08 June 2009

Running, Reading and Resource Fair

We got back from a wonderful weekend in Lincoln last night. I ran in a charity 10K with my brother and two of our roommates from college. The race went fairly well: I ran it in 55:14, with just one stop to say hi to my girls and catch my breath after several long hills. We also spent lots of time with my college friends and their families, including a trip to Olive Garden with 8 adults and 8 kids, church with the same group of folks and many, many brats, beers and other good eats consumed over the weekend. Pictures to come as soon as I can convince those who took them to email me copies.

I'm in a bit of a reading quandary at the moment. I read Neal Stephenson's novels and Snow Crash and The Diamond Age a few years back and loved them both. But now I've tried two of his more ambitious projects and have found both really hard to read. Quicksilver was some sort of alternate history that just seemed to wander all over the place and never really do anything, even after several hundred pages. Anathem, my latest attempt, is just flat-out bizarre; I've only read about 20 pages, but I'm already tired of flipping to the glossary to find the definition of terms again and again. It seems to me that these are both novels I should like but, for reasons unknown, I just can't get into them at the present time. If anyone out there has tried either one and found enjoyment, would you please offer any suggestions you might have?

In other news, it's Freshman Orientation month here at Iowa State, and that means Resource Fair for us campus ministry types. Today I had the pleasure of meeting several young people who seem to be very interested in campus ministry, including one young lady whose former youth director is one of the three women responsible for Kristin and me becoming Kristin and me. We've gotten seven or eight folks to sign up for our mailing list each day thus far, which is always a good sign.

But I also have some ambivalent feelings about what we do at Resource Fair. It feels like a popularity contest: each booth lines up their pictures and brochures and tchotchkes so students will remember us when they empty that gigantic bag o'crap out once they return home. We play the game, too: our pens, highlighters, brochures and a piece of chocolate make their way into as many bags as possible. Of course, I try to explain what it is we do in campus ministry and why I believe so strongly in what we do, and that part is genuine. But some of it feels like 'selling' our ministry, and I'm very leery of crossing that line, so much so that today I considered electing to skip Resource Fair next year.

It's not that I don't believe in evangelism. I'm just fairly certain there are better, less coercive means of being evangelical than handing out highlighters at the Resource Fair. What if we accidentally promise something we can't deliver - does the world need yet another disappointed, disaffected fence-sitter using our mistakes as a reason to reject faith altogether? And let's face it: even with every attempt to be as honest and forthright as possible, when we talk about our ministry in an environment like this, there's always a certain element of "Please, Like Us And Come To Our Church!" in what we say and how we say it.

I remain convinced that true evangelism comes from people whose lives have been transformed by God, and they simply must tell the story of how that happened. Do we have some of those folks in our midst at University Lutheran Center? Of course we do - and they do tell that story often. The Spirit is at work in the ministry we carry out here. I'm convinced that we are providing a necessary, important, sometimes life-saving ministry in what we do. So, with the fear that I might actually become some glad-handing, back-slapping snake-oil salesman constantly running through my mind, we'll continue to be at Resource Fair, telling the story of campus ministry as authentically as possible. But if it gets to the point where I'm trying to figure out whether 3 Musketeers or Snickers will be more likely to get students to come to worship, just shoot me, okay?

Grace & peace,

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read Quicksilver, but I was given Anathem for Christmas and enjoyed it thoroughly. But I didn't feel the need to keep referencing the glossary of terms. I think my wife has read all of his work now, and it seems to me that to get through his works you kind of have to see it as simply immersion in a foreign world that you may not get until the end of the book. The pacing of his books now are also very different from Snow Crash and Diamond Age, and it is shown in the size of his books. I wouldn't say that anyone who enjoyed Snow Crash and Diamond age would like his latter work. in some ways he is a very different author.