Books. Jubilee. Students. We talked about books for hours on end and had several opportunities to address the whole house. Standing in front of 2000 folks at what may be the most important event of their lives is daunting to say the least. Hanging out in the green room and being back stage with contemporary worship leaders like Charlie Hall or speakers like Shane Claiborne or having the privilege of introducing one of my best friends, Steve Garber, is very nice. But talking about books as resources to help young students on their faith journey, especially the journey of discerning vocation in a fallen world—that is the biggest privilege of all. Thanks to the CCO for allowing us to partner with them in this project of “transforming college students to transform the world.” Thanks to all who believe that reading can be transformational, that ideas matter, that books make a difference, and that promoting the habits of literacy is an urgent obligation. (We sold a bunch of the very small paperback, Your Mind Matters by John Stott, who himself addressed the Jubilee conference back in the 70’s, and were glad to have such a fine little book to give the overview of serving God by thinking well.)
There are always tensions at the big gig: we talk about the poor, but yet want to affirm every career and profession. We invite intellectual growth but want to bath it in prayer and nurture a deeper spirituality. We want to encourage authentic cultural engagement, but don’t want to give the impression that Christ winks at worldly accomodation. We challange students to missional, civic involvement but insist that their academic careers matter to God. The CCO has this fairly specific (if broadly defined) theological agenda, yet that includes reading widely from diverse traditions. Choosing and promoting books is, well, more complicated and taxing than most realize, and doing it well at Jubilee may be the most tricky gig of all. Ahhh, how to be “in the world but not of it”? How to live wholistically in a centered, timely manner? How to live out in our 21st century context the Biblical call to reformation and renewal? How to celebrate the good we see and grieve the losses of our innocence and the horrors of our times? How do you do a conference aimed at the biggest questions a 20 year old can ask, and still insure a good time is had by all?
This year’s Jubilee conference had some of the most poignant moments of the 30 years we’ve been there, including attorney Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission telling of his up close work against forced slavery and child prostitution (yes, 27 million, at least, now are enslaved, making the transatlantic slave trade of the 1700-1800’s seem relatively small.) Gary’s work—after his time at State Department doing Rhwanda investigations—is literally “setting the captives free.” His books, The Good News About Injustice and Terrify No More were big sellers as students responded well to his very professional and animated talk.
Shane’s book The Irresistible Revolution was the biggest seller. His impish call to just living, alternative community, and radical service reminded me of some post-modern St. Francis. (Check out his gang, The Simple Way, here.) His stories (mostly drawn from the book) helped us imagine that, indeed, “another world is possible.” It did my heart well to hear Peter Maurin, an intellectual mentor to Dorothy Day, cited amongst we evangelicals.
Barbara Williams- Skinner’s closing talk called students to excellence and passion to make a difference in all sorts of matters (from Darfur to racial reconciliation, from personal educational commitments to working for global economic justice) and ended with a rousing, old-school plea for commitment to Christ. The “altar call” had as much integrity and passion (and success) as any I’ve seen…I love talking about reformational philosophy and social action and academic discipleship and cultural engagement and all manner of things that emerge from the Kingdom vision of Christ’s gospel. But there is nothing better than hearing the old fashioned gospel proclaimed with relevance and urgency, and seeing young people recieve Christ as Savior and bow to Him as King.
We could hardly be more exhausted or more exhilarated. Thanks to the gang that helped us pack up, and lug the boxes. Tyler Mummert, a young pastor from Gettysburg deserves special credit, and Liz, a theatre major from Pittsburgh, cheered us until the very end. Scott & Becky made it happen, for Hearts & Minds, and for everyone.
Check out the latest big batch of pictures here. Of course you’ll see a few of me (how about that grungy hair in the one shot? Yikes!) Make sure you notice the miles of aisles of book tables, our work which many of you prayed for. But most of all, notice the faces of the students, the rapt attention, the goofy silliness, and passion of the speakers. Maybe next year you’ll sign up to come!