Velvet Elvis, Henri Nouwen, The Drama of Scripture and Harvie Conn

I’ve often mentioned the Pittsburgh-based Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) and my work helping to resource them with books and stuff; I even get to help with their training, pontificating about the Lordship of Christ, how faith must lead to cultural engagement, and how the likes of Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper and his theological and philosophical heirs can provide good substance for ongoing social change for God’s glory. Their staff come from a variety of places and, although solidly evangelical, are delightfully diverse. CCO links them with local churches throughout the mid-Atlantic who care about the colleges that are nearby. It is great to see their staff read deeply, knowing that these books will shape the tone and content of their ministry with tomorrow’s leaders on their respective campuses.
One of the more interesting places we get to do CCO work is at their summer-long Ocean City Beach Project (OCBP) which draws a few dozen of the best CCO students and just a few of their staff who run the place. A lovely old Victorian hotel-type building in Ocean City NJ is the site for this intensive bit of community living, in-class sessions and face-to-face discipleship. They let The Borger’s keep coming back in part due to my flamboyant passion for all things reformational—the call to integrate faith and learning, the dream of socially-relevant Godly campus renewal, the hope of seeing students develop vocational holiness in their respective careers, the Biblical insistence on social justice and responsible peacemaking, the stories of books that change peoples lives, etc. They also like it that we lug about a half a ton of Hearts & Minds books up those old beach-house stairs, and set them up, creating a temporary bookstore right in their living room. (No air hockey playing while the books are here and don’t even think about the pool tables; we claim every horizontal space to display our bookish wares.)
CCO leaders pick books for the students to officially read (other than the ones we hawk there on site.) This year, they assigned the fun, wholistic, po-mo piece Velvet Elvis by Rob “Nooma” Bell, our favorite overview of the Bible, The Drama of Scripture by Craig Bartholomew & Michael Goheen, In the Name of Jesus, an excellent, gentle book on leadership by contemplative priest, Henri Nouwen, and Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace, an oldie but goodie from the late Westminster Seminary urban ministry whiz, Harvie Conn.
Interestingly, each one of these four books offers a vision of life in this world that is deeply Christian, Biblical faithful, and very culturally engaged and gets at that (at least in part) by rejecting the non-Biblical worldview that presumes a sacred-secular dichotomy. Pagan Greek dualism is not Biblical, these books insist, and a robust Christian contribution to culture will develop to the extent that we reject the truncated gospel that inevitably grows from the soil of such dualistic disdain for the worlds of work, politics, art, the enviroment, or sexuality. An earthy spirituality—ahh, read that last chapter of Rob Bell!—is what the CCO wants to pass on to these young leaders. Living near the awesome beauty of the ocean, amidst the vanity fair of the increasingly vulgar boardwalk, in community with other brothers and sisters, for better or for worse, and attending class and helping out at the local church, is a great way to help nurture in these students a sense of their calling to serve God in all they do, even their day to day work and studies.
Maybe tomorrow, if I find time, I might list a few of the best-sellers at OCBP 06. It is interesting to see what these new, young friends were buying. For now, say a prayer for their next week (with good friend Steve Garber, whose Fabric of Faithfulness is a must-read for serious-minded collegiates or those who care about “weaving together belief and behavior” over the long-haul of life.) And pray for Hearts & Minds as we get settled back into the Dallastown work. Thanks.

One thought on “Velvet Elvis, Henri Nouwen, The Drama of Scripture and Harvie Conn

  1. Ah, OCBP, how I loved thee. Has it really been that long since I had that 9-week endeavor, only to now find myself married to one of the students I met there? By, so much has changed, yet I know that OCBP remains one of my fondest memories of my days as a “Christian in college.”Drop me a line, if you got the chance. I’d love to send some wedding pics and invite ya up to beautiful New England for a week. :)Love,Brian

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