Friday, May 29, 2009

The Narcissism Epidemic

Jean Twenge’s book Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before has been mentioned on CPYU Bookshelf before (click here to read a review). Her research has been very helpful for those trying to get a better handle on the current generation who seems to be consume with “self.” Recently, Twenge published a new book (coauthored with Keith Campbell) that looks deeper into this issue. The new book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, reports the findings of their groundbreaking research.

This past weekend Twenge was featured on Book TV (C-SPAN2). From the show description: “The authors examine the cultural consequences of narcissism, which they say has grown exponentially in recent years. They use real-life anecdotes, like instant stardom through Youtube, to analyze narcissism in the culture at large and the possible means of combating its effects.”

You can watch her engaging, informative presentation here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

N.T. Wright vs. John Piper: The Main Event?

This post is attempting to be as neutral as possible! Here’s why: (1) Many good, thoughtful, helpful, brothers and sisters in Christ are on both sides of this discussion; and (2) the purpose of CPYU Bookshelf is to point readers in the direction of helpful resources. While we do review books and end up, sometimes, slightly offering criticism, our main goal is to keep people reading!

So, here’s the deal, a few theological/pastoral heavyweights are battling it out over the doctrine of justification. Well, battling is probably too strong of a word. Both John Piper and N.T. Wright have been very respectful of each other and each other’s position on Paul’s meaning of justification. CPYU Bookshelf is not here to choose sides, but it is here to let you know about the debate.

The Players
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at

N.T. Wright is Bishop of Durham and was formerly Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey and dean of Lichfield Cathedral. He taught New Testament studies for twenty years at Cambridge, McGill and Oxford Universities.Wright's full-scale works The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, and The Resurrection of the Son of God are part of a projected six-volume series entitled Christian Origins and the Question of God.

The Problem
In November 2007, Piper published a book entitled: The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright (Crossway). Here’s Piper’s charge: “If Wright’s framework for interpreting the New Testament text and his understanding of justification find a home in the church, not only could the doctrine of justification be distorted for generations to come, but the New Testament writers’ original intent could be silenced. So Piper is sounding a crucial warning in this book, reminding all Christians to exercise great caution regarding ‘fresh’ interpretations of the Bible and to hold fast to the biblical view of justification.”

Read an interview with Piper about the book here.

Read the entire book online here.

The Response
In April of this year, N.T. Wright responded with his book: Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision (IVP Academic). From the jacket: “Here in one place Wright now offers a comprehensive account and defense of his perspective on this crucial doctrine. He provides a sweeping overview of the central points in the debate before launching into a thorough explanation of the key texts in Paul's writings. While fully cognizant of tradition and controversy, the final authority for his conclusions is the letters of Paul themselves.”

Read an interview with N.T. Wright about the book here.

The Questions
Well readers of CPYU Bookshelf, we’re curious: Have you been following the debate? How does this affect your work with young people? Anyone want to make a case for why we should or shouldn’t pay attention to this discussion?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Benson Hines Interview: The State of College Ministry in America, Part 2

Read Part 1 of the Benson Hines Interview here.

CPYU: What do you think are some of the implications for your research on how youth workers can prepare students for college?

BH: First, it continues to be very clear that this transition - between high school and college - is NOT going well (as a general rule). That seems to be widely experienced, but it also seems to be widely recognized by college ministers. Even within churches (where there theoretically isn't a "break" between organizations as students move from high school to college), students aren't making that transition well.

One thing I think college ministers feel is that they have very little chance - if any - to help that transition happen well if students aren't already prepared to seek out their ministry. Obviously, college ministries need to provide a welcoming, helpful, and relevant place for new college students to "land." But plenty of those kinds of ministries exist, and many Christian students still aren't connecting to them. Meanwhile, at other campuses, very few ministries might exist at all. If students aren't intentional and skilled in seeking the Lord and finding community, then within a few weeks they might already be affected negatively.

Whether there are many great college ministries, few great college ministries, or no college ministries at their campuses, students have to be prepared to take responsibility for taking God personally and also finding the connections, community, and discipleship they need. So I would encourage youth workers to do everything they can to teach students what they need AND what God requires in these areas, and to give practical training in how to do these things.

