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Reflections on the 2016 40th Anniversary Jubilee Conference

We have been choosing, ordering, pulling and packing, stacking and lugging boxes and boxestransform everything.jpg of books for what seems like weeks, getting ready for our beloved Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh. You know how hard our staff work in February getting ready for this huge event with more than 3000 college students. It's no tragedy, I know, but my fingers are bleeding from the cardboard cuts and my weak back is hurting -- well, that is a bit serious. Beth's weird symptoms from what we suspect is the lingering Lyme Disease stuff from years ago are acting up a bit, too, but she's been working 18 hour days, anyway. And loading a big rented truck even now as I type. Two days ago she made 130-some category signs (like I said, it's a big display) and has been spending hours prepping our set-up gear, cash registers, paperwork, gift cards, and supplies. Yep, Jubilee is a big deal for us, and, we believe, a big deal for the Kingdom of God.

It has been stressful getting all these books in and getting them organized and packed. And when I've gotten discouraged this week I've cranked up Wrecking Ball by the Boss Bruce Springsteen, which brings me great courage. And, this year, The Last Waltz and Switchfoot.)

I WAS 22 AND HEARD THAT EVERY SQUARE INCH COULD BE REDEEMED

cco-logocolorpurpose.pngForty years ago -- I was just 22 years old -- I worked for the Coalition for Christian Outreach (now branded the CCO) and I witnessed the evolution (or perhaps I should call it a reformation) of a exciting and flexible evangelical para-church campus evangelistic organization growing into a wholistic ministry that took some of its cues from that famous cry of Abraham Kuyper, the 19th century Dutch Reformed theologian, statesman, and civic leader about Christ's redemption encompassing "every square inch of creation."

To be honest, I heard this from my CCO staff leaders in my undergrad years.  Beth and I knew about pietistic fundamentalism and we knew fairly boring mainline denominational churchianity. But this, this was something other.

Like saying the gospel is best understood as "creation/fall/redemption/restoration" and a story of cosmic redemption, God (re)claiming and restoring every square inch of Christ's beloved creation preaches well --  I usually couple it with Colossians 1:15-20 or Haggai 2:1-9 -- and the CCO increasingly took these things to heart, growing passionate about not only personal evangelism but social and cultural engagement, the doctrines of vocation and calling, and the necessity of helping college students think and imagine faithfully how to honor the Lordship of Christ in their college classrooms and future careers.

With my help, even, from time to time (more decades ago then now, although I am still associated with the CCO) they trained their staff to reject the sacred/secular dualisms that come more from pagan Plato than the Bible and embrace a fully incarnational, multi-dimensional, creation-regained, whole-life discipleship based on a Biblical theology, and an understanding of the life-changing impact of the full Biblical drama, the sort of Biblical worldview that Leslie Newbigin famously called, citing a Hindu friend who read the Bible and declared it to be unlike other religions, but "the true story of the whole world."

TWO INFLUENTIAL BOOKS
The-Transforming-Vision-9780877849735.jpgcreation regained.gifI cannot and dare not speak for the CCO, but from my vantage point it I think it is fair to say the among the most significant books that influenced the decades of their staff training, and their vision for developing the Jubilee conference, would be Al Wolter's Creation Regained: The Biblical Basis for a Reformational Worldview and The Transforming Vision: Nurturing a Christian Worldview by Brian Walsh & J. Richard Middleton. (Richard, by the way, spoke at Jubilee last year about his recent Baker Academic book A New Heaven and A New Earth: Recovering Biblical Eschatology.)

Both Al and Brian taught the material from their books at CCO staff training events before those books ever came out in the late 70s and early 80s. Brian's little collection of essays and talks given in the wake of The Transforming Vision called Subversive Christianity: Imaging God in a Dangerous Time was last year updated and re-released. It includes a chapter that was given at Jubilee. See?

