We study in order to
understand God’s good creation
and the ways sin has distorted it,
so that, in Christ’s Power, we may
bring healing to persons and the created order.
As God’s image-bearers we are preparing
to exercise responsible authority
in our task of cultivating the creation
to the end that all people and all things may
joyfully acknowledge and serve
their Creator and true King.
We have enjoyed fabulous fellowship on a number of different college campuses since the release of the first edition of this book. Both of us have had the opportunity to visit with students, staff, and faculty at many colleges and universities, and we connected with students from all over the place at the CCO’s annual Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh. Most of the students whom we’ve talked with are Christian students, and here is what we’ve been noticing:
1. While church involvement does not appear to be a high priority, these students do gather to sing, worship, and learn about their faith in other venues. Many have no strong commitment to a particular Christian tradition but rather are “generically” Christian and are earnest about their faith.
2. Few of these students have been discipled in any vigorous or consistent way. Their youth groups were lots of fun but without much substance. The vast majority of these students have not read a substantive book about Jesus, theology, or the Christian life in the past year, if at all. Nevertheless, many of these students yearn to go deeper, if only they could find a mentor (one of their favorite words) who would help them.
3. Almost none of the students that we’ve encountered can articulate a clear connection between their faith and their academic discipline, unless of course the student is a Bible or ministry major, and they are pursuing that calling precisely because they discern the obvious connection.
4. Most of the students whom we’ve talked to don’t just want to get a job to get by. They want to find meaningful work, ideally work that will enable them to connect their faith to their investment in their jobs.
We could add a few more observations to our list, but this is a good start. And we think this short list helps to explain why students have responded with curiosity and hope when we have presented the brief motto or mission for the Christian student above. Students are unfamiliar with church creeds, but having some kind of statement is appealing to them. They haven’t read much theology, but this sounds biblical and comprehensive and world-engaging. They can’t articulate the link between faith and field, but they sense that that is exactly what they need to do in order to integrate their often fragmented lives. These students want to live with purpose, and they know that the purpose has to be big and that it has to be pursued for the well-being of others.
We encourage you to begin to frame your life as a student according to the themes of this motto—creation, fall, redemption, image of God, responsibility, healing, culture—so that you will be equipped to frame your entire lives by these themes. It won’t make your life easy, but it will make it rich and challenging and ultimately fulfilling. We think that is what students are really looking for.
Learn more about Learning for the Love of Godhere.
The Jubilee Conference is, hands down, my favorite event of the year. It has been since 2001! Every February in Pittsburgh, the CCO gathers 2,500+ college students to think more deeply about their place in God’s world. It is a conference like no other, a time of deep engagement with the Biblical story; a time of personal commitment to follow Jesus; and a time of reflection for college students to consider their present and future callings in life. Byron Borger has already written wisely and astutely about all that the Jubilee Conference means and who the conference brings together, year after year. Read and listen, I say, HERE.
What I like most about Jubilee is its commitment to the Bible and the biblical narrative. The four main sessions are organized around the four chapters of the biblical story: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. There are other ways to focus on the main themes of the Bible, to be sure, (in fact, Don Opitz and I offer a bit of caution about this in chapter 6 of Learning for the Love of God), but, wow, at Jubilee, when you see and hear and participate in The Story, through the lenses of these chapters… well, it is so helpful and inspiring and life-giving!
The Jubilee Conference is the best “vision of the Kingdom of God” that I have seen. It is a signpost and a reference point for so many staff and students. I don’t think it’s possible to leave the conference without being changed in a very profound way.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a “vision of the Kingdom” as I work my way through Steve Garber’s profound and insightful new book Visions of Vocation. Steve’s own work has been shaped in tremendous ways by the Jubilee conference. In fact, Steve has helped to shape the conference itself over the many years of his own faithful service to the King. Steve knows that a life committed to following Jesus is not easy, and yet, and yet… He writes:
“The story of sorrow is not the whole story of life either. There is also wonder and glory, joy and meaning, in the vocations that are ours. There is good work to be done by every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve all over the face of the earth. There are flowers to be grown, songs to be sung, bread to be baked, justice to be done, mercy to be shown, beauty to be created, good stories to be told, houses to be built, technologies to be developed, fields to be farmed, and children to educate. All day, every day, there are both wounds and wonders at the very heart of life, if we have eyes to see.”
