked when they were in college … and they're coming out without a great job and with debt.

* The median starting salary for those who graduated between 2006 and 2008 was $30,000. For the 2009 and 2010 grads, it dipped to $27,000. And women graduates continued to make less than men.

* Nearly half the graduates say they're working at jobs that don't require a college education.

* Nearly half say they're subsidized in some way by their parents or other family members.

* About half say they personally don't expect to do as well as their parents. And 56 percent say their generation won't do as well as their parents' generation.


In related news, a survey reported by Time says that 85% of new college graduates move back in with their parents.


This Op-Ed piece from the New York Times discusses how the quality of higher education has been hurt by university and college attempts to appeal to our culture of consumers.


“Over four years, we followed the progress of several thousand students in more than two dozen diverse four-year colleges and universities. We found that large numbers of the students were making their way through college with minimal exposure to rigorous coursework, only a modest investment of effort and little or no meaningful improvement in skills like writing and reasoning.


In a typical semester, for instance, 32 percent of the students did not take a single course with more than 40 pages of reading per week, and 50 percent did not take any course requiring more than 20 pages of writing over the semester. The average student spent only about 12 to 13 hours per week studying — about half the time a full-time college student in 1960 spent studying, according to the labor economists Philip S. Babcock and Mindy S. Marks….


The situation reflects a larger cultural change in the relationship between students and colleges. The authority of educators has diminished, and students are increasingly thought of, by themselves and their colleges, as “clients” or “consumers.” When 18-year-olds are emboldened to see themselves in this manner, many look for ways to attain an educational credential effortlessly and comfortably. And they are catered to accordingly. The customer is always right.”


The drug of choice is on the college campus?  The Harvard Business Review reports that references to alcohol appear on 85.3% of male college students’ Facebook pages.


If you dug into the facts, you would be amazed at the number of incidents on your typical college campus that are alcohol related – from alcohol poisoning to sexual assaults to academic failure. And yet so many adopt a “boys-will-be-boys” mentality – like the parents I saw in a local bookstore, encouraging their 18-year-old freshman son to buy a poster for his dorm room on the “Rules of Beer Pong”, a popular drinking game.


Need more evidence that the answer to our world’s ills isn’t more or better education? USA Today reports that Yale University (one of our nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education) suspends a fraternity for harassment of female students as the university itself is under investigation by federal civil rights officials.

Tuesday, May 3

Holy Discontent–A Year Later


A year ago today, I was attending a meeting just outside of Louisville, KY. Twenty campus ministers from around the country - each with at least 20 years of experience in doing campus ministry - had gathered to talk about ministry to students, where it was heading, and how we could better prepare the next generation of campus ministers. One night we sat up late, talking about ministry and families and life. Then one of my friends posed the question, "What is there in your life or ministry that is requiring you to rely on God?"


The question made me think and do a lot of praying. We continue to see God do a lot of great things in our ministry and we are excited about the lives that he is changing at the UofA. But the truth is that, though we were by no means just going through the motions, we were in a place where we were pretty comfortable. Ministry was going smoothly. Finances were stable. We were operating in our comfort zone. I wrote about this question in a blog post on May 17, 2010. Here is part of what I wrote at that time:


"It has been a pretty comfortable place to be. But I don't think God calls us to just be comfortable. And I don't want to just be comfortable. I want to walk in faith. I want to trust God. I don't want to be content with visions and dreams that are small enough that I can accomplish them. I want to be moved by God's visions and dreams - things that are only accomplished when God is providing the power and wisdom and resources. I don't know what any of that means right now. But I am praying for some holy discomfort."


So here we are a year later. And what has God done? He has put us in an exciting place with some great ministry opportunities that are going to make us completely rely on Him! Our Board of Directors and staff believe that God is leading us to take a couple of important steps - not just for Christ on Campus, but for the Kingdom of God globally.


In June, we will begin a partnership with a campus ministry in the Philippines. Christ on Campus will be providing financial support, student and staff assistance, and encouragement to a ministry at Benguet State University in La Trinidad where Crisanto Salvador serves as campus minister. Why do we think God is leading us in this direction? Because of the strategic nature of this ministry. The Philippines' greatest export is people and most of those who graduate from their universities take jobs in other countries. A large percentage of those will get jobs in areas where it is often more difficult for Americans to work and minister. We believe that a ministry that reaches and equips college students from the Philippines is a strategic way to access the parts of the world that are the most unreached for Christ. 


God has also led us to add another person to the Christ on Campus staff. Cory Garren graduated from the UofA in May 2010. Though he came to the UofA with a plan of going to med school, God began to change his heart during his four-year involvement with Christ on Campus. So Cory served as an intern with us during this past year. He feels that God is leading him into campus ministry and, specifically, into ministry with international students. We have seen Cory's heart for God and for students and his ability to work with students effectively. So Cory will be joining our staff on a full-time basis this summer and his primary (though not total) ministry focus will be on the over 1,300 international students from 123 countries that study at the UofA - many of whom come from those same countries in the most unreached parts of the world and most of whom will return to their countries as leaders in their fields of expertise.


We are very excited about the potential of both of these endeavors and their strategic importance for the Kingdom of God. And we are definitely in a place where we have to rely on God! First of all, we don't have the money for either of these projects in our current budget. Secondly, we have felt our nation's economic difficulties over the past few months. Giving to Christ on Campus has been down. For a logical perspective, it is not an ideal time to be adding these ministries to our monthly budget. But we believe that we are following God's lead in both of these. And we believe that he can provide the needed resources through his people.