LEVITICUS 25 - ISAIAH 61 - LUKE 4
shofar-i-dawnstarstudios-.jpgArtwork from the blog of Chris Melanie Thompson.
The Jubilee conference was named, of course, from the beautiful blend of personal salvation on the day of atonement and all kinds of societal policy stuff -- debts forgiven, prisoners released, land reform, animals given rest -- described in the super-Sabbath Year of Jubilee texts of Leviticus 25.  When the ancient Jews never pulled off this blessed social arrangement, years later a prophet named Isaiah showed up and in Isaiah 61 declared that the Spirit of the Lord would fall and cause this holy liberation theology to really happen.  Good news would be announced to the poor and oppressed, slaves would be freed, and those whose eyes ached from being locked in a debtors dungeon would have to squint at the sun when they got out.  It was going to be the 'favorable year of the Lord" and the prophetic imagination nurtured by the prophets believed it would be so.

Well it wasn't so. The Jews went back to the destroyed temple in the destroyed Jerusalem but it never returned to the glory Haggai promised.  As N.T. Wright (influenced considerably by Brian Walsh, I might add) often says, the first century Jews knew they were still in exile, spiritually at least.  They longed for a redeemer to come, a Messianic King to put things to rights.

And soon enough, it happened.

I suppose you know that this Jubilee longing from Isaiah 61 was the very first text of Jesus' very first sermon, back in his own hometown. His inaugural address was short. He read from Isaiah 61, alluding to the healing and wholeness and justice and shalom of the Leviticus year of Jubilee, and his short sermon said that in Him it had just come to pass. In one of the shortest sermons ever, Jesus said it was now the Year of Jubilee -- forgive us our debts, indeed! --  and apparently, those who are in His Kingdom get in on it.  As the Nazarene explained nearer the end of the story in Luke 4, Jesus noted that, just like with the covenantal promises of Genesis 12, this was always to include outsiders. The whole world of people groups and ethnicities and outsiders and enemies were going to be invited into this Jubilee Kingdom and the whole earth itself -- every good Jew would have known this -- was to be restored.  The whole creation was going to be set free (see Romans 8, just for instance.)  

Well, that Biblical material was generative for us in the mid to late 70s and naming the CCO's college student conference Jubilee -- a Dutch philosopher schooled in the line of Kuyper named Peter J. Steen suggested it -- pointed to an evangelical faith that was lively and robust and spiritually alive but that had as its trajectory an all-of-life-redeemed worldview that dared to imagine what it would look like if followers of Jesus took seriously his claim that this new era of shalom was breaking in to human history.  Like leaven in a loaf, just imagine what might happen if we took historic, orthodox theology and spiritually vibrant evangelical piety and linked it to Kuyperian social insights and a great passion for social renewal? This was missional before the word was ever coined.

HEARTS & MINDS INFLUENCED BY ALL THIS
I suppose you can see the connections between that 40 year old Jubilee vision, the way in which Beth and I were formed by the early years of the CCO conference in Pittsburgh, and why we opened our bookstore as we did here in central PA.  We realized that if all-of-life is redeemed in Christ, if God wants us to serve in "every square inch" and we need to be "non-conformed" to the ways of the world (Romans 12:1-20, that means we've got some thinking to do. Books were understood by the founders of Jubilee to be tools to help us engage in this project of learning about being a Kingdom people in a often perplexing world.

That Kuyper quote -- "there is not one square inch of creation over which Christ does not declare "mine!'" --- is preceded by a reminder that, "...no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest..."

Kuyper gave that call to submit to Christ's claim over "every square inch of creation" at his inauguration address of the founding of a Christian university (the Frije University of Amsterdam where, eventually, the philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd taught, a scholar whose work influenced Francis Schaeffer and some of the early CCO founders.)

