Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Gospel - Reflections of DA Carson

In the continued discussion on what is the gospel, this from DA Carson in an editorial for Themelios...
The gospel is what God has done, supremely in Christ, and especially focused on his cross and resurrection.

Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning.

How would you describe the "essence" of the gospel?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Changing Student Landscape (Part 2)

In Changing Student Landscape (Part 1), I began exploring student trends that influence campus evangelism today. I continue here with five more cultural observations.

#4 Emerging Adulthood
Life for today’s student is not the same as it was for the student of (say) the 70’s. To be more precise, the stage of life is not the same. Think. for example, of marriage. (For an excellent research source, see: The National Marriage Project, Rutgers.) The median age for marriage in 1970 was about 23 for men and 21 for women. Today that has jumped to 28 and 26. What has changed? Today’s student does not enter into the responsibilities of adulthood (as assumed in the 70’s – marriage, settled career, home, etc.) until later in the twenties. Today’s student is in the early days of “emerging adulthood” (as described by Jeffrey Arnett), a period now between adolescence and adulthood. Or, as they are sometimes referred to, they are “twixters”.

But what characterizes this stage of life? Arnett suggests:

1.It is the age of identity explorations.
2.It is the age of instability.
3.It is the most self-focused age of life.
4.It is the age of feeling in-between, in transition, neither adolescent nor adult.
5.It is the age of possibilities.
Jeffrey Arnett, Emerging Adulthood

Wow! Think of the implications of this for significant engagement regarding life and the gospel.

#5 Spiritually Minded
But what is the spiritual orientation of today’s student? The UCLA research project, Spirituality and Higher Education, (a body of research important to anyone serious about campus ministry or understanding today’s student), demonstrates this is a highly spiritual aware (or minded?) generation. For instance:

77% entering Freshmen agree “we are all spiritual beings”
71% gain strength by trusting in a higher being
58% indicate that integrating spirituality is very important or essential
84% have had a “spiritual experience”

To engage in safe conversations about spirituality is not unusual. Spirituality is a common theme in today’s student culture. They might not use the word, but the reality of spirituality ubiquitous (i.e., it shows up everywhere).

#6 Identity Lockboxes
But does that mean that they are spiritually open-minded, ready to explore and change? Fascinating research has been done by Tim Clydesdale that would suggest not. His in-depth, longitudinal interviews and field research with college freshmen reveal is that most freshmen are thoroughly consumed with the everyday matters of navigating relationships, managing gratifications, handling finances, and earning diplomas—and that they stow their (often vague) religious and spiritual identities in an identity lockbox well before entering college. The key phrase there is “identity lockbox.” It seem that their religious identity is not abandoned (as has often been suggested or assumed). Rather it stored away, still in tact, subconsciously kept for a later stage in life.
Tim Clydesdale, The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens After High School

What are the implications for evangelism? Is it easy to engage an identity that has been stored away, even locked up? Is it easy to see that identity change? This alone should press our dependence upon the power of the gospel and the Spirit’s work. Our conversational skills and relevant messages are not (by themselves) adequate.

Two more trends to go on this series… To be posted next.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Changing Student Landscape (Part 1)

Last night I was engaged in an informal conversation with about 25-30 young campus ministry leaders regarding evangelism and culture. I mostly listened to the heart, vision, frustration and best practices of these emerging leaders. The conversation drew my mind back to earlier this year, when I was asked to speak to a group of about 100 directors of student summer projects on the subject of emerging trends among students as they make an impact on evangelism. My thoughts were delivered under the title of “The Changing Student Landscape: Exploring the Trends”. Along with my own reading, research and reflections, I utilized summaries found in Ivy Jungle's Campus Ministry Updates--a resource well worth subscribing to, if you have an interest in campus culture.

