The Student of Faith

Just got finished with our Monday night Bible study. We’ve been talking about Jesus, trying to address the question he asks of Peter: “Who do you say that I am?”

So far, we’ve gone over how people interpret Jesus differently. Prophet. Sage. Revolutionary. Messiah. But tonight felt a little… heavy.

Granted, I thought it went well. We got into the difficulties of faith and how people have spent centuries trying to figure out who Jesus is and what he really did and if the Gospels are accurate. We talked about the “historical Jesus” and touched upon Trinitarian doctrine and the authority of Scripture. The end goal was to make our way into what each Gospel says about Jesus… that’ll be the topic for October’s studies.

But, what set tonight apart was what I will call “the glimpse.” First, though, an aside.

I’ve heard it said many times– heck, I’ve said it many times (even on this blog)– that our denomination hasn’t been doing a good job with campus ministry. And, you know, the more I think about that statement, the more I dislike it. The reason being that I feel like it discredits the ministry that has been done on so many college campuses in the last however many years. Amazing stuff is being done out there. So I feel it’s a bit cocky (and theologically inept) for people like me to come in and say, “We’re here and we’re going to save the denomination from itself when it comes to reaching out to college students.” Um… no. That’s all kinds of wrong. Not that I’ve heard that said, but the spirit in which some critiques have been made about the denomination and its student outreach suggest as much… and I include myself in all of that (heck, I’m still trying to figure out what in the world I’m doing).

So, to be clear, the groundwork has been put into place, and the fact of the matter is that we are all indebted to those who have done amazing work on our college campuses.

That being said, I do sense a resurgence in Presbyterian (USA) campus ministry. Look at Montreat College Conference. That thing is growing every year like crazy. Within our synod, I listen to new ideas being put into place and hear that there’s a renewed energy when it comes to campus ministry. I hear about people at the national office who are ready to get their hands dirty. Don’t get me wrong… there’s a lot of room for improvement. But, I get a sense that there are people– students, pastors, congregations, individuals– who want something huge to happen with college ministry in the PC(USA).

Maybe I’m drinking the campus ministry Kool-Aid. Maybe my worldview is a bit skewed and/or narrow. Maybe I hear what other people are up to and I get excited. Maybe I’m just flat-out wrong. But I feel like there’s good stuff happening and that it’s all building upon itself.

And, to me, it all goes back to “the glimpse.” The glimpse into the life of a college student. The glimpse into the fact that college students wrestle with faith, that their worlds are rocked daily, and that they need to be loved and accepted and, perhaps most importantly, HEARD.

Tonight, I listened as my students confessed what challenges their faith, what has made life difficult, and why following Jesus can be so difficult. They offered a glimpse… into why we, the Church, cannot stray from them. Because they endure a lot. And they’re at the front lines of innovation and philosophy, change and plurality, decisions and worldview.

And the only thing I can say to that is this: what a place to be a student of faith…

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~ by presbytide on September 22, 2009.

One Response to “The Student of Faith”

  1. James…just read your latest blog and wanted to tell you how much I liked what you had to say. I think I had a small glimpse last week when we met with the Birmingham kids…and become more convinced than ever that these kids too deserve a healthy, viable campus ministry right here in the Ham. So thanks for reminding me of that, and of why I have committed to yet one more thing that will call me away from what little free time I have, because damn it, these kids are worth it! By the way, you have a beautiful way of writing, much like when you talk, and that fascinates me! Shalom, Patti

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