You Are What You Love- The Spiritual Power of Habit.jpgYou see, our deepest heart orientation influences our thoughts about things give which give rise to our cares and loves (and our cares and desires and loves likewise influence our thoughts and theories) all of which influences the distinctives of our practices; how we live.  As a person "thinks in their heart" is how Proverbs 23:7 puts it -- so he or she shall be!  So our loves and desires (cue the ad to pre-order Jamie Smith's You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit ) and our theories and believes about things all matter.  We called our store Hearts & Minds for a reason, after all. Kuyper was right -- God's presence and claim on our hearts and minds means that we need to honor God by being in synch with the principles of the Bible and the realities structured into creation itself, and developing uniquely Christian ways of being in the world, engaging our vocations and callings, thinking Christianly, so to speak, so we might offer at least a faithful presence in our workplaces, sphere's of influence, and neighborhoods.

(Here is a very interesting youtube overview of Smith's forthcoming book. I don't want to distract you from my Jubilee essay, but Smith has been a keynote speaker there, has served CCO staff in training sessions, so although he's not speaking there this year, it is utterly germane. You can pre-order it from us, of course, and we would be pleased to off a a discount for you.)

WE NEED BOOKS: TOOLS FOR THE KINGDOM
reading books makes you better poster.jpgWe need books to give us insight about what it might mean to be faithful followers of Jesus, to live out the implications of the Kingship of Christ, in a pluralistic, secularized, post-Christian culture, across every zone of life. 

wp-PPYR-BookBuzz-11688-1723fc8d.jpgI hope you indulge me to remind you that we here at Hearts & Minds have books -- unlike most Christian bookstores, or so we have been told -- on art, science, business, politics, urban design, architecture, gender studies, counseling, education, engineering, environmental science, philosophy, sociology, sports, dance, media, film, business, video gaming,economics, legal theories, and on and on. 

Sadly, most American church folks don't share our enthusiasm for Kuyper's worldview and vision for social renewal, and seem baffled when we say that we are neither conservative nor progressive, that we are seeking a Biblical third way beyond the customary assumptions in North American culture, and that the books we stock -- diverse as they are -- can help ordinary Christian folks live out a truly redemptive faith in the gospel in every area of life.

We believe churches can (must!) help in this, and we are forever grateful that unlike some campus ministry organizations, the CCO partners with local congregations, helping local churches serve their local student populations.  We believe that at the heart of the wide-as-life Kingdom of God, coming on Earth to restore the creation in the risen Christ, is the local body we call the institutional church.  Yes, yes, spiritual renewal is happening all over, and God cares about it all -- it's why I so appreciated Diana Butler Bass's last book, Grounded: Finding God in the World, just for instance.  But the ordinary local church is, as one of my favorite books by Howard Snyder puts it, "the community of the King."  Churches that are worth their salt help congregants see themselves as sent, as Kingdom people, as servants of the Lord in all they do.  Every. Square. Inch.

JUBILEE REVISITED
We learned most of this from Jubilee, or speakers at Jubilee.  For 40 years the CCO has been challenging us and inspiring us to be bold for God's Kingdom, thinking and reading and learning and serving and taking up the high calling of making a difference wherever we find ourselves.

(There have been musicians and artists, too, by the way: it was at Jubilee years ago that I got to hang out with the late Mark Heard, met Bill Mallonee, was blown away (but not for the last time) by Pierce Pettis, introduced CCO to my friend Brooks Williams, heard Justin McRoberts live, and in recent years have come to admire the wonderful singer song-writers Joy and Peace Ike, and was lead in song for many a year by the legendary James Ward who served the conference for decades.)

I will never forget in the mid 70s hearing a lovely but incisive evangelistic speaker, an African American gentleman named Bill Pannell, talk about urban poverty and white privilege. I was transformed by the powerfully passionate preaching of Tom Skinner, another leading black evangelist who died too soon, and later hearing his wife, Barbara. I think it was there that I first met Calvin Seerveld, whose books on aesthetics we often mention. A life long hero of mine is former Dutch Parliament member Bob Goudzewaard who I met at Jubilee. In the early days of Jubilee we heard R.C. Sproul and C. Evert Koop and Carl Henry and other world class women and men. Wow.

