Thursday, July 10, 2008

The purpose of a church at Taylor University

What would the purpose of a church at Taylor serve?

I asked this question a while ago in a blogpost, and I think now I will try and answer that as best as I can. Hopefully the Dave Matthews i'm listening to can help me out. :-)

As many people that go to Taylor have realized, not everyone that goes to TU is a practicing christian. Some people go to church or read their Bibles every once in a while, but it isn't enough to constitute a strong relationship with Jesus. There are even some people on campus that are in opposition to christianity. A good example of this lack of spiritual concern on campus can be seen in chapel attendance. I know that chapel can be boring, and I know that sometimes I don't want to go or haven't gone, but there have been times where 5 guys from my floor have been at chapel. My floor is made up of 80 people. 

Another example is the growing problem with drinking on our campus (this was brought up by students). Now both chapel attendance and drinking are slippery slopes to use as examples, but they both have some of their roots in a much larger problem: spiritual apathy. It is this spiritual apathy that is a major cause in things like breaking school rules or cheating on schoolwork (another problem brought up by the student body). Now being realistic, I know that you will always have people that will break rules and cheat. Taylor isn't the garden of eden, and its not ever going to be. I'm pretty sure that the garden had more hills and less corn. :-) 

So, as a student that wants to try and combat this wave of spiritual apathy that is growing through campus, what can I do? How can God use me to stop the spread of disinterest in Him? My first thought was to make sure that rules were more enforced in my dorm. Being an RA, I could do this effectively. If rules were more strict, people would not want to skip chapel or break rules because of the consequences. 

That isn't my place though. Yes, I must enforce rules, but that isn't going to change hearts. Its the relationships that I have with my peers that really change me. Its when I see someone else cares for me that I can then be open in the relationship. Its when I see the passion that someone has for something when I can also be passionate about it. I can't tell you how much I really hate watching sports, but when there is a really intense basketball game on and everyone is on the edge of their seats around the TV, I have to watch. I feed off of other's passion. 

A great example of someone who is passionate about life is Tyler Kessler, or as he was more lovingly known as T.K. He just recently graduated from Taylor, but while he was on campus he lived on my floor (Penthouse W00t W00t). Throughout the entire time that I've attended TU, I've seen people drawn to him because of the general excitement and life he approaches everything with, whether it be relationships or a ministry. Because of that, I saw other amazing men come underneath his wing and become involved in the floor and in great ministries because of him.

Now enters the next question: How can we take people that are passionate (like T.K.) about Christ and christianity and combat the spiritual apathy on campus?

There is a multitude of ways that this question can be answered. In no way is the idea of a church the only way. I talked to Rachel Sawyer last night and she had the great suggestion of reshaping Vespers (a sunday night bible study). Justin Heth suggested that this idea be implemented at an already existing church. Many more have said something about just creating another organization or group on campus that can act out passionately. All of these are great ideas! My first thought was a real church on campus, and here's why.

I've been reading the book unChristian by Dave Kinnaman. The book is all about what the newest generation (our generation) thinks about christianity. Some of the things people said about christians is that we're judgmental (I felt great about wanting to be harder about rules) old fashioned, boring, and sheltered. Sadly, I have to partially agree with these observations by non christians. We can be all these things! This applies to Taylor more and more as the amount of non christians on campus grows. So where have these non christians gotten these views of the judgmental, old fashioned, and boring christians? More than likely, Church. Church is the initial place where a non christian interacts with a christian. 

Honestly, I haven't really found a strong church home at Taylor. It probably is mostly my fault for not getting directly involved, but I don't really feel a strong communal connection with any of the churches that I have been to in the surrounding area of Taylor. The churches do seemed old fashioned to me in a sense, and I have been bored in church (not just at Taylor). Now I'm not saying that a Taylor based church should constantly keep someone entertained or occupied, but there is a huge opportunity reshape the way people think about church. So now it comes to it, the real purpose. 

I think the purpose of a church on Taylor's campus would be to combat the spiritual apathy on campus by reshaping people's minds about Christianity, the Church, and Christ. This would be done through the people in the community that the church is in: Taylor. The topics at the church can be the things that Taylor students are actually concerned about, and what the Bible has to say about those topics. All in all, it would be to get people excited and on fire once again for a life in christ by showing them there is life in the church. To show that the church can change, that it isn't judgmental, and that it is concerned about the things of today.

