Teaching and Talking Books with the CCO

Those of you who read my blog from time to time know that I most often review books, tell of new titles we’ve gotten in at Hearts & Minds, or books we’ve sold at various conference, events and book displays.
The past few days had me out at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA, where the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) was training their new staff. Beth and I worked for CCO years ago and we have remained associated with them as their official bookseller. We get to attend their good staff seminars every few months—hearing folks as wonderful as Tremper Longman and Father Thomas Hopko; Ruth Haley Barton and Ron Sider; Steve Garber and Brenda Salter McNeil; Denis Haack and Marva Dawn. These are the sorts of authors who over the years have nurtured the campus ministry staff of this creative and fun organization— we are privileged to play a role in their on-going staff training. If you are not familiar with this Pittsburgh-based para-church campus ministry, check out their website and ponder their provocative core values. How fun, too, that they’ve won the “Best Place to Work” award several years running in their size category of ministry organization. Click, if you haven’t, on the Jubilee conference blinking thing, too, (see above) which we keep at our blog, the conference which is their flagship event, the highlight of our year, the nations premier event designed to help students relate faith to the college experience.
Anyway, I drove five hours due West on the rainy Pennsylvania turnpike, getting out to the lovely Geneva campus around 11:00; Gus met me and we set up books, listening to the new Van Morrison country album, and the “apocalyptic bluegrass” album, B-Collision by the David Crowder Band. We got done around 5 am.
That morning, after an hour of sleep, I ripped into my lecture cum sermon about cultural engagement, Christ’s call to be “salt and light” as we live into the ways of the Kingdom “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” “Transforming College Students To Transform the World” is a key slogan of the CCO and that is all I needed to ramp up the passion for three solid hours. That these young CCO staff will be impacting tomorrow’s leaders is strategic and exciting and we pray that in God’s mercy, good, important things happen for Christ’s glory in the arena of American colleges. (Do you know God on the Quad a study of recent religious interest on campuses, written by a fabulous and sharp Jewish journalist, Naomi Riley? Thanks be to God. But, yet, do you know the riveting and vulgar novel, I Am Charlotte Simons by Tom Wolfe? Oh, my, what needs we have. Read this vivid article from Rolling Stone about the sexual practices of Duke students if you can stomach it, if you don’t believe me.)
I was happy to hang out with the brand new CCO staff for a couple of days, dreaming up ways to disciple the next generation of collegiates into responsible discipleship, whole-life faith, integrated, worldviewish approaches that would honor Christ, glorify God, strengthen the church and serve our needy, needy world, including the professional spheres and social institutions their students will eventually enter. Thanks to CCO for letting me do my talks, equipping this emerging cohort of new staff, and thanks for the new staff themselves for their encouragement to me, for their faith in Christ’s sovereign work and their desire to make a difference on campus. As Abraham Kuyper put it over 100 years ago in his famous Princeton Lectures On Calvinism “There isn’t one square inch of creation that Christ does not look upon and say “Mine!”” May God us them and us to raise up a generation of sons and daughters of Isachaar, who “knew the times and knew what God’s people should do.” (2 Chronicles 12:32.)
To develop competencies in campus ministry from this holistic perspective, staff purchased books on all kinds of topics–of course Walsh & Middleton’s Transforming Vision on developing a Christian worldview, and Brian Walsh’s little powerhouse follow-up, Subversive Christianity and other similar works like Wolter’s Creation Regained or Paul Marshall’s Heaven is Not My Home: Living in the Now of God’s Creation. They need stuff on sexual ethics, books on prayer and contemplative spiritual formation, Bible works, titles on evangelism, things on outdoors ministry and devotionals to use in the wilderness, books which explore theological topics, stuff on the church. You can imagine the specialty titles that they needed, too–books on eating disorders, popular culture, postmodernism, racial reconciliation, apologetics, lay counseling and leadership development among students. (Ahh, if most church pastors where this well read and keenly aware…)
Of course, they are studying how to integrate faith into the setting of higher education so they read Steve Garber’s Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior and Engaging God’s World by Cornelius Plantinga. Some CCO staff work also with youth so we promoted Walt Mueller’s must-read Engaging the Soul of Youth Ministry and the new Contemplative Youth Ministry by Mark Yaconelli. (How ’bout that forward by Anne Lamott, whose son is a kid that Mark befriends.) Some CCO work in residence halls and are studying the nature of student development—the only book which offers a uniquely Christian approach to that profession is Rethinking Student Affairs Reconsidered, edited by Dave Guthrie. You just know we took these kinds of books, books that simply aren’t available at most bookstores. I will happily drive five hours and work all night to display these rare and important Kingdom resources!
And, unlike some who work on college campuses, CCO staff often buy books to give to their future students, choosing resources by major—art, science, business, psychology, technology, political science, media studies, sports and the like. (See our bibliography at the website called “Books by Vocation” for descriptions of some of these.) If they are going to invite their students to “think Christianly” and be agents of reformation in their various disciplines at college (and eventually to make a healing impact in their careers) they must have tools to use with book groups studying to bring Biblical wisdom into their various academic studies. George Marsden famously made New York Times news (ask me about it sometime) and published The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship to explain this approach. At their most mature, that is what characterizes the CCO campus ministry approach, bringing broad Christian thinking not only into the personal lives of young adults, but equipping those adults to be serious learners, faithful in their vocation as students, creative and redemptive in their scholarship and preparation for a lifetime of servant leadership in the workworld.
You can imagine, perhaps, that the last several BookNotes posts—my kudos to Ron Sider & Os Guinness, that wonderful book about learning and reading (A Mind for God by White) that I reviewed, and Kelly Monroe’s excellent and important narrative about her work on campus leading the Veritas Forum (Finding God Beyond Harvard)—would be the kinds of things that these campus workers would find helpful. Scroll down and see the last few posts if you haven’t read those yet. They are now so fired up to get out to meet students, to build partnerships with churches and colleges, to raise the necessary money to do so they hardly have time to think and reflect and study. I don’t think they can afford all the books they need (they each raise their own salaries, old-school missionary style.) Please pray, for them, for others in collegiate work, and for us, that we would learn how best to serve them. (I will be teaching a week on these same themes with some of their finest undergrad students next week.) Perhaps you can help somehow, making donations, supporting campus ministry programs in your region, buying books on the Christian mind for young adults you know, and spreading the news about the books we sell that promote a responsible Christian cultural engagement. Thanks for being a part of our story….