William Diehl was a Lutheran who was an executive at Bethlehem Steel and he chided us to quit saying "thank God's it's Friday" because it betrayed an unbiblical, low view of work. His book was called Thank God It's Monday and it was very, very influential. He was a pioneer, and we may not today have Tim Keller's remarkable Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work if it weren't for the influences of Jubilee and William Diehl rippling out from Pittsburgh to places where Keller was paying attention. 

I will never forget hearing Senator Mark Hatfield, an anti-war Republican of considerable renown, talk about "stewardship" and I was on the same page when he explained that for many religious folks that word implies just giving money or time to the local church. Biblically, though, it means -- think of what it says in Leviticus 25, again -- the land is not for sale. We are merely managers, stewards, not owners. Hatfield offered a faith-based, non-partisan stewardly energy policy from the stage in Pittsburgh and it was written up in the Washington Post.  College students grappling with innovative visions of fresh policy proposals out of their evangelical faith? A national news story!

So many great speakers have crossed our paths in Pittsburgh, and when we even now sell their books I think fondly of them -- authors such as John Stott, John Perkins, Al Wolters, Becky Pippert, Bryan Stevenson, Soong-Chan Rah, Os Guiness, Brenda Psalter McNeil, Chuck Colson, Lauren Winner, Harvie Conn, Shane Claiborne, Richard Mouw, J. I. Packer, Lisa Sharon Harper, Jim Skillen, Luci Shaw, Gary Haugen, Bob Goff, Mako Fujimura.  

I will never forget hearing Dr. Harold Dean Trulear whose charge to students I've used over and over: "Our scholarship and our worship ought not be ships merely passing in the night."  He called for an integrated vision, relating academics and faith. Amen?

And who who has heard Tony Campolo preach that "It's Friday, but Sunday's comin'" can ever forget how rousing it was to hear a socially engaged, intellectually aware, Baptist preacher that made us laugh and invited us to live our faith in thought, word, and deed?

YOU'VE GOT TO SEE THIS
The CCO has developed a lovely brochure that I'd love for you to open up -- it's very, very cool, and easy to open -- that shows some of the impact Jubilee has had over these last 40 years.  

This is an organization with whom we work about whom we are proud, and whose influence on us and our work has been considerable.  I'm sorry I'm not highlighting particular books right now, but as we pack the truck tonight and tomorrow, and get ready for the demanding two day set up, I invite you to check this out. And pray for us, please.  


THIS YEAR'S PROGRAM BOOK
If you want to see what they are doing this year, here is an amazing, artful, program booklet that opens nicely and you can click through like a real magazine.  Notice the four articles written by young friends within the CCO -- creation, fall, redemption, restoration.  Somebody saw it and wrote to me saying "your fingerprints are all over this."  Well, I don't know about that, but the good writers who did those essays all bought books from us.  So we're glad for that!  The program booklet itself is a work of art, and the essays are good.


Check out all the workshops in this booklet -- engineering, sports, pop music, science, politics, film-making, sexuality, global development, calling and vocation, working in the industrial trades, food, social work, medicine, business, leadership, education, urban ministry, creativity, gospel-centered discipleship, emotional life, lawyering, and more.  When we first cooked up the idea for this conference, we determined to invite students to relate faith to higher education, to help them imagine God's will for their future careers, and wanted to offer time to interact with real folks living in the rough and tumble of the real world.  You'll see why some adults come back to Jubilee year after year, to be around such winsome servants of the Lord who are relating faith to work, callings, public life.  It's the kind of stuff you, if I may be frank, don't hear much about in many churches, I'm afraid...

Good Faith- Being a Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme.jpgone thousand wells cover.jpgYou'll enjoy and be inspired to see the speakers -- from student leaders (an international undergrad who, inspired by her evangelical faith, started what has become the largest organization for Mongolian students in North America!) to some famous authors. Gabe Lyon and David Kinnaman will be talking about their soon to be released book Good Faith, which we will have there.