Now obviously there are many questions that follow this. What does a student church look like? What about other's in the community? How would it be operated? What would draw someone back after you talk about the thing they care about? How would this be funded? Who would lead it? There are 1,000's of questions that can be asked and they must be asked. I'm sorry to the people that I've talked to and I've not been able to answer some of these. I felt like I had to have an answer whenever I talked to someone about this idea. Since then, I've realized that if God wants this to happen, it will. I don't have to have an answer for everything or everyone, because my trust is in God. 

This is the way that I see things, and I would love to hear how you see it. 

Thanks so much for listening to me rant! I hope to see responses to this soon. :-)

In Him, 
JB

5 comments:

ARBRA said...

I want to first respond to the drinking problem at TU topic. I think there are more people drinking at Taylor, yes. But, I think there are more people our age drinking in general. I recently read a study of alcohol use saying that in 20-year-olds almost 60% of people drink at least regularly. In 21-year-old, it went up over 70% of people. Drinking is what people do now in social groups as sad as it is. I guess this is nothing new, but it was only 50 percent of 20 year old in year 2000. I say this because with Taylor U. expanding as it is, there is no doubt in my mind that there are more people coming in who have drank before and do drink regularly, especially when the awkwardness of the Taylor Social scene takes it's toll. At that point, the most attractive thing waiting at the door is alcohol. Easy, sociable, fun alcohol. I think one of the best things a Taylor Church could do is make Taylor a more social network of people who don't need to rely on alcohol to feel like they belong somewhere, but on Christ and their fellow believers....or maybe we just need less rules for open house so people would chill out, or maybe I'm a rambling fool. But seriously, there are so many benefits that could come from a Taylor Church. If only we have the backing of the bazillionaire wesleyan church....:) Anyone object to changing our name to Taylor Wesleyan? Im kidding, and I just blasphemed.

bjoy2006 said...

There is so much potential bound up in the idea of a church at TU. Now that this post has helped clarify some of the foundational reasons Jordan has for the idea, it would be great for all of us who are supporting the idea to start building on it!

For example, will a church be the best way to do what we want to do? Jordan, you mentioned Rachel's conversation and reshaping vespers. Randy would be involved with this, and vespers is at a typically busy time on sunday nights, but it would allow people to use what we talk about and will do our best to practice in the community.

This is only going to work if it is a Christ-based, community project. I like the idea of a church in that it would be able to connect people who otherwise might not be connected (like chase was saying). Discussion, prayer, serving the community or on campus, etc could all be helpful tools that build community within the church.

I think it would be important for the TU church to have some connections with other local churches who already have an influence in the community and might let us take part in a service project or something that would allow us to do what the church is meant to do- love others. Not that we couldn't do this on our own, but these churches have been in Upland all year round for a while, and some of them are well-loved by the community due to various programs or projects (ex: the BASSYCS kid's program at UCC draws tons of kids who don't have much/any religious background).

Ok this is getting ridiculously long. I'll stop :)

1. pray about it, wrestle it out with God
2. respond/discuss/etc. (maybe begin a fb group or a TU church blog?)
3. tell others!
4. pray some more

David Hausknecht said...

I'm following completely with the purpose of the church at Taylor. You know from our conversations that spiritual apathy at Taylor is one of my biggest concerns as well. I like that you've very intentionally addressed this important idea of purpose.
Have you heard of Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Church book? I haven't read it fully, but I think it would be a great read for us to do together. One thing Rick does is establish the five purposes of the church: discipleship, evangelism, fellowship, ministry, and worship. He backs this up with scripture and really demonstrates God's intentions for His church in these 5 purposes. With these 5 purposes in mind, I think we could have a better focused landscape of ideas and dreams for the Taylor church. Let's talk when you get back from la Mexico and let me know if you want to read the book together! I love it Jordan! Thanks for being awesome.
David

lauren said...

Jordan,

Hey man it's Daniel your brother in-law! Dude looks like God has really lit a fire and a burden in you. It is soo good to see.

Remember Church is people. Each church is unique and different. All parts of the body used in different ways to reach people and ultimately serve humanity. If you are starting a church at TU it should reach students at TU, in-turn students that are touched by the Holy Spirit will then turn out on the community and start reaching out...

A lot of GREAT churches have started with one small group meeting in a house with one purpose....To get closer to God. It is attractive and contagious. If spiritual apathy is big on TU, do the opposite and lead with spiritual intimacy. Show the students what there missing out on when you have a true relationship with our creator. It is not religion it is relationship and it is transforming.

The whole Alcohol thing...Immaturity...That is all it is. Young adults that get a little freedom and go crazy. It is everywhere and the students who are serious about God will step out of it. Don't waste time combating those things just live, love and serve! God will draw people to Him and God WILL use you Jordan if you are willing.

