By Mark Vowels, CGO Director
Note: This will be the last post before Christmas Break. We will return to the blog on January 13th. Merry Christmas!
I am a baby boomer - fifty-five years old and typical of my generation. The experiences and influences that have shaped me are not the same as those which have shaped millennials.
But I love millennials, have fathered two of them, and spend my days ministering to and among them through the Center for Global Opportunities at Bob Jones University. Additionally, I have researched, written and conferenced regarding how leaders of my generation can better connect with millennials for the sake of global missionary endeavor.
Just now, I finished reading another blog post by a millennial blogger about everything that is wrong with the boomer led church. It offered twelve problems and twelve solutions to those problems. For the most part, I agreed with all of them. Yes, the boomer-led church lacks authenticity and focuses far too much on serving itself rather than serving those in need. Yes, the boomer-led church seems to navel gaze about minor doctrinal differences while ignoring the masses of spiritually destitute humanity around the globe.
It’s not the diagnosis which disturbs me - it’s the prescription, which comes down to “the church should change to be more like us and do more to serve us.” Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that narcissistic, but it was on that pathway.
In one of the courses that I have taught for several years at BJU, I assign students to go out, find an unsaved person and tell him or her about Jesus. Students are directed to ask opening questions like, “What do you believe to be true about God?” or “Are you a religious person?” or “Can you tell me about your spiritual journey?” with the expectation that after listening to whatever response is given that person will allow the student to share his or her own spiritual understanding, i.e. testimony of faith in Christ. It’s a pretty simple assignment, and points are given for completion, not for outcomes.
What does that have to do with the millennial’s blog about the problems of the church that I referenced a minute ago? Well, college age people are pretty good at pointing out the flaws in my generation’s practice of Christianity. And in the process they often indicate their sense of passion and enthusiasm for the simplicity of the gospel and their longing for a return to authentically simple gospel living.
So what could be simpler than just telling a non-Christian what it means to you to follow Jesus?
But among the hundreds of students who have completed my assignment, the overwhelming majority confess that this was the first time they have ever shared their faith with an unbeliever in their entire life.
Is my assignment perfect? Nope. Are there better ways to build a relationship and share Christ over time rather than just walking up to a total stranger and talking about salvation? Absolutely.
But I fear that we mostly talk about our better ideas rather than doing anything.
I’m probably a bit jaded right now after having read another critical blog about how my generation is failing the younger generation, and after just finishing grading another set of more than a hundred witness experience assignments.
But I’m challenging all of us to do more than critique the failings of others!
I’m issuing a challenge to every reader of this blog to walk up to some stranger over the Christmas break and say, “Can I ask you what you believe is true about God?” or some other introductory line that attempts to initiate a gospel conversation.
If you accept the challenge, let me know what happens – with you and with the person you meet.
By Matthew Weathers, Student Leadership Coordinator
I graduated from Bob Jones University in May, 2007, and three months later found myself on a plane to one of the largest cities in Asia. God clearly directed my path to live and teach overseas, and He revolutionized my understanding of His grace and expanded my view of His kingdom. This is one glimpse of what God showed me as a twenty-two year old just out of college. I wrote this post in April 2008.
Today is a cloudy day. A light drizzle was falling as I began my morning run a few hours ago. For the last several months I have been training for the May 17th Beijing International Great Wall Marathon. I used to think the marathon was kind of a big deal. I still do to some small degree I suppose, but not really. What has changed in my mind is the value of training. If something happens to me in the next few weeks of training that renders competing in the marathon impossible—hit by a car (or bus or bicycle), sprain an ankle (or two), or have a heart attack —I will still be eternally grateful for the countless lessons learned in the dozens of hours of early morning agony.
I see flowers and forests and rivers and roads. I see boats and buses and farms and factories. I see ponds and plows and markets and motorcycles. I see dumps and dogs and trash and treasures.
All of this can easily be seen in the span of one mile, not to mention 26.2. Asia, home of multiple billions, is an exciting place. However, what I am learning is not necessarily about these places, which were effortlessly spoken into existence by an omnipotent Creator, but about this Creator and those whom He lovingly formed with His hands and longs to redeem with His blood.
I see boys and girls and men and women. I see babies. I see children. I see teenagers. I see adults. I see the elderly. Dozens, hundreds, thousands—every morning.
It delights my heart to hear the children attempting to speak English to the strange-looking white foreigner jogging beside them as they ride their bicycle to school. “Hello,” they say. “Ni hao, wo lei le,” I reply (Hello, I am tired). They laugh. I smile. They ride off giggling together. Then sometimes I cry and my tears and sweat run together. They know little, if anything, of Jesus.
It delights my heart to jog by elderly people and wave at them. Three white-haired ladies in particular walk together every morning, and their eyes open wide when they notice I’m wearing shorts. I slow my step and say, “Ni hao, wo leng!” (Hello, I am cold!) They laugh together, displaying one full set of teeth between the three of them. They do not seem to mind. They have food sufficient for the day. They also know little, if anything, of Jesus.
It delights me to smile at a throng of curious onlookers standing at one of the plethora of bus stops I pass. It delights me to say good morning to dozens of construction workers wearing orange helmets and walking to one of a thousand construction sites in this sprawling megatropolis. It delights me to say hello to the many peasants riding their bicycles – weighed down with pounds of vegetables freshly harvested – to the market so they can be there all day to sell their produce. It delights me to see small children riding behind their mother on a bicycle. They too need Jesus Christ.
This morning it was raining. None of these things changed. Life continued. I saw it all. Except this morning I saw something different. Instead of a small child seated behind his mother on a bicycle, I only saw two legs. The rest of the child was resting safely against his mother’s back beneath a poncho.
The child was dry. The child was safe. The child was content. The child was happy. The child asked for nothing. The child was cared for. Yet what I found to be most noteworthy was that the child could not see where he was going; but he trusted the one caring for him.
It delights me to know that One is caring for me. I am dry. I am safe. I am content. I am happy. I need nothing. I am cared for. I cannot always see where I am going; but One always cares for me. He, the One who spoke this world and a billion other galaxies into existence, and who formed me with His hands, is worthy of my trust. He is worthy of my all. He came to seek and save the lost. The lost are everywhere. The commission is great.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Life is often agony—more for some than others—yet we can delight in the fight for the glory of the One who has already won the victory and has made His children more than conquerors.
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.