Jena Lee Nardella will be describing her work as chronicled in her great book A Thousand Wells. (It was a BookNotes "Best of 2015, by the way.)

fabric of f.jpgvisions of vocation.jpgSteve Garber -- who used to direct the Jubilee conference years ago and cares for Jubilee as much as anybody -- will bring his wisdom to a large group of students as seen in his eloquent, wise, and profound works Fabric of Faithfulness and Visions of Vocation. Of course, Derek Melleby will be explaining what led him to write (with Don Optiz) what is essentially a Jubby must-read, Learning for the Love of God: A Student's Guide to Academic Faithfulness.  

Four final things:

  • On pages 69 - 70 you will see the speakers at Jubilee 2016 who have written books.  We'll have big stacks there for the crowds that easily surpass 3000. Let us know if you want to order any and we'll give you the Jubilee discount.


  • See on pages 71 - 72  a short list of key books that I've curated for these students. You can see the basic categories and my descriptions.  Hope it gives you a nice reminder about some very nice books. Again, we have plenty of most of these and it would be a delight to send some out for your reading pleasure.


  • Strong and Weak- Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing.jpgYou might notice Andy Crouch in that first link offering his endorsement for the conference. He has spoken there before (indeed, his talks on the impact of creation and culture-making embedded in the Genesis narrative is seminal.) We will have, at Jubilee, the very first boxes of his forthcoming book Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing (IVP; $20.00.) and will be releasing it to the conferees there.  When we return on Tuesday, February 23rd we will start sending out the pre-orders we received back when we announced it at BookNotes last month. If you want to be among the first to get it, let us know asap.  Here is a several minute interview with him that explains the insight of this new, very, very good book. 


  • It's not too late.jpgOur dear friend Dan Dupee is the President of the Board of Directors of the CCO, but for years has their El Presidente. Besides offering good leadership to this fabulous organization, he spent some time doing some research -- namely, pulling together punches of focus groups to talk with parents of college age students.  And, talking to the many college age students he came to know through the CCO staff that serve on campuses all over.  His book -- which we invited you to pre-order -- is called It's Not Too Late : The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen's Faith (Baker; $15.99.)

So, there you have it. 

Except this, if you are still with us: please pray for us not only that we would set up our book display without too much stress (we most likely have too many books for the remarkably generous space... we always over do it, it seems) and that we'd have good conversations with our customers, but also for my sermon Sunday morning.

Borger-Byron-brownshirt speaking.jpgYes, I have the great, great privilege of speaking Sunday morning at Jubilee 2016. I'm not sure if a conference speaker should be called a preacher, but, with God's help, I'm going to bring it. I'll be inviting folks to big hope, to understand a bit about the restoration of creation that is the ultimate hope of those of us who believe Christ's Kingship is truly coming "on earth as it is in heaven."  End times details aside, I'll be inviting folks to live into this dream of a better world, taking up visions of vocation that last, bearing witness to what we most deeply believe.  All things (re)newed.  Every. Square. Inch.  Maranatha.

Thank God for the CCO, get excited about the 40th anniversary of Jubilee, and pray that we sell some books that help people respond well to God's gift of transformation. And that I am able to be a useful vessel for God's truth to be proclaimed on Sunday morning.

We are grateful for your support, glad for your interest in our work, and truly blessed by your prayers.

In the meantime, pray also for our good staff here at the shop who make all this possible. Beth and I would not be able to do half of what we do without our colleagues in book-selling, Amy, Patti, Katy, our mail-out specialist Diana, and our book-keeper, Robin.  And whisper a prayer for the sales reps and publishers without whose help we wouldn't get to set up these big off-site pop-up bookstores. And those UPS and FedEx and USPS folks. Thank them for doing some of the heavy lifting.

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