The CCO, the campus ministry organization we often serve, runs a yearly summer residential discipleship house in Ocean City, NJ, known as the Ocean City Beach Project. Students get summer jobs, experience intentional spiritual community in a large household, do some volunteer projects, learn to love their neighbors and co-workers, and get involved in the local Presbyterian (USA) Church which partners with the CCO to help mentor these young campus leaders. Every week they have a speaker who not only hangs out with the staff and students, enjoying oodles of informal conversations with these eager learners, but who teaches quite a few hours of intense classes (in the air conditioned basement of First Presbyterian.)
You may recall me reporting other years when I have been a teacher or speaker there — we’ve had the privilege of being there for many years and our whole family has been blessed to be a part of the OCBP ministry.
Naturally, when we go, we take a lot of books, transforming some of their living space into a pretty slick book display. (Well, slick for being a pop-up display in the middle of their house, that is. We use every available space to build shelves, stacking books on coffee tables and pool tables and air hockey tables. The strong men and women there help lug the boxes up to the second floor on Wesley Avenue and then give me about 6 hours to work our magic, creating the display. It’s a little crazy taking all these books for a few dozen folks, but it’s fun. And they are learning to be real readers, so it is well worth it.
We are so glad that CCO values mentoring Christian students in the practices of thinking deeply and learning much. Faithful Christian living really is complicated, and although saving faith is to be child-like, we are called to grow up and mature in our knowing and doing –especially as one takes up one’s vocation in the world, thinking creatively about how the gospel should inform and shape our work (or, in the case of students, their major and studies and fidelity in their context of higher education.) They like that I promote books on the developing of the Christian mind and use their good phrase — first learned from Tim Sine, I think — “whole life discipleship.”
This year I was only there for a few days (there was another woman present doing the main teaching that week) and my main task was to make the case for the significance of life-long learning, for using books as tools in spiritual formation and on-going discipleship. The church and the world needs young adults rising into their vocations and professions with gusto and thoughtful engagement with the issues of the day, I explained. Of course, I mentioned the “sons and daughters of Issachar” alluding to I Chronicles 12:32, and preached a bit about Romans 12:1-2, wondering what it means to serve God (worshipping even!) in our bodies, day by day, incarnating God’s ways in a world gone wrong. Can we “know the times” without being absorbed by them and know how to respond with grace and proper Kingdom vision, as “living sacrifices”?
Reading books old and new, Christian and otherwise, can help. So I did my thing, telling some stories of folks to whom we’ve sold books before where it helped make a difference in their journey. It was good to have these students so very interested about books and reading.
I figured you’d be rooting for us, and wanted to share how well it went.
The students of OCBP 2013, as always, represented many different kinds of colleges and universities — community colleges and larger institutions, some Christian (Calvin, Eastern, Grove City, Geneva, Waynesburg, Malone) and some whose ethos is decidedly secular. Some students reported having professors who were respectful of faith (or that were Christians themselves) and some reported having hostile, anti-Christian teachers who made it clear that the students’ convictions about ultimate things were unwelcome in the classroom.
It’s a good thing these students were reading (among other things) Derek Melleby and Don Optitz on The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness (Brazos; $13.99.) It is a book I refer to often whenever I’m with students and it really ought to be better known. I even showed them Derek’s more basic book Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life and Learning (Baker; $12.99) which I thought would be helpful for those new to being intentional about thinking religiously about why one goes to college. (Or, it would be a handy book to have that they might share with younger students they befriend when they get back to campus in the fall.)
I said it to them, and I might as well say it again here: if you know any young adults who are connected to a church and are heading off to college, these are two essential books! We think they are the very best of this kind of book, and nothing else in print approaches so well the context of college life and the call to be faithful to God even in the classroom as one thinks and considers, reads and learns, takes tests and reads paper, like The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness does. And no other books raises as nicely the most profound questions about identity and the reasons for going to college as Make College Count does. Both are great resources — fun and yet stimulating books.
