Friday, August 29, 2008
The first one that stands out was my own wedding. We were married in Chesapeake, Va, at my wife's great church, Aldersgate United Methodist. The warm-hearted pastor, Reverend Cofield, started us off with this kind word: "I've never had a wedding go wrong. Every single wedding I've ever done, no matter what happened during the service, by the end of it, the couple was married and were happily on their way."
This was his way of helping us to relax, to enjoy the moment. We all smiled and relaxed and I, at least, had a great time at my wedding.
Many moons later, I was reading in a wedding for a student and really good friend, Brandon Jaycox. At the outset of the rehearsal at the African-American Episcopal church, the pastor led us off with this word: "You practice like you play. If you're not disciplined before-hand, you will not have success in this event or in any part of life. Sound discipline and practice are imperative to reaching the goals you have set."
This was his way of teaching us the value and importance and in some ways the significance of what we were participating in.
Both of these stand out for how intentional they were. Both of them, I think, were a blessing to how the ceremony went.
I just think it's cool how the Lord uses the different temperaments and gifts of people in the same line of work to bless and build up his people. I see this on my InterVarsity staff team. There's three of us now, all very different, but with a common vision and with the ability to make a difference in students' lives.
Take all the job/personality match tests you want. It seems like for many kinds of work, there's space for lots of different personalities.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
This part of who we are will stretch many of you. But I promise that if you’re willing to walk this path a little while, to pray and search the Scriptures and to see God’s heart for all of this and to allow the Lord to do something with you here, it just might change your life forever.
I want to invite you to consider that what we see in Acts 2 of all these different people hearing the gospel in their own language and all these cultures coming together in Christ is EXACTLY the point.
And I want to invite you to consider that what we’re attempting to do here is the future of the American church. We don’t have to go far to realize that our country’s rapidly changing and that the church needs to change, too, right?
Quick: what’s the fastest growing population here in North Carolina? Hispanic/Latinos, right?
If we are not prepared to engage a multi-ethnic country with a multi-ethnic gospel, then the church over the next 50 years in America will not be effective in the mission that God has called us to.
If you stay here over the next four years and work out some of the challenges of engaging with songs in different languages and different people coming in and speaking the same gospel that we all share but in slightly different ways than maybe your pastor back home did
Then you will graduate better equipped and better prepared to lead the church in America into greater impact over the next 50 years. That’s what we’re doing here.
We’re worshipping a global God, as a predominantly white organization, and taking advantage of all the breadth and fullness and wonder of the diversity of God’s kingdom.
It’s not just diversity for diversity’s sake. It’s diversity that gives glory to God, because only he can do this in his power, by his grace.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
These were people who for centuries could not agree on anything but they found a new place to come together under the name of Jesus Christ.We believe that there’s a truer, deeper Biblical Christian pluralism that goes back to the earliest intention of the church that is far greater than the secular pluralism of the campus and in fact has a power behind it to actually make happen what the campus without Christ cannot do.
Now we know that we’re obviously a primarily white organization, and we’re fine and glad in what God is doing here in our midst. But we refuse to miss out on the beauty and the fullness of God’s kingdom just because of that.
So what that means is that we’ll bring in speakers from various ethnicities. And we’ll sing songs in different languages on a regular basis.
For some of you, you think that’s stupid and for some of you, honestly, you’ll decide you don’t like IV because of this. And that’s fine, there’s lots of places where you can go on campus and sing all English, all the time.
But as a community, we’re committed to this as a core value and for just a moment I want to challenge, implore, ask you to consider joining us on this journey as we try to figure out what it means for a mostly white organization to enter into the fullness of God’s global kingdom that includes people from every nation, race and tongue.
Because the point is that Jesus didn’t speak English and the point is that worship in the kingdom of God is bigger than Chris Tomlin and David Crowder all the time. And I love those guys, they’re on my Ipod, but they’re just a small part of God’s bigger, global kingdom
And there are ways that a sweet Latin beat helps me to celebrate or the haunting power of a Hebrew worship song allows me to mourn or the power of gospel music carries me into worship that expresses worship that’s too good and too glorious for us to miss out on!
This will be uncomfortable for some of you, it was for me initially. And it took me a couple of years honestly of walking through this, of looking at Scripture and of talking to people that I loved and respected about all of this before I started to get that God’s work was global and that I was missing out if I didn’t experience some tastes of what that was about.
And I want to implore you and invite you to come along with us as we explore the fullness of worshipping God in various ways.
