On To Jubilee!

     After speaking recently at IUP (ask Heather about her mitten song!) an alumna who was back visiting gave me those words of encouragement that we all long to hear. Keep up all the worldview-relevant-gospel-Christian-view-of-your-major-whole-life-discipleship stuff, she more or less said. As a first-year public school teacher, she is being used by God and feeling blessed in an admittedly difficult arena. She wanted to share her appreciation for Jubilee, etc., although I also think she just wanted to share her Godly enthusiasm for her vocation with someone who understood. And so, my brothers and sisters, I write my column this month not so much to inform you of new books or useful resources, but merely to assure you that the late hours, long prayer sessions, repeated phone calls and other persuasive routines that are so common in pre-Jubilee January and February are indeed well worth it. Do not lose heart (or passion or energy) as the Jubilee conference (and more importantly, the worldview and vision it represents) is critical in the faith development of our young friends and disciples. Competing views of the gospel and inadequate perspectives on culture, work, calling and career are everywhere, and God has placed the CCO (that is, you!) in a strategic place to present a counter-vision, the Real Deal, authentic and fully biblical approaches to discipleship. It seems to me that some see Jubilee as a conference about (to use the term loosely) social action. And, of course, that isn’t bad; heaven knows we need concrete action to serve the poor, build communities of racial reconciliation, reach out in holistic, short-term missions. However, we must be very careful to make certain that our students see our advocacy (from gender justice to environmental stewardship) as part of a broader call to Kingdom living in every area of life, including (and maybe especially) the life of the mind.

     Effective and biblical societal renewal necessitates Christian thinking. As one whose activists’ dues have been well paid, let me warn you: do not miss opportunities to frame all of the conference’s aspects with the reformational insight about the need for foundational theoretical thinking in each academic area. Art, science, social theory, teaching, race & gender, politics and business; all are informed by basic presuppositions and theories which may not be acceptable by God-fearing students. Living out of the wisdom of the Scriptures demands taking critical distance from the ideologies and assumptions, ideas and values which undergird our academic careers. It is my sense that most of our students (at least those who have been to the conference before) need to consider taking in the Track Two options. The Track One seminars were developed out of the need for basic presentations for very young believers or those who were utterly clueless about their academic calling. That more mature students avoid the academic discipleship areas is indicative that the fully reformational (dare I say, “non-dualistic”) worldview hasn’t caught on yet… This year, I might add, it is a bit easier to make sure folks don’t miss that the academic areas are the heart of the event; Bonnie’s always splendid brochure makes that nearly impossible to miss. Use the brochure as a teaching tool and make sure everyone “gets it” as they look at that marvelous array of majors and vocations.

     To remind students (or at least yourself!) of this Jubilee call to bring God’s glory to the worlds of academic theory, make sure you have a copy of James Sire’s Discipleship of the Mind (InterVarsity Press). While the first half is a bit tedious, I highly recommend chapter 8 (“Getting to Know the World: The Academic Enterprise”) or the essential brief appendix, “Thinking Your Way Through College.” Call IVP today and ask them for the right to photocopy it and go to town passing that baby out! And don’t forget the worldview class handout by Brian Walsh (which we also use at OCBP), also called “Thinking Your Way Through College.” These little articles are sure resources to prepare your students to come to the conference to have their resolve deepened to be truly Christian students. An easier read, and more general, is the popular What On Earth Are We Doing by John Fischer (Servant). Lots of students bought it at Jubilee last year and I wonder if they’d pass it around to their friends in the fellowship. It delightfully exposes our sacred-secular assumptions by asserting that this is God’s world. He even calls on believers to think well and has a small section on being a Christian college student. This may be the best intro to living and thinking Christianly in-the-world-but-not-of-it and I highly recommend it.

     Another simple resource which I highly recommend is the set of four small, inexpensive but quite attractive books, The Case for Calling, The Case for Service, The Case for Character and The Case for Skill. The first two especially can be used to help students see that their so-called secular major is in fact a mission field where they are called to be salt and light. We respond to the high and holy privilege of being called by serving, with a character known for integrity, and with a commitment to excellence and professional proficiency. Each small book includes a Bible study and stands alone, although you can easily see the way they build upon each other. They can each be read in less than an hour, so get a few and have students pass them around. Perhaps your leaders can use them as recruiting tools as you equip them to talk to their friends about the Kingdom and the conference. Many of you have what we might want to call “Jubilee-advanced students.” Some of them, you know, have not only bought Transforming Vision and a book on their major, but they have also gone to Jubilee two or three times already. They are ready to be pushed on to “the meat of the gospel”! A few of them have made profound commitments to doing their academic work Corem Deo and to God’s glory. You should know that Roy Clouser’s The Myth of Religious Neutrality (University of Notre Dame Press) is still the best serious text on the need for Christianly-conceived, worldview-sensitive control theories. I could not imagine mentoring a student into serious-minded academic discipleship without it.

     To remind ourselves of just how deadly serious all of this is, let us recall the warning of the Apostle in Colossians 2:8 which tells us (and our students as they sit in their lecture halls, labs and libraries), “Do not be taken captive by worldly philosophies.” By the way, if you ever get a good commentary and study that verse, you will note that it is laden with Greek urgencies that seem not to come through in the NIV text. The verse starts with the serious warning, “Take heed!” Clouser, Sire, Walsh & Middleton are each profound and serious allies in our attempts to keep our young friends from the idols that surround them, to help them “take heed!” Your own well-stocked library on Christian perspectives, shared liberally, will send a message to those who you are discipling that you care and that you intend to take a stand with them in the battle for their hearts and minds, a battle of which they may not even be fully aware. Who ever heard that the philosophic conundrums in the classroom are actually signs of spiritual warfare? But we reformational worldview types know this to be true, and I say this to you one more time so that you might not grow weary of the fight. On to Jubilee!