Don't sweat the small stuff. People will come against this. Just seek God and His plan, and it will happen. Proud of you and pumped for the call of God on your life. Your a flippin Champion man.

Dan Windsor

Blackwasp19 said...

I don’t know if you know me. I graduated in 2007. I am actually going to be back participating in the MAHE program, but I will be working at TU-FW.

Great post. You bring up some very significant questions and things to consider. In regards to drinking I agree with Abra, the culture has seen more and more kids getting drunk and drinking. Secular schools are having their own problems with parties and such, much more so than they were used to.

I agree, being a graduate I noticed spiritual apathy. It pained my heart to see this; however, I am not sure that there is some solution to this. In some instances it has just been that person’s choice. They can live around great guys/girls, have inspiring professors, have chapel, but if they aren’t committed to Christ then there is little those things can accomplish – I would agree those things include a church at Taylor.

I really don’t like saying that because it feels like I am just hanging some students out to dry, but for some it is a matter of choice. I will say in some instances floor mates and others at Taylor can do a better job being with those in need of spiritual intimacy, which may just mean they need you to play basketball or be where they are at, but some people just choose to be apathetic. But I have also seen some friends and weng –mates, who at Taylor I was a little suspect of, grow in immense ways since graduation. I friend just told me a story about that yesterday. So grow and change does happen, but sometimes the harvest occurs when we are not around.

(I have to also say, compared to other schools that have Taylor has one of the best rates of attendance. That is counts schools that require a “check in” to chapel and those that don’t.)


Honestly, I have some trepidation when you consider the idea of having an organized church at Taylor – Upland. I participated in a group that meet once a month early on Sunday mornings called, Morning Dew. It was great, we had different people lead worship and various people present a “sermon”. I was always really encouraged – partially because the group was a mix of guys, girls, international students, domestics, ethnic minority students, and euro-American students. However, this was t a supplement to our regular churches as well as a needed change from the White-American Christianity, often portrayed in Chapel – not that White-American Christianity is bad, we just knew Taylor was more than that.

I struggled to find a church home, but I finally found one with Bethel Worship Center in Marion – but even then I was unfaithful. When I look back and think of the reasons why I stuggled, I think about issues of style, preaching, music, etc. Although those were factors – that in actuality are a little shallow – what was the biggest factor was my confusion.

TU-Upland I had everything I needed or so I thought. I had Christian professors, I had friends, I had chapel, I thought I had Christian community. And in a sense I did, but I was missing communion with people of various ages, people with families, people with various jobs, people who have lives that were different from mine. At Taylor we were all students we were all generally going through the same things so it was easy to relate, but I think that ease contributes to our apathy both on an individual spiritual level and in seeking to be in a challenging community.

I would argue that a benefit or TU-U Students would be to stop trying to hard to creating more community at Upland and start bringing that community out into the world, Marion, Muncie, etc. The incubation effect at TU-U is sometimes a negative because we are disconnected. We venture into Marion for Wal-Mart , to get something or to minister, but most students aren’t in relationship with that community. In my opinion, we have become apathetic because we have become more selfish. Even when we realize that church is for us to serve we get caught up in finding the “right church” for us. We analyzing things that don’t need to be analyzing and try to get perfect matches – mainly stylistic. Church no longer is about a greater Christian community where we find our niche; it is about finding a church where everyone is just like us.

I just finished reading UnChristian a couple weeks ago. I really enjoyed the book though disturbingly didn’t find that it said anything new. It is a challenge, not only for older Christians to realize mistakes and incorporate younger Christians into community, but also for younger Christians to realize that they don’t have all the answers and that some of the older generations thoughts and ideas actually aren’t that stale and archaic, they just need someone to transfer them over to a new culture. This new generation of Christians can just abandon the old church. We must renew. That being said, there is a place where people are not going to understand Christians, we are going to seem odd. But that isn’t bad (seeming unloving, intolerant, and judgmental is bad).

The idea of reshaping vespers is a good on to me. I think that if you make it multi-sensory. Include art, music, poetry, writing, video, food etc. that it will have a greater affect. However, as hard as you try you will still have those that are apathetic. They are the ones that other Christians have to be down in the trenches of relationship with. And although that is difficult it is a joy to be in the Lords service. Sunday evenings may be busy for some, but again it is a matter of choice. If you want to attend you are going to finish homework and be ok with missing Extreme Makeover Home Edition.

I will be continually praying for TU-U’s campus as well as for the leaders down there (sorry for the LONG reply, I could write pages upon pages about the topics and questions arisen in your post).