Coming to Urbana as a campus staff worker with InterVarsity is different from coming as a student. In some ways, I was more like a host than a participant, helping out with Bible studies and logistics during the conference. Urbana is about making space for students to hear God’s call to pursue his mission in the world, and I was doing what I could to create an opportunity for students to hear this call.

But I didn’t just help others hear a call this year at Urbana. I also heard a call.

Continue reading Following Jesus in Babylon
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When you hear the word Christian, what comes to mind? How about Evangelical?

For many, especially those of us in the U.S., it’s a white guy, perhaps shouting at passersby on a street corner and gesticulating wildly, Bible in hand. (This is what came to mind for me before I became a Christian.)

But the future of Christianity and of evangelicalism is not about a bunch of white guys. Talking about white or guy as the “norm” overshadows the presence and gifts of both non-Anglo Christians and women, who will significantly shape the North American and global church in the coming years. Indeed, they already are.

Recognizing as much isn’t about fulfilling a diversity requirement or being progressive; it’s about living into the vision that God gives to John in Revelation, when there are people from every nation, tribe, and language surrounding the throne of the Lord singing praise to his name (Revelation 7:9).

It’s a vision, and a reality, that we saw at Urbana 2018 this year.

Continue reading The Future of the Church
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Here’s some Bible trivia for you. Fill in the blank:

“But as for me and my household, we will ________ the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Many translations say “serve,” and that’s a perfectly good translation. The Hebrew word is avodah, which means to serve, work, or worship.

Wait. Worship? Yes. The same Hebrew word for work also means worship.

One of our goals at InterVarsity is to help students integrate their faith with their careers, worship with work. We do this integration by studying the Bible, inviting professors and others to give lectures on how they have achieved this integrated perspective, and process together in small groups.

And then, at the end of the year, we host Ordination to Daily Work, a service that invites students to pledge themselves to living a life of service to Jesus Christ amid their professions. As my colleague says, “It’s probably the most important thing we do all year.” Continue reading Is it Work or Worship?

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A couple of weeks ago, my pastor preached a sermon on Mark 15 for Palm Sunday, pointing out the conspicuous silence of Jesus in the text. During his sham trial, conversation with Pilate, and mockery of the soldiers, Jesus doesn’t say much of anything. As my pastor put it, this silence is deafening.

We can use silence in our conversations with others for a lot of different reasons, some more noble than others. I’m a Banks family male, so I have honed my skill in using silence passive-aggressively to show my displeasure with other people. When I was angry with my mom in high school for making me go to school when I felt “sick” in the morning (i.e. wanted to stay home and play video games all day), I would resolutely refuse to talk with her during the ten-minute drive to New Trier. In the silence, I wanted to communicate, “I don’t like you right now. At all. I could have gotten to the next level in Zelda were it not for you! Hmmph.”

Silence can speak loudly. Continue reading The Silence Speaks Loudly

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Once you become a Christian, it’s natural to wonder: should I spend my life telling others about the good news that Jesus has reconciled them to God and wants to be in relationship with them? In a sense, the answer to this question is the same for everyone who follows Jesus: Yes. You should spend the rest of your life sharing the gospel and showing in your life the difference that Jesus makes.

In another sense, though, not everyone is called to make the proclamation of Jesus’ message the central part of their professional lives. Only some people are called to be preachers and pastors, proclaimers of good news and shepherds of God’s flock. God calls everyone to be followers of Jesus, but not leaders of God’s people.

At this point, many people create a hierarchy: if you’re a Christian, that’s great, but if you’re a Christian minister—well, you must be more faithful than the regular old Christians in pews. You must be more committed. You must be more serious. You must pray more. You must really know God.

Not true. Continue reading Toward A Christian Vision of Work

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I have a confession to make: I judge commuters on the T by the books they read. It’s rare to see someone even reading a book on the train these days, so when I do see a fellow bookworm, I steal a glance at the pages spread out on his lap. Is it a novel? What kind? James Patterson or James Joyce? You can tell a lot about a person based on what he reads.

Which is why I’m a little nervous about what my fellow commuters on the T have thought of me recently as I sat there with my copy of The Drama of the Gifted Child opened before me. I know what would have gone through my head if I saw someone else reading such a book. Oh, so you think you’re so gifted, do you? Your privileged life must be SUCH a drama. I feel SO bad for you and your hardships, O Gifted One.

I did my best to keep the cover folded over so that no one could see it. Continue reading On The Bookshelf: The Drama of the Gifted Child

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Does God heal?

I’ve been wondering about that question for a while now. I don’t mean heal in the sense of using doctors to cure a disease, though undoubtedly God is working in that way. I mean miraculous healings. Friends have told me about mission trips that they’ve been on where a person’s leg grew out to a normal size after they prayed. (What????) They have seen blind people receive their sight. (Really?) Back and neck pain has disappeared. (Can’t be true, can it?) Cancer has gone away, immediately and inexplicably. (No way…)

What to make of these claims? Continue reading Does God Heal?

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This is a story from my most recent newsletter to the alumni of Harvard Graduate School of Education

In the book of Acts, God tells Philip to go down from Samaria along the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza, and on the way Philip meets an Ethiopian official who wants to learn more about Scripture. (Acts 8:26-40)

During the fall semester, the Harvard Graduate School of Education Christian Fellowship has sought to be “on the way.” (Or maybe “in the way.”) Meeting in public places around campus instead of in closed classrooms, the students want to be witnesses of an alternative way of living at HGSE while also welcoming curious seekers just as Philip did with the Ethiopian official.

What is this alternative way of living that they are pursuing on campus? Continue reading Praying “On the Way”

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The Gospel is the good news that in Jesus Christ God has become king, graciously dying in our place on the cross and defeating death in his resurrection. As the risen and ascended Lord, he calls people to turn and trust in him, filling them with the Spirit so that through them he might restore and reconcile all things to himself.

The Gospel is the good news

People often equate religion with moralism. Before I became a Christian, I imagined pastors as balding gentlemen who spouted platitudes while folks in the pews dozed or daydreamed. Popular media reinforces this stereotype of the pastor as ineffectual communicator who is more part of the landscape than a genuine actor. In the TV show Grantchester, one of the few shows that feature a pastor as protagonist, the Anglican priest does more sleuthing than preaching anyway. When he does stand up to deliver God’s word to the congregation, he tells everyone to be kind to each other and love unconditionally, the kind of message that reaches us more like elevator music than the tolling of Big Ben in London.

The Gospel, though, is not a bromide such as “be nice to everyone” or even “love all people unconditionally,” though those statements have their place. The Gospel is not good advice, but good news. Continue reading What is the Gospel: Good News

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