The next few posts will provide the essence of what was delivered.
“It is not the reality but the image of the audience that determines how communication occurs. The communicator chooses both content and communicative style based on his or her ideas about the audience—who they are, what they are interested in, and how they will respond. Normally, these ideas about the audience are approximately correct because of shared experiences and similar backgrounds and cultures. But…(ed.: You can fill in this blank.) A first step in improving communication is to gain a more accurate understanding of the audience.” (Donald Smith, Creating Understanding:A Handbook for Christian Communications Across Cultural Landscapes)
Here are the first three characteristics:

#1 – Introducing this generation of students.
A few demographical observations (mostly obvious):
• This is the largest body of US college students ever.
• Women out number men almost 3 to 2.
• Ethnically diversity grows. (Duh!)
Student culture is a mosaic of micro-cultures & subgroups, thriving in the same cultural landscape.

#2 - A Satisfied Lot
• 93% are happy with the way things are going in their lives.
• 84% say their life is excellent or good.
• 93% are satisfied with their family life and 91% in their relationships with their parents.
• 81% are satisfied the amount of free time they have.
Pew Research, “Portrait of Generation Next” (This is a very helpful report to examine more closely!)

If you are reaching out expecting to find a generation with lots of felt needs on the surface, just waiting and wanting to change, think again. You must go deeper!

#3 – The Digital Generation
What makes this generation different from its predecessors is not just its demographic muscle, but it is the first to grow up surrounded by digital media. (
When the primary means of storing and distributing information changes, our worldviews change. (Rex Miller, The Millennium Matrix)
Miller explores the four major communication shifts and their implications:
  • Oral Culture (Pre-printing press; up to and through Middle Ages)
  • Print Culture (Reformation, Enlightenment through mid-20th century)
  • Broadcast Culture (Later half of the 20th century)
  • Digital Culture (Present)
The digital culture is shaping the very worldview of this generation.

Five more characteristics to go in next posts. (See: Part 2 and Part 3)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

An Internet Campus - Who Gathers?

Internet campuses for the body of Christ are emerging. Notable in this category is Church OnLine, from LifeChurch.TV. But who chooses to connect (worship? fellowship? learn?) in this fashion?

Bobby Gruenewald of LifeChurch.TV indicates for groups who choose do so (extracted from Outreach Magazine, "Catalyst for Creativity", July/August 2009, pate 86):
Distant: People who are outside the physical reach of the church
Curious: People who would prefer to explore their interest in spirituality in an online context
Mobile: People who are part of our church, but are looking for an option to worship together because they are traveling or displaced
Digital:People who prefer to experience much of their community in an online context
They are hearing accounts of changed lives from people around the globe. A sign of things to come?

Are you curious what an on-line church experience is like (but not wanting to take the time or make the effort to experience it)? Here is an introduction from LifeChurch.TV

God is...Online from BlueDoorMinistries on Vimeo.

Global Christianity = American Christianity?

There is a fascinating interview in Christianity Today with church historian, Mark Noll, entitled "Does Global Christianity Equal American Christianity?" Well worth reading the observations of this learned man. I was particularly intrigued by his final comment:
One of the things I'm most encouraged by in modern American missions history is how sophisticated the evangelism-minded groups have become. Sophisticated cultural analysis is now proceeding alongside a strong evangelism missions mandate. The 19th-century missionary pioneers in the U.S. were quite sophisticated in understanding culture and cross-cultural communications, compared to their own day and age. At the height of the imperial era, by contrast, say 1880—1950, there was a serious decline in cultural awareness and sensitivity in all the groups. But since World War II, there's been a strong awareness among everybody, including the strongly evangelistic groups, of the need for language training and cultural understanding, as well as for gospel urgency.
Usually, we are feeling behind on the cultural analysis. Maybe we aren't as bad at it as we sometimes think (or feel). Thoughts?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Life Story: Brian Welch (Korn)

"Everyone has a story -- a life story."

Those are the opening line from Life@Large. It is so true and every story is worth hearing, exploring, considering.

Here is Brian Welch's story. It is another display of grace--the power of the gospel!

Thank you to those who put together, I Am Second.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Whole Good World: Reflections by Yancey

What captured my attention with this article, A Whole Good World, was the mention of Mako and the 9-11 art project. Peaked my interest having been in NYC with the Tribecca Art Project when Mako spoke.

For those interested in Art & Culture, I commend the International Arts Movement. Link