In my March monthly column which I posted the other day I had a long piece about the Jubilee conference; I really hope you enjoyed it. Alongside a lot of descriptions of a lot of authors and books, I noted a few things that were symbolic of the Pittsburgh Jubilee gathering, episodes that offered windows into the wonder of it all.
Here are two more.
Imagine a gathering of more than 1500 college students (and a goodly batch of adults, too.) They are run ragged attending serious workshops, listening to several plenary speakers at a time, blasted with sound and lights and “late night ops.” There is a lot to do and a lot of content.
As the final few shoppers lingered at the book display area around 12:30 am one night, a large group came spilling down a near-by escalator. I figured most students were over at the hotel, singing, praying, eating pizza or out running around the city, fooling around as kids do. Yet, a large gang had stayed up late after the main sessions, taking in a screening of the heavy documentary Waiting for Superman. As you probably know, this is a study of the problems with public education. A spirited conversation ensued and it is fantastic to think that these students– tomorrow’s educators, policy makers, parents, and citizens– would (as thoughtful Christians) take up this controversial debate, late into the night. I was glad we sold a few Jonathan Kozol books, too. Everybody should read a Kozol book or two at some point in their lives.
Another vignette: some of these same night owls—with minds ablaze with important discussions and hearts full of visionary dreams of reforming culture—got up early before the start of the day to pray. CCO offers several prayer rooms and opportunities for pastoral care throughout Jubilee, but this was an early morning op for practicing lectio divina, a prayerful and open-hearted reading of Scripture. Drawing on exercises from Divine Intervention: Encountering God Through the Ancient Practice of Lectio Divina (Zondervan; $11.99) students were invited to experience God more directly through The Word. Hundreds of students participated. The prayer time was led by a very solid, exceptional CCO staffer and I can’t stop thinking of how good it is that the conference created this unique kind of sacred space for quiet time and that so many collegiates chose to rise early for morning prayer.
Discussing the future of our troubled school system and wanting to enter in to ancient, slower ways of attending to God in prayerful Scripture reading. And more than just a few students choose these extra opportunities! Thanks be to God! I hope you have know any young students away at college that they are being enfolded into fellowship groups and Christian ministries like this.
Of course, for us, at least, much of the memory of Jubilee involves the books that were most popular, the good conversations we had at the book tables, and the joy of knowing that students were learning the habit of reading as an act of discipleship. Here are three more books we promoted–the authors were not there, but I high-lighted them from up front, and we sold them well; order them now from us and get the “wish I coulda been there” disount!
Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition James K.A. Smith
(Baker) $14.99 As I have said here before, this is an ideal guide–thoughtful, wise, aware, a bit assertive, and yet kindly–written as a series of pastoral letters from an “older brother” to some younger, fired-up Christians who have discovered the intellectual and doctrinal meat of a robust, conservative Calvinism. James understands the passion of this new movement and yet invites them to a somewhat more broad and culturally-engaged sort of Reformed tradition. As sometimes say that this is a great read, spiritually beneficial whether one is young or Calvinist. It is also a very helpful overview of the different “sorts of” or expressions of the Reformed traditions, written by a popular philosopher who in many ways captures the neo-Calvinist worldview that animates much of the Jubilee vision. I didn’t say in my announcement my rhyme that it is a survey moving from John Piper to Abraham Kuyper” but I know at least some would have gotten the allusion. Highly recommended.
What is Vocation? Stephen Nichols (P&R) $3.99 I highlighted this when I described the
local Summit: Your Work Matters to God that we helped with a few weeks ago. Steve is a very sharp young theologian who has written in this booklet the best, simple, brief teaching on work and calling and vocation that we know of. I pushed this from up front, thinking that if students get this, they will be far along the journey of relating faith and life in the way the conference intends. You hope you agree that this is one of the important conversations in which the local church must be engaged. Let us know if you want to order any in bulk for your congregation or group.
Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different Tullian Tchividjian (Multnomah) $18.99 Whenever one works with younger folks in a big way like this, attracting some of the most hip and savvy missional organizations and speakers in the country, we run the risk—or so it seems to me—of sending a message that what the event is about is mostly just being relevant. Edgy. Fashionable. Reaching out through accommodation and contextualization. Much good can be said for that bridge-building impetus and heaven knows that too many churches are too boring, too ugly, too unaware of the interests and needs of their members, disinterested in the postmodern ways of most Americans under the age of 50. However, awareness of, and engagement with, the artistic styles, forms and fashions of the culture should not be understood as a call to compromise. The ethos of Jubilee is not one of merely being cool; it is way cool, but simply is not the point.
To make this un-mistakenly clear, I touted this book and we were thrilled that we sold a bundle. This is one of the wisest, most compelling, and inspiring books that does this Biblically-grounded dance of “in but
not of” the world of which we know. That CCO students believed my quick announcement, that this would be a worthwhile book to own, and that the ideas are urgent, meant a lot to us. This is radical stuff.
The author has done his walk on the wild side, and has experimented with missionally-savvy, culturally-relevant church planting, too. He is now the pastor of a large and rather typical Presbyterian (PCA) church in Florida. Tchividjian is actually Billy Graham’s grandson and we love all three of his recent books. Unfashionable really is fantastic and it captures much of what Jubilee is about, much of what we believe here, and we are happy to commend it. Frankly, I hope you are at a place that worries about these things (if you are not, you may be just a bit too out of it, or a bit too comfortable.) Read this book!
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