6 thoughts on “Teaching and Talking Books with the CCO

  1. Staff training, such memories! I think of a porch swing at Geneva, listening to a Buechner sermon on cassette with Scott on some porch of a dorm… Thanks for being there, Byron! Things go well here. My brother brought me a new computer “so you don’t have to write on a piece of trash,” he says. It has nice bells and whistles, and the keyboard moves so much easier than the sticky one I was using. I’m chipping away at my homework (Yay!) and we’re thinking about Practising Resurrection conference…Okay, I closed the windows so the rain doesn’t come in, and got sidetracked in email– bloglet still works. Don’t be up all night like Scott and I were at training, no, no!

  2. Byron,Thanks for your faithfulness to we CCO staff! I know I certainly appreciate you, and I second the notion that we definitely can’t afford all the books we need! But thank you for being a resource and for being at our beck and call when we need something! You Rock!

  3. Yes, Ange…I second that! (nice bumping into you around the blog world…I just put a note on your blog, by the way…I need your email address!) Byron, I think that’s the first time I heard the word ‘worldviewish’…that gave me a little chuckle, and you used it so well! tee hee…Glad you were able to bless this new class with your wisdom, expertise and much more! It’s hard to believe it was just two years ago that we came in…time flies!Peace,Michele

  4. ItÕs Sunday, and IÕm giving thanks for the gift of Byron and biblio lists. As a CCO staff worker, I continue to count the incredible blessing of the partnership and resource we have in Hearts $ Minds. This week I had a great conversation with a student who has been reading voraciously since summer started. I recently sent her ByronÕs book recommendations on womenÕs issues/body image/eating disorder stuff. She selected one of the books based on the blog blurbs…and it is changing her. SheÕs taking in pagesÉsavoring sentencesÉeating books. This may be the best food she’s put inside her body in long time…Introducing students to books has been as meaningful in my ministry as connecting students to mentors, counselors, and other followers of Christ. IÕm so thankful for the thousand ways Byron and Hearts & Minds have been a part of sparking and strengthening rich relationships with books Ð relationships that give life and breath to me and my students. Thank you, Byron!

  5. Oh, my, Erica, thanks. You and I talked a bit about this passion of yours, using books, and I am so glad you reminded us all of how it’s done. And the helpful fruit. Your encouragement comes at a stressful time, here, too, so it is a blessing to be reminded of what it is all about.Let’s pray that all books that go out bear good fruit as they bring witness to the new life to be found…What fun to be a conduit.Byron

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