Indeed. And the Jubilee Conference helps us to see, year after year.
The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness, coauthored with Don Opitz, was published in 2007. Our hope was to provide a resource that would equip college students to be faithful to God in their academic pursuits. Thanks to the good folks at Baker Publishing Group and Brazos Press, we are releasing a 2nd edition with a new title: Learning for the Love of God: A Student’s Guide to Academic Faithfulness. It includes updates throughout, two new substantive appendixes, personal stories from students, a new preface, and a fresh interior design. The new book also comes with a fresh new endorsement from one of our favorite philosophers and theologians James K.A. Smith of Calvin College:
“What does discipleship have to do with learning? How do I follow Jesus as a student? What does the Lord require of me at university? This marvelous book answers just these sorts of questions. It’s one of a kind, an expansive vision of Christian learning written not for professors but for students. Best of all, this is a book that can profit students in any educational context, secular or religious. Buy a box of these and give them to every high school senior you know.”
Wow. Thank you Dr. Smith.
Just in case the release of a revised edition of a previous book with a different title is confusing, here are a few FAQs:
Why does it have a new title? Good question. (Thank you.) The old title was connected to a very important book by George Marsden, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. While we really liked the idea of making the connection to that book, it was lost on most readers. Learning for the Love of God better describes the book’s content.
What is different about the new edition? Another great question! (Just doing my job.) There’s a new, short preface where we tell a few stories about how the first edition was helpful students. We didn’t want to change too much of the integrity of the original, so chapters 1-8 are very similar, with a few needed corrections and updates, making the text even more accessible to students. The interior design and layout make it easier to read, including a few pull-out boxes to highlight key terms and concepts.
Can you tell me more about the two new substantive appendixes?Of course I can. I’m glad you asked. The first appendix, “Deeper,” is an annotated bibliography, suggesting books for students looking for the next step. It’s also fun and a little funny, we think. A little different from most bibliographies we’ve read. The second appendix, “Liturgies for Learning,” was inspired by Jamie Smith’s book Desiring the Kingdom. Smith argues that deep learning is never merely cognitive. When our emotions and our bodies get involved, learning tends to sink in and stick. Turning on the emotions and tuning in the body can happen in the classroom, but it sure helps to practice good liturgies of learning outside the classroom. So, we offer six learning exercises to put into practice!
If I already have a copy of The Outrageous book, should I buy a copy of Learning for the Love of God?Yes, in fact you should buy 5 copies of the new one.
Is there anything else you would like to say about the new book? Just this… the new book includes this dedication:
“For our friend and favorite bookseller, Byron Borger, whose love for God and learning exemplifies a life of faithful service to the King.”
Thank you Byron for your friendship and encouragement in this project! And thank you to all the readers who have made a 2nd edition possible!
I haven’t always been a reader. My high school self would probably raise his eyebrows and chuckle a bit at the thought of his “mid-30s-self” offering a list of the 10 best books of the year. I don’t think I had read 10 books (maybe 5? maybe!) until my senior year of high school. (You can read the rest of that story here: “How to Fall in Love… One Book at a Time.”) But now I do read regularly and enjoy talking about books.
My list will be limited to the books I read this year that were published in 2013 (listed alphabetically by author). And, for the most part, they are books that are at the heart of the mission of the College Transition Initiative: to be a resource for those preparing students for life after high school. Enjoy!
Early Decision: A Novel Based on a True Frenzy by Lacy Crawford (William Morrow). The is probably the book I’ve talked about the most this year! I’ve read passages to friends. I gave a few copies as gifts to people who care about teenagers and higher education. Here’s Lacy Crawford explaining her motivation for writing: “Somewhere along the line we’ve failed students. We haven’t listened to them enough… I began to write Early Decision to understand how thoughtful, dedicated parents can be so driven by fear of their children’s futures that they are willing to place enormous value in a system that is reductive with regard to character, and that is, if taken to its current extremes, harmful to a child’s development.” Read my full review here.