College ministers can help provide wisdom for that process, just as the relay runner receiving the baton has suggestions for the handoff. Both sides of the transition need to help each other figure this out. As I say in the book, this important area is definitely worthy of an "all hands on deck" approach, because the situation seems pretty crummy right now.

CPYU: What are you hopes for the book? Have you gotten much feedback?

BH: The number one audience I had in mind for this book actually wasn't college ministers, which may be surprising. The first audience I had in mind was those outside college ministry who might need to better understand its value AND how it can be approached best. As I continue to see a growing desire to impact college students, I wanted to provide an "opening inquiry" about how we might do that with wisdom.

My biggest hope - for the trip, for this book, for the research I've continued to do - is to help develop the work of college ministry. And the biggest way to jump-start developing our work, I believe, will be to raise the value of college ministry in the minds of pastors, parents, and other Christian leaders.

However, I have hoped all along that this book would also be useful and encouraging for college ministers, and so far it seems to be! While the book has only been "public" for about 2 weeks, I have already gotten really positive reactions. A seminary professor plans to use Reaching the Campus Tribes as a text for his college ministry course, college ministers hope to train their student leaders with it, one girl said she hoped to use it in ministry fundraising, and many ministers have felt this book captures ideas they've been discovering for themselves... I've been floored by this response, and I'm so excited if the book actually does impact ministers and the "tribes" they work within.

CPYU: What’s next for you?

BH: That remains to be seen! I know my call is to help develop the field of college ministry, so I continue to watch - not only to see what's needed overall, but also to see what part God would have me play NEXT.

Right now, I continue to explore college ministry as I have opportunity, and I've had a few opportunities to speak to various groups. Presently, I'm actually on a new, 6-week trip to speak a couple of times and - in between - research college ministry in the Northeast. Hooray!

Since this is, after all, a book blog, I will also say that I hope to write more about what I learned and experienced on the big road trip. Certainly, I want to share the specific wisdom I gained from college ministers all over the country. Hopefully I can write a book detailing those things for my fellow college ministers, and I continue to share everything I can on my daily blog.

But I would also love to write something about the adventures of taking a yearlong road trip in hopes of changing the world! Obviously, an experience like this can provide plenty of writing fodder - like visiting 172 church services, seeing Christianity lived out all over the country... and little things like watching The Office in Scranton or accidentally ending up in Canada.

But we'll see what God wants to do. I'm honestly not naturally an "adventurer," but that's where God has me right now. Ultimately, I want to be helpful to our field, and I'm open to whatever I need to do to accomplish that!

Click here to download the book Reaching the Campus Tribes

Follow Benson's Exploring Campus Ministry Blog

Other Bookshelf Author Interviews:
Tim Clydesdale, The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens After High School
David Lovelace, Scattershot
William Mattison, Introducing Moral Theology
J. Mark Bertrand, Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World
Amy Black, Beyond Left and Right: Helping Christians Make Sense of American Politics
Matthew Bonzo, Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life
David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant
Kary Oberbrunner, The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap Between Christ and Culture
David Naugle, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives
Mary Poplin, Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service
Mindy Meier, Sex and Dating
David Dark, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything

Monday, May 11, 2009

Steve Brown Etc.

From the Steve Brown Etc. website:

“Love him or hate him, Steve Brown always draws a crowd. Over the past 22 years, as founder and president of Key Life Network, Steve's unique blend of orthodoxy and controversy, humor and profundity, and a refusal to play religious games, has attracted some interesting folks. Steve Brown Etc. is a place where you can hang out with Steve ‘and the rest’ and experience radical freedom, infectious joy and maybe even a bit of surprising faithfulness.”

Not everyone will appreciate Steve Brown’s style, but many will appreciate the outstanding guests that he has show after show. Each week Steve Brown interviews great authors of books worth knowing about. Here’s a sample:

William Paul Young, The Shack
Os Guinness, The Case for Civility
Karen Spears Zacharias, Where’s Your Jesus Now?
Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet
Cathleen Falsani, Sin Boldly

Give it a shot. It’s worth a listen!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Benson Hines Interview: The State of College Ministry in America, Part 1

Benson Hines may be a little crazy, but he’s a good crazy. Not only did he take a year to travel the country, exploring the state of college ministry in the United States, but he wrote a very helpful book about it and has offered it for FREE!

