Wednesday, August 21

What I Know and What I Don’t


Below is a revised post from a couple of years ago, but it is still true and very relevant for this time of year.




One of the realities of campus ministry is that it has its own rhythm and flow – it’s own schedule and pace. It usually comes down to four months of going full-throttle, a month to rest and re-organize, four more months of going full-throttle, and three months to do mission trips and discipleship projects, solidify support, rest and re-energize, and prepare to do it all over again.


But this time of year has it’s own feel. We are just a few days away from the start of my 32nd fall semester with Christ on Campus at the University of Arkansas. The telltale signs of a new school year are all around:


* The football team is in the middle of practice.

* The band is in the middle of practice.

* Parents are moving their new freshmen into residence halls.

* Traffic is crazy.

* Road construction – the city always waits until August to do street repairs around the University.

* There is no place to park.

* Freshmen girls are lined up in front of sorority houses while they go through Rush.

* International Student Orientation is gong on and our staff is busy meeting students, working with events, and providing transportation from the airport and hotels to permanent housing, banks, events, the Mall, Wal-Mart, etc.

* Older students returning from home, internships, study abroad, mission trips and projects and are excited to be reunited with friends they haven’t seen over the summer.


It all adds up to the most exciting time to be on campus. Worship services will be starting up this weekend. Small groups will be going next week. Events will be taking place to help new students make connections. Retreats and mission trips are on the calendar.


But the most exciting thing – the thing that gets my heart pumping and my mind working – is the thing that I know and don’t know.


I know that during this school year, God is going to transform the lives of students from all over the world. Some will give their lives to Christ for the first time. Some will begin to grasp the implications of really following Jesus and it will change the way they think and live. Some will come to the realization that God is calling them to something bigger than their major or the goals they have set for their lives. I know that God is at work on our campus. I know that God is going to change lives. And I know that God wants to use me and our staff and our students and our ministry to be a part of what He wants to accomplish.


But I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet. I have learned over 31 years of doing this is that it is our role to plan and prepare and pray. We have our strategy in place. But God has His own agenda and His own plans and we need to be ready to follow His leading.


Many of the students whose lives will be changed this year we haven’t met yet. We don’t know where they are from or what they believe or don’t believe or how we will get involved in their lives.


And for most of them, the last thing they are expecting right now – as they are moving in and buying books – is that they are going to have an encounter with the Almighty God while at the University of Arkansas. But they will and they will never be the same.


So right now I plan and prepare, but mostly I pray. As has been my custom over the last several years, I will take pray walks around campus. Won’t you join me in praying for Christ on Campus and for campus ministries around the US as the new school year starts? Pray that God will use us as His instruments for transforming the lives of university students, staff, and faculty and for furthering His purpose in our world.

Tuesday, August 20

Beloit College Mindset List for the College Class of 2017


Since 1998, Ron Nief and Tom McBride of Beloit College in Wisconsin have prepared their annual Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones of this year’s class of incoming freshmen to our colleges and universities – the class of 2017. Most of these students were born in 1995, so the list helps us to see is how much the world has changed since then.


I have listed some of the things that I find most interesting below. You can find the entire list here. One of the things that you notice going over the full list is how much of a role technology plays in our lives. What things do you find most interesting? What trends do you notice?


1. Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents’ weekend.
2. They are the sharing generation, having shown tendencies to share everything, including possessions, no matter how personal.
3. GM means food that is Genetically Modified.
14. Rites of passage have more to do with having their own cell phone and Skype accounts than with getting a driver’s license and car.
16. A tablet is no longer something you take in the morning.
21. Spray paint has never been legally sold in Chicago.
28. With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address.
40. They have never attended a concert in a smoke-filled arena.
42. There has never been a national maximum speed on U.S. highways.
44. Their favorite feature films have always been largely, if not totally, computer generated.
52. They have always been able to plug into USB ports
54. Washington, D.C., tour buses have never been able to drive in front of the White House.
55. Being selected by Oprah’s Book Club has always read “success.”
57. Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing.
60. They have always known that there are “five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes" in a year.

Wednesday, January 2



At the beginning of each year, I spend some time with God – seeking direction on priorities and choosing three or four words to give direction to the coming year. The words help set the direction for the year. My words for 2012 were Deeper, Wider, Higher, and Lower. (You can read more about them here.) Those were great words and, as we enter 2013, I don’t think I’m finished with them. So I’m keeping them for another year! 


But lest you think I’m cheating, I am also adding another word: With.


I have been reading Skye Jethani’s new book: With. In it, he does an insightful job of distinguishing ways that we approach God - living our lives over him or under him or from him or for him. But in reality, God calls us to live life with him. Our desire isn’t to be what we get from God or even what we can do for God. It is simply to be God and a life that is lived in relationship with him. He is to be our value and our focus and our desire. Jethani writes:


“But LIFE WITH GOD is different because its goal is not to use God, its goal is God. He ceases to be a device we employ or a commodity we consume. Instead God himself becomes the focus of our desire.”


God’s desire, throughout history, has been this relationship with us. Jethani writes:


“… from the beginning in Genesis straight through to the end of Revelation, God’s focus and desire has been to be with his people. He walked in the garden with the man and the woman…. And the crescendo of history in Revelation celebrates the reunion of God and humanity: ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’”


So it is not surprising that, at Christmas, we celebrate Immanuel – “God with us” – and rejoice in the fact that the Word became flesh and lived among us. (John 1:14)


In fact, as you read through the biographies of Jesus, you see that he lived his life on earth with God – walking and talking and serving in constant communion with him: “The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19)


When Jesus called the twelve apostles, he called them that they might be with him. (John 3:14) And he called those who followed him to a life of remaining in him – of being with him:


“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:4-5, 7


This theme is carried throughout the New Testament. In Acts, the enemies of the Church are amazed at the courage of the early Christians and recognize that, though they were “unschooled”, they had been with Christ. (Acts 4:13) And the Apostle Paul desired above all to “know” Christ with not just an intellectual knowledge but an intimate and personal knowledge. (Philippians 3:10) Jethani notes:


“Paul, the most celebrated missionary in history, did not make this mistake. He understood that his calling (to be a messenger to the Gentiles) was not the same as his treasure (to be united with Christ). His communion with Christ rooted and preceded his work for him.”


After more than 30 years in ministry and leadership, I’m beginning to learn this lesson. My first call is not to achieve a mission, but to walk with God. It is not to be more effective, but to know him more fully. To know his heart. To hear his voice. To follow his lead.


But that is not always the natural flow of my life and it is easy to try and cover a lack of being with God with a flurry of spiritual activity. So I want to give more attention to it this year. It will take more than reading the Bible for a few minutes every day and mentioning a few prayer requests. But it will be worth the effort. Not for what I accomplish. But for the one whom I will come to know.