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, A Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life by Rod Dreher (Grand Central). Rod Dreher is a journalist who moved back to his small, hometown to be with his sister, Ruthie Leming, while she was dying of cancer. This is a very moving memoir about family and community, grace and forgiveness, and faith in the face of death. Popular writer Elizabeth Gilbert offers this warning: “If you are not prepared to cry, to learn, and to have your heart cracked open even a little bit by a true story of love, surrender, sacrifice, and family, then please do not read this book. Otherwise, do your soul a favor, and listen carefully to the unforgettable lessons of Ruthie Leming.” Watch a video of Dreher talking about his book here.
How the West Really Lost God by Mary Eberstadt (Templeton Press). Confession: I haven’t finished this book yet. But I’ve read enough to know that it is (1) very important and (2) right at the center of my work and passions. It is a book about secularization from what the author thinks is a neglected angle: the breakdown of the family. In a nutshell, Eberstadt argues that living in families, especially having children, is what drives people to church. If you think this is obvious, you might be surprised to learn that this isn’t obvious to most secularization theorists, as the book points. But even bigger than that, Eberstadt makes the case that the biblical narrative and an understanding of biblical faith itself depends on people “experiencing” family life. Watch Eberstadt discuss her book on BookTV here.
The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler (William Morrow). I didn’t think I’d like this book. The premise made me uneasy. Feiler travels the country learning innovative business strategies, finds families who have applied them to their family, and then tries to do the same, integrating the best business practices into the Feiler household. You can’t run a family like a business, right? You can’t. But it turns out that the best ways to run a business are really about better communication and relationships and that is really what this book is about: better family relationships through better, intentional communication. Feiler is also a clever story teller, making the book a delight to read. His honesty and vulnerability about his own family give his recommendations added weight. Watch a video of Feiler talking about his book on CNN here.
Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers Life’s Biggest Questions by Timothy Keller (Dutton). Pastor Keller is a master at drawing out the deep meaning and contemporary significance of Bible stories. In this book, using stories from the Gospel of John, Keller shows how Jesus answers the fundamental questions of life. What stuck out to me is that this book was adapted from lectures he gave in Oxford, England to a group of “skeptical” college students. It would be a perfect book to read with current college students or students about to head off to college. Here’s a short video of Keller explaining why he wrote this book:
Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood: A Practical Theology for College and Young Adult Ministry by David P. Setran and Chris A. Kiesling (Baker Academic). I had the privilege of writing an endorsement for this book: “Young adults need guidance and so do those who desire to help them mature into healthy adulthood. This book provides a lucid overview of the current research regarding emerging adulthood as well as accessible guidelines for reaching this generation with the Gospel. The authors make a strong case for why the church should take emerging adulthood research and emerging adults more seriously. Most refreshing, the central motivation behind Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood is not the desire to grow a church or young adult program, but to see young people grow up in Christ.” Download my interview (.pdf) with David Setran here.
Holy Luck by Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans). If my high school self would have chuckled at the thought of me being a “reader” in my later years, he would have laughed hysterically at the thought of me including a book of poetry. I try to read poetry as a discipline (much of the Bible is poetry after all). It makes my brain hurt the same way my abs do if I haven’t done sit ups in a while. So I’m thinking it must be good for me. Plus, Eugene Peterson is one of my favorite writers. His introduction to his collection of poems is worth the price of the book and will, perhaps, motivate you to read a little more poetry this year! Watch a video of Peterson talking about Holy Luckhere.
Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works by James K.A. Smith (Baker Academic). This is the second book in Smith’s 3-book cultural liturgies project. The first book, Desiring the Kingdom, focused primarily on education, and offered a paradigm shift in the way we “educate students” for Kingdom living. The second volume focuses on the imagination. Smith writes: “We become people who desire the kingdom insofar as we are people who have been trained to imagine the kingdom in a certain way.” And, as Smith explains, our imaginations are “trained” by the way we worship. Books by Jamie Smith are always engaging, thoughtful, provocative and enlightening. But what I love most is that for every confusing, obscure French philosopher he quotes, there is a contemporary example from film, music or literature to drive home the main point. Oui and Amen! Watch a video of Smith discussing “how worship works” here.