And as we hear from men and women speakers who love Jesus and who express that in ways that are rooted in their cultural experiences and contexts, just like my experience and context as a white, suburban, male is shaping the ways that I talk with you right now.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Last Thursday I gave my 13th "Welcome to InterVarsity" talk. This year I wanted to take a couple minutes to really explain why we sing song in different languages and have speakers of different ethnicities and partner with minority student groups on campus.
Since last January I've been thinking about how to better talk about the value of multi-ethnicity to culturally and politically conservative white students. Especially white males. Often when we talk about the values of multi-ethnicity in a Christian context it sounds very much like the secular university with Christian words around it...at least, that's how your average religiously/culturally/politically conservative student would hear it.
So here's a snippet of my talk from Thursday night, attempting to communicate why we sing songs in different languages and invite different speakers and partner with minority groups on campus:
This part is a stretch for many of us who come from culturally and often politically conservative, white churches. Multi-ethnicity and pluralism can sound like very threatening terms, like some liberal agenda, especially to those of us who are white folks and often especially to white males, right?
If you’re a white male in a class focused on women’s issues or the minority experience in America, you can often feel attacked or demonized, like you’re always the bad guy, you can feel like you’re being attacked.
Here in InterVarsity we are passionate about exploring multi-ethnicity, and we hope that we’re going to go about it a little bit differently than how you’ve experienced it in other places.
We believe deeply in a number of things that shape our commitment to engaging cross-culturally in as many ways as we can. The first is that the God that we worship in and through Jesus Christ is the one true God over all the earth. He is not just the God of white people, but he is worshipped all over the world in nearly all cultures.
We believe that God loves all peoples and their cultures, including white people and white culture, and at the same time that all cultures are a mixture of both good and bad. We believe that all cultures are fallen and have parts of the culture that are reflect God’s image and all cultures have parts of that culture that are in need of redemption, healing, and forgiveness.
So as white folks, we do have issues on our culture that need to be addressed. And part of our job as white Christians is to begin to recognize and own the sins of our people, to call our fellow white folks to see areas where our culture is jacked up and deal with those issues!
This isn’t a shock to us, is it? That our culture has sin in it? As Christians we say that sin is a part of all our lives and so yes, of course, it’s a part of our culture.
But we refuse to say that white people are the cause of all the world’s problems. No one culture is the root of all problems. Every culture has its’ own issues, its’ own evils that must be addressed.
Scripture refuses to let any of us off the hook. All of us, and all of our cultures, are in need of forgiveness, repentance, healing, and grace.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Sorry been a way for a while, things are really hectic on campus..tomorrow’s the craziest day and then it starts to settle in a little bit.
Been thinking about truth in the context of a world that is completely built on relationships. God is relationship—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. We live and are formed in relationships with family. Our body is a relationship of organs and synapses and muscles. Those are in turn a relationship of things even smaller than that: cells, that are made up of even further relationships. It’s all about relationships. That’s part of what it means to be made in God’s image.
So when sin enters the picture, every single relationship breaks down: with God, with one another, with the earth around us, and even and especially our internal relationships: at some point my body will stop relating as it was meant to and I will die.
What truth does is it points us back to right relationships. Truth about the weather helps me to relate to the weather appropriately. Truth spoken in math class attempted to help me relate rightly to numbers (alas, I was worthless after Algebra 2). Having a truth-full relationship with friends, my wife, my kids enables those relationships to be restored, to grow in healthy ways. The truth about God helps restore me into right relationship with God.
Truth spoken in love is shorthand for the bigger project of God: relationships restored to their right, healthy place.
This is why it is important that Christians not cave into the current post-modern malaise of absolute relativity coupled with a deep ambivalence (or outright agnosticism) about truth. We cannot know all Truth fully on this side of heaven. But truth can be known, engaged with, understood, and appropriately applied to real-life situations that brings the fruit of restored relationships.
There is a deep humility that can be coupled with a passion for knowing and speaking truth. Sometimes “truth people” are arrogant and self-righteous. But that is not a necessary condition. If we understand how desperate our plight and how much we need truth spoken in love to restore relationships to their right place, we can pursue truth and speak it in ways that are gracious, bold, winsome, and loving.
At least, I hope I can do that.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I've recently said that the year that August doesn't bring with it some level of anxious energy is the year that I'll know it's time to leave. But the beginning of this August was unusually full of stress. I've picked up some new responsibilities heading into this year, including our New Student Welcome, and I was really anxious--nothing specific, just generally feeling overwhelmed.
Then last week I went to my Easter Carolinas staff (a.k.a. "the heavy hitters"--at least, that's what we like to call ourselves) team meetings. I arrived at the beach with lots on my mind and a long to-do list that I was planning on conquering during our free time.