A few of the students wanted more along these lines, and picked up titles like Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living the eloquent classic by Cornelius Plantinga (Eerdmans; $16.00) or the fun little book by Greg Jao, Your Mind’s Mission (IVP; $4.00) one, on the back of which, I have a ringing endorsing blurb. I read my little rave on the back cover and gloated just a bit. I was glad someone noticed The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers (HarperOne; $13.99) and of course we talked about James Sire and his two on the discipleship of the mind.
Of course we have a dozen other good books on the Christian mind. Consider books like Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper (Crossway; $15.99) or the wonderful and very provocative Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development by Philip E. Dow (IVP; $16.00) or the small, wonderful A Mind for God by James Emery White (IVP; $13.00) or the meaty one by internationally esteemed scholar Alister Mc
Grath, The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind (IVP; $22.00.)
Each are fabulous, rich books for those who like to think about thinking, and read about reading. It is a curious fact that some students, well-guided in their reading by the likes of IVCF or RUF or CCO, have done more intentional consideration of the relationship of faith and learning than some church-going college professors, who have never once read a single book on this sort of thing. Some days I grow cynical about the faith journey’s of some established professionals who are stuck in their ways. I’m glad for the fresh energy of these students who God is using to promote a 21st century renaissance. I hope you are encouraging your collegiate friends in this sort of renaissance. The discourse is exciting, and students are learning to relate faith and learning, “taking every thought captive” to Christ, as the Scriptures say. The books and these sorts of ruminations offer fun, interesting, and game-changing consequences for being a student.
If you know my style in this kind of ministry you won’t be surprised to know I pulled a copy of The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview (by Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton (IVP; $17.00) and showed a student the chapter near the end on being a young Christian scholar in community with other students. It is an important portion of an important book and I almost read some of it out loud to her.
A previous OCBP speaker had worked a bit with Steve Garber’s book The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP; $17.00) which, as you surely know, is one of my all-time favorite books. It isn’t simple or simplistic and is a bit demanding for some readers, but reading through its elegant prose and profound wisdom about the nature of “knowing and doing” and sustainable faith development is a life-changing experience for many. I was glad that some of these younger students took up the challenge, realizing that this is a very important book for those of us in CCO circles. It has made a profound impact on many earlier OCBP students, some of whom are now old enough to be sending their own children to OCBP.
Students grabbed some of the standard books that are popular among evangelical young adults these days: Blue Like Jazz and others by Donald Miller (Nelson; $16.99), Crazy Love by Francis Chan (Cook; $14.99), Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman (Zondervan; $14.99), Radical by David Platt (Multnomah; $14.99), Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne (Zondervan; $14.99.) We always take and sell Life Together by Bonhoeffer (HarperOne; $13.99) and we sold a few others on themes of community. We sold the beautiful books by Shauna Niquist, a few of Margaret Feinberg and a few by John Ortburg and always Margot Starbuck. Students know Henri Nouwen (one young woman told me that his Inner Voice of Love was the book that most changed her life.) They were using his In the Name of Jesus (Crossroad; $14.95) for one of their week’s classes on leadership. Many appreciated Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning (NavPress; $15.99.) We always take Richard Foster to such events, but sometimes Celebration of Discipline is a bit much for beginners. Ruth Haley Barton is a mature and profound writer, but a bit more accessible on solitude and silence and the classic spiritual disciplines. We sold at least one each of all four of her hardback books. We sold books on prayer, daily devotionals, a few workbooks about how to journal and such.
EATING WELL, BEING STEWARDS OF LIFE
We sold books about food and eating, Wendell Berry and such. Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food by Rachel Marie Stone published by IVP ($16.00) was a hit — hooray, it is such a good book! And books about resisting consumerism. We always take Julie Clawson’s important Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices (IVP; $16.00) which is still the best book about lifestyle choices, buying, eating, shopping, banking, energy use and the like. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker (B&H Books; $14.99) is a memoir of the journey away from excess that some women loved. Don’t you love the sub-title? (Not to mention the author’s nifty name.) I think we sold a lovely book on the role of the body in spiritual formation, too — Life in the Body: Spiritual Formation and Physical Well-being by Valerie Hess and Lane Arnold (IVP; $15.00.)