The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential by N.T. Wright (HarperOne). This book is about as good as it gets. The “case” that is made for the Psalms is both scholarly and personal. Wright explains that we need to read the Psalms in order to better grasp the bigger picture of the Biblical story. But when we do that, we notice how deeply personal the Psalms can be, speaking directly to our own hearts and desires. Read a fuller review by Bryon Borger here.
Here is the recording from the webinar yesterday. It was an honor to have the opportunity to interview my good friend Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Bookstore and to hear his recommendations for summer reading and study. For what it’s worth, I purchased 6 of the 54 books he mentioned!
The mission of CPYU is to work with churches, schools, and community organizations to build stronger relationships between young people and those charged with helping them grow into healthy adulthood. I was reminded yesterday that in order to fulfill that mission, for CPYU, for parents, and for church leaders, we need thoughtful and biblical resources. Byron’s calling is helping us in our calling, by pointing us to the best of what’s available. Thank you Byron!
Click here to download (.pdf) the power point presentation to see the list of books recommended.
Click here to order books from Hearts & Minds (Byron is offering 20% off all the books mentioned during the webinar!).
Click here to read Byron’s very popular Booknotes blog.
It’s no secret. Many young adults are no longer finding a “home” in most churches. This common trend used to be dismissed with the pithy response: “They’ll return when they get married and have kids!” But that’s no longer the case. For one thing, more and more young adults are prolonging marriage. What’s more, waiting for people to get married in order to have them fully participate in the life of the church is not an effective or biblical strategy. The church needs to disciple people regardless of their marital status. In fact, the young adult years are considered by many to be the most formative years in a person’s life. But why has it become so difficult to reach emerging adults? What can the church do to more effectively connect with the next generation?
Equipping the church to wrestle with these questions is what inspired the authors of The Slow Fade: Why You Matter in the Story of Twentysomethings (David C. Cook). Reggie Joiner, a senior pastor, Chuck Bomar, a college pastor, and Abbie Smith, a twenty-something, offer insight into the often hard to reach college aged crowd. When many churches seem to be looking for the latest and greatest program to attract young people who have slowly faded away from church, these authors provide a simpler, more biblical approach: mentoring. Their plea is for the older generation to take the younger generation more seriously by investing their time in developing meaningful relationships with young adults. According to the authors, “Halting the slow fade happens when adults start investing in the college-aged people.”
Most notably, they are suggesting that the church re-think its finish line. For too long, the church has seen graduating from high school as the big “finish” before moving off to college. The authors ask a perceptive question: “If the slow fade in someone’s faith begins to occur at the point he or she goes off to college, then why don’t we focus some of our best energies on the first few years of college?” What would it look like if the church pushed back its finish line to age 20, or better, didn’t have a finish line at all? It would require a major paradigm shift in the way most churches think about youth and youth ministry.
The authors realize that mentoring is not easy and offer wisdom and guidance to be more effective and authentic disciple makers. Church leaders who care about seeing young people grow in faith should not miss this book. Confused parents who are struggling with their young adult son or daughter will gain valuable insight into why he or she is no longer apart of the church. The Slow Fade will open your eyes to the needs of young adults and provide steps forward for reaching them with a faith that lasts.
ConGRADulations! Class of 2013 is three gifts in one: Music Album (20 songs from the top names in Christian music including Lecrae, Red, for King & Country, Tobymac), Video-Media Content (artist, author, and fellow grad video greetings and advice), and 48-page Gift Book.