When my Area Director handed out the schedule for our week I saw something that made my heart sink: electronics-free Wednesday. Our Area Director was asking us to not "plug-in" at all during Wednesday except for phone calls home to check-in with spouses and families. A day free of electronics: no t.v, Ipods...or computers to do work.
This made me even more anxious. Didn't she realize I had work to do??
Then I took a deep breath. I prayed a little bit. Maybe this was exactly what I needed.
I survived electronics-free Wednesday. In fact, I more than survived it. It was fantastic for me. I came out on the other side more centered, less bewildered and less vaguely overwhelmed. I plugged back in for an hour or so on Thursday with a whole new level of perspective. I was at peace with what I had to do.
This peace has (for the most part) carried over into this week. I'm looking forward to this year, this weekend, the next several weeks of New Student Welcome. It's going to be a great year. Electronics-free Wednesday was just the first of many gifts that I believe the Lord wants to surprise me with this school year...even the types of gifts that I'm initially not sure that I want.
Those often seem to be the best kind.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Team USA basketball is coached by Coach K, the Dook basketball coach that we affectionately refer to as "rat face" among other things.
So allow me to share how I've come to peace with this. Perhaps this will help other UNC fans out there, or just people with the good sense to know someone who's got serious and deep character issues when they see it.
First, if Team USA basketball wins--huzzah! Go USA! I mean, they've got more talent than should be allowed on any one basketball floor at the same time, much less all on the same team.
Second, if Team USA loses, huzzah! Coach K lays an egg and all Tar Heel fans everywhere can delight in his misery!
It's a win-win! Everyone's a winner at the Olympics.
My meetings were with other InterVarsity staff in the Eastern Carolinas. It is a tremendous group of insanely gifted people. I've been on many area staff teams over my thirteen(!) years on staff, but this group is as good as I've ever worked with. We have a lot of fun and we work very well together.
During the process of one conversation, someone quoted an author or speaker and it's stuck with me these past several days:
"A Christian is someone who gives all that they know of themselves to all that they know of Jesus."
I think what I like about that is the process-oriented-ness of it that still calls for radical commitment. So many folks that urge patience in the process have a very low view of sin and a very weak call to commitment. I think that this both calls me to commitment but also recognizes that the nature of that commitment will look different, must look different, ten years from now.
Gotta go. Lots of work to prepare as freshmen move in later this week and we gear up for a new school year.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
This movement from self-interest to selfish-ness is essentially the move from God at the center of our lives (which is in our own self-interest) to self at the center of our lives (which can only result in disaster). With self at the center, we are alternately proud and self-hateful, confused and conflicted, behaving perfectly generously one day and spoiled-ly rotten the next.
A part of what redemption will mean when all is said and done will be the return of God as the rightful center of all of life. When this happens, our desires will also be (finally!) rightly aligned. And then we will all move and live and relate in ways that are entirely in our own best interest--which might even then include things like sacrifice and giving up our rights in order to experience the joy of self-giving and honoring someone else ahead of ourselves.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
If you're not familiar with the story, the quick gist is this: Moses leads the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and to Mt. Horeb. There, he goes up the mountain to get the Ten Commandments from God and a bunch of other rules and regs for the newly established nation.
While he's up there, the people get impatient. He's gone a long time. So they demand that Aaron, Moses' sidekick and the guy who's supposed to be their priest, make them a 'god' that they might worship it. So Aaron commands the people to take off all their gold earrings. He melts the gold down and fashions a calf out of it.
If you track the gold in Exodus, you find that the first time gold is mentioned is when the people are still slaves in Egypt. God tells Moses that the Israelites will plunder the Egyptians--that their slave drivers will literally give them the clothes off their back and all their gold and silver as they leave. This is part of God's gift to them--part of him preparing them to leave with confidence in God in their hearts and materially for the trip ahead.
So what happens at the foot of the mountain is that the people take the good gift given to them by God and they create for themselves a new, no-god. They use what God has given to them and proclaim "here is the god that led us out of Egypt." God's gift is fashioned into an idol, and hence, a curse. This is precisely what I (and I think most of us) are tempted to do all the time.
We are tempted to take the gifts that God has given to us and imagine that these are our tickets to success, significance, worth, value, security--our hope, our future. We are tempted to lean into these gifts for our redemption, our salvation, in whatever way you might define those terms. We are tempted to leverage the things that God has given us (talents, resources, opportunities, relationships) and worship those things, use them to redeem ourselves rather than waiting on God to do the redeeming.
Most of us at our core are not satisfied with ourselves. We were made to be dis-contented creatures apart from God and genuine inter-dependent relationships. We want a new name. God has one for us. But we are sorely tempted to carve one out for ourselves using the raw materials he has blessed us with for the journey, rather than waiting on him for the real thing.