This idea of that faith can relate to everything and that all areas of life are to be opened up and enjoyed in light of God’s Word – the path before our feet – makes a lot of sense, and Christian books can help us learn to walk in those ways, in those spheres, engaging in mutiny against conventional notions…
FAITH AND LEARNING, FAITH AND WORK, FAITH AND LIFE
Part of what we do more intentionally than most stores, and what the CCO and the OCBP desire of us, is to show resources that help people think about the relationship of faith and various spheres of life, from economics to psychology to popular culture but then also specifically for their thinking about how faith impacts their majors and future careers. If faith is not compartmentalized, and God cares about it all, and shows up in each and every nook and cranny of God’s world, then we must learn to think about ideas and ideologies and presuppositions in each career area. For students, it means learning to approach each area of study and their future jobs with Biblical fidelity. We call it “the integration of faith and learning” or “academic discipleship.” We sell books with titles like Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith by James Bradley and Russell Howell (HarperOne; $19.99.) I know math teachers who are also Sunday school teachers — that is, they serve in this field and they love the Lord, but would never buy this book from us here in the story. At OCBP the students were nearly giddy seeing stuff like this.
Curiously: nobody bought Derek Schuurman’s excellent and astute Shaping a Digital World: Faith, Culture and Computer Technology (IVP; $18.00) about which I raved a month or so ago. Or, the upbeat and different angle on computer culture, Len Sweet’s fascinating and hard to put down Viral: How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival (Waterbrook; $14.99.) I wish I’d had sold a few of each!
We had books about nearly every major of all 30 participants, with faith-based books on engineering, math, art history, literature, music, education, neuros
cience, special education, and more.
We sold a Phil Yancey & Paul Brand book on the human body to a sports medicine major and an Eat with Joy to a hospitality/restaurateur major; we had books on social work, urban development, agriculture (go Penn State!) and communication theory for media studies majors. We sold a few books on being Christian as teachers in the public schools including some educational philosophy and some just about how to share God’s love by being attentive and present to young children. How exciting to see students thinking seriously about history, about politics, about counseling, about the arts and sciences, all from a Christian perspective, learning to learn about the world that is aflame with the glory of God.
The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was right in his “Pied Beauty” about the glory of dappled things and Frederick Buechner was right to warn us about our dumb tendency to want to be more spiritual than God is (who delights in the creation He made!) We must care about this world, the stuff and creatures and cultures of it, and we are hoping to model for students how walking intimately with God shapes everything we do, and how being a follower of Jesus necessarily impacts our consideration of our ideas and practices in our academic careers. And the very least, we praise God for the stuff we see and learn.
I suppose I don’t have to tell you that we also sold some books on sex and dating. We have our favorites, including Lauren Winner’s well done, mature Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity (Baker; $14.99) and there are plenty of others. Self-help sorts of books about coping with personal struggles, gender roles, personal relationships, growing in self-knowledge, coping with family issues, sexual abuse, eating disorders, cutting and the like are always much-discussed. We have a lot of these sorts of books and pray they are helpful as people learn new principles and to live well, as they apply solid ideas to their daily habits, and find God’s grace in the midst of hard, daily stuff.
The one that sold the most, of these sorts, by the way, was the excellent, thorough Stronger Than You Think: Becoming Whole Without Having to Become Perfect — A Woman’s Guide by Kim Gaines Eckert (IVP; $16.00.) It is highly recommended, for younger or older women!
And, it is always charming and encouraging to see students buy books for their relatives, their kid sister, their mom, their co-worker, seeking specific books on this need or that, this topic or hurt or quandary. It is an honor to help people us bibliotherapy and find healing and hope.
We sold some on how to address the claims of the new atheists, some about evangelism, some about helping understand other religions. These students are less interested in apologetics, it seems to me, mostly because they are so relational and earnest (and don’t seem to want to be very strategic about debating others.) I gather that few of their friends marshal serious intellectual arguments against the faith. We took A Case for Christ and A Case for Faith, and a dozen more similar titles, but none sold. Interesting, huh? Still, I think college people should read my friend Dick Cleary’s book In the Absence of God (Xulon; $24.99) which is a novel set on a modern campus as student and faculty stay up late, often discussing the biggest questions that really matter about the nature of truth and ethics and meaning. It’s a murder mystery, sort of, but a lot of talking. Kinda like at the OCBP (although nobody was murdered there!)