It’s that time of year. Senioritis at school and church is kicking in. Students are ready to coast to the finish-line and make their way to the next chapter of their life story. For many graduating seniors (but not all), the “next step” will be college in the fall. According to recent research by the Fuller Youth Institute only 1 in 7high school seniors report feeling prepared to face the challenges of college life. How can we engage seniors during the last few months of high school so that they are better prepared for the challenges ahead? What follows are three suggested activities to invite students to think more deeply about this crucial transition (each activity takes about an hour and could work well as three consecutive youth group meetings):
First, create space for better conversations about life after high school. Host a panel discussion with college students and have soon-to-be graduates ask them questions about how they can be better prepared. Consider including older members of the community as well. Have them reflect on their own decisions and transitions when they were about to graduate from high school. Ask people 20+ years removed from college this question: If you could do it all over again, what would you have done differently? Conclude the meeting by giving students the article “Conversations for the College Bound: 10 Talks to Have Before Arriving on Campus.” Have the students discuss the article with the group.
What conversation(s) stuck out to you as you read?
Were there any conversation partners listed that you hadn’t considered?
What conversations would you like to pursue over the next few weeks?
Second, have an open and honest conversation about faith after high school. To generate good discussion, watch a Veritas Forum video with college bound students. Veritas Forums are university events that engage students and faculty in discussions about life’s hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life. I highly recommend The Veritas Forum featuring Tim Keller at the University of California, Berkeley.
What stuck out to you as you listened to Dr. Keller presentation?
What do you think were his strongest points?
Did you have any disagreements with Dr. Keller arguments for belief in God and the Christian faith?
How do you think Dr. Keller handled the questions from the audience? What can you learn from him about how to have discussions with people who disagree with your worldview?
If you were given the task of explaining or defending the Christian faith at an event like The Veritas Forum, how would you do it? What would the outline of your talk be? Would you be nervous? Why or why not?
Third, help students connect with Christian community before they arrive on campus. Remind students of the value and necessity of community to Christian faith. As you learn where students will be going to college, take a proactive approach by contacting campus ministries and churches in those areas. Start by asking others in your congregation who might be familiar with the community in which the college is located. Next, browse the college’s Web site to see what is offered on campus. Send e-mails and make phone calls. Get in touch with campus ministers and pastors in the area. Consider using a night at youth group to help college bound students make these important connections months before they arrive on campus. Check out this article for more ideas: “Finding Community in College: 5 Ways to Help Students Connect.”
Do you think it will be easy or difficult to make new friends in college?
Why do you think community is important to Christian faith?
Do you think college relationships will be the same as high school relationships? Why or why not?
Do you think you will attend church while in college? Why or why not?
My wife and I led a team of college students to Thailand in June 2005. We were there to help with the rebuilding efforts after the Tsunami ripped through Southeast Asia in 2004. I had never seen devastation like this before. Our guide took us first to the place where they brought the dead bodies. A memorial signifying all of the countries that had lost people was stretched across one of the outer walls. While the team gazed at the memorial and took pictures, two new bodies were delivered by pick-up truck. Immediately, the tone and posture of the team changed, and the trip took on even deeper meaning. We were surrounded by death and destruction and our “mission” was to bring hope and light into a very dark place. This wasn’t going to be easy.
Not only did we see villages destroyed and families in pain, but we also encountered another issue that we weren’t ready for: rampant prostitution. We visited a beach resort community deemed “the pedophile capital of the world.” Men were paying thousands of dollars to have sex with children, right in our midst. I was personally solicited a number of times by men and women looking to make money. We learned of an orphanage director who was offered $50,000 or more for children age 10 or younger.
How could a place so beautiful on the outside, be so ugly on the “inside?” If God is good, why was there so much pain in the world, especially among innocent children? Where was God the day the Tsunami hit the coastline, and the countless other days that sexual “tsunamis” devastate lives of young girls?
As you can imagine, for the first few days in Thailand, having confidence, faith and trust in the God of the Bible was difficult. Sure, we had all asked the philosophical, abstract question: “How can God be good with all of the pain and suffering in the world?” We even had arrived at some satisfying answers. But our questions were asked in Bible studies in suburban Pennsylvania, not in tragedy stricken Southeast Asia, and not surrounded by this kind of intense pain and suffering. Put simply: we began to have our doubts about the God we worshipped. We voiced these doubts in our conversations, prayers and journals…