Click here to download his book Reaching the Campus Tribes: An Opening Inquiry.

The book is very helpful for all people in ministry, but particularly those working with high school students and college students will gain a much needed perspective on why the "college years" are so important. What follows is part 1 of a two part interview with author and college minister Benson Hines (BH):

CPYU: Tell us about your campus ministry tour. What motivated you to take a year to travel the country to research what was going on in college ministry?

I had been involved in ministering to college students for about 8 years before the trip, and I had noticed a few things about the "national scene" of college ministry. First, the importance and value of college ministry seemed to be very under-appreciated. Second, it seemed that this might be starting to change - that parents, pastors, and others were noticing the great need for helping people in the years following high school. Third, it seemed that few people - if any - had a solid grasp on what was taking place nationally "on the ground" in Evangelical college ministry.
As I worked through what I could do to help impact the field of college ministry, I ultimately (through LOTS of prayer and counsel and thought) settled on taking this trip. I wanted to help develop college ministry as a ministry field, and I felt this trip connected with all three areas I just mentioned: It could draw attention to this vital ministry area, it could help stoke the fire God already seemed to be starting, and it could provide a solid sampling of the broad spectrum of Evangelical college ministry in the United States.

CPYU: We love stories! Tell us two stories. First, what’s a good story from your trip that illustrates something positive that you learned about college ministry in the USA? Second, what’s a story that points to something not-so-good about the state of college ministry?

I definitely learned time and time again that there are lots of good things going on that may be unfamiliar to a majority of college ministers. While that sounds like a bad thing, it encourages me, because it means there is a whole lot out there - we just have to find it! Providentially, God provided many occasions for me to learn about those "secret heroes" all year.

One of those times happened when I randomly met a huge number of Coalition for Christian Outreach people at the Ivy Jungle conference. (I know those guys are well-known up here, but, sadly, they're not familiar in some other places.) The first time I had heard of CCO was only a week or two before while at Gordon College; lo and behold, I found myself sitting by Charity, a CCO staff member, in our conference "early bird" session.

Within a day or two, I found myself eating with a large number of their staff at the local restaurant, learning all about the amazing work of CCO among college students! Because of that great connection, I had the chance to connect with staff later during my trip, and I'm hoping to see many more during the trip I'm presently taking.

So that's one thing positive I learned: that God is moving in all kinds of ways, even if right now we're not all aware of what's going on outside of our own circles or regions.

As for the other kind of story...

I remember one time sitting with the college minister of a really large, popular church. He told me about their plans and their progress during their first several months, and it was a great conversation.

One of the things he brought up was that he was hoping to begin conversing with the head of the Atheist student organization on campus. It was a great idea for building bridges between the two groups.

Interestingly, though, I had found out earlier that another college ministry - an older, smaller, campus-based one - was already connected to that same Atheist group and its leaders. They had apparently done some activities together, and it seemed like an exciting, profitable, growing connection.

When I mentioned that ministry's inroads to this new minister, it was clear he had no idea that was already taking place - and was actually a little surprised. In other words, he had been planning a ministry that might duplicate or even damage some relationships that were already being established, but he had no idea.

There are plenty of reasons that the new guy might have been unfamiliar with that situation, and I don't know the whole story. But that exchange illustrated for me one of the problems presently plaguing the field of college ministry. Because we often aren't very attentive to connecting with each other, collaborating, or learning, college ministry is still regularly practiced "every man for himself." This is true both locally and nationally.

While there are fun things about being in a ministry field that remains primarily "grassroots" and pioneering, a lot will be gained by developing our field. That doesn't mean we won't still have overlapping ministry work, disagreements, or "messiness." But when college ministers see ourselves as part of a true "profession" or "corporate calling" or "ministry field" - whatever you want to call it - we will better coordinate, collaborate, and ultimately impact students for Christ.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Resource