THE STORY OF THE SCRIPTURE
This year there was some interest in Biblical studies — OCBP does stuff on the unfolding big drama of Scripture as it unfolds cover to cover and they do focused inductive study, learning to read and lead studies of a particular book of the Bible. We sold a couple overview books such as Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (IVP; $16.00) and the new The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense Out of Life by Justin Buzzard (Moody; $13.99.) We sold a few nice paperbacks by Kenneth Bailey and Tim Keller (and even some hardbacks of How God Became King by N.T. Wright! I told a few students they should pre-order his soon-to-be-released book on the Psalms, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential (HarperOne; $24.99). It’s releasing the end of August… pre-order it at our order form page if you’d like. We’ll send it out as soon as it comes, at the 20% off discounted price.
And there was a grand interest in study Bibles. We sold a few of the serious (and seriously Reformed) ESV Study Bibles, the fabulously friendly Life Application Study Bible in the upbeat (and very well done) NLT and, of course, the updated and expanded (with full color) NIV Study Bible. Each come in hardback or leather, in regular size or in a personal size. These three are head and shoulders, in my view, above any other study editions, in terms of the sheer quantity of the notes, the introductions and outlines, the aesthetic presentation, the clarity and usefulness of the information. All study Bibles have biases and blindspots, of course, but these three are our favorites. Call us if you want to talk more!
I like the NRSV Harper Collins Study Bible (done by the Society of Biblical Literature) by the way, but these particular students were less warm to the NRSV. The recently translated Common English Bible (funded by several mainline Protestant denominations, but published exclusively by Abingdon) will have a new study Bible edition released this fall, but they hadn’t heard of that translation, and at any rate didn’t want to wait. It is a translation worth knowing about and it does some thing very nicely.
These students were eager to make Bible reading a more helpful discipline and with the guidance of the CCO staff there, they had high hopes about growing in Bible study. Many of them will be leading small group Bible studies in their dorms and apartments back on campus in the fall. What a treat to r
esource them with these good books and study Bibles!
So, how about you my friend? Are you as glad to have Christian resources available to you as these eager students? Are you delighted to read, saving money week by week in order to purchase a few new books? (Are you so thrilled that you take pictures of your new books and post them on facebook?) Are you going to start a book club or study group around some new topic this fall? What reading goals have you set for yourself for this next season? I was humbled and in awe at the happy seriousness of these fun kids. Of course they have their sorrows and they carry much of the weight of this fallen world on their young shoulders. But, as one of their heroes Bob Goff says, “love does.” We get busy. We do stuff. God shows up among us and good things happen.
Goff has spoken at Jubilee a few times, and many of these students have read his hilarious, entertaining book; his gracious whimsy might be rubbing off. A few were sharing Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World (Nelson; $15.99) with each other, buying them to give to co-workers before they leave their beach jobs at the end of the summer. It is the kind of book that one could give even to a person who isn’t that interested in religious literature, and who doesn’t want to read some crazy-funny stories of adventures of making the world a better place.
They will soon move on beyond Goff and his goofy anecdotes, as he himself would want. One is thinking about starting a fair trade chocolate business, building partnerships in Africa. Another is considering working in an orphanage Goff started in Uganda. Another is hoping to carry faith into the study of clean water. There were athletes, a dancer, a future high school teacher, a special education services major. It is inspiring to be with those dreaming big about their lives, taking John Piper’s adage to heart from his powerful, passionate book “Don’t Waste Your Life.” And knowing they need books to help them along the way.
WHAT ABOUT YOU AND ME?
What about you? What about me? As I said to my new friends of OCBP 2013, we must “read for the Kingdom.” I hope you’re finding time to think and pray, ponder and learn this summer.
As these crazy kids reminded me, it’s not only Biblically faithful; it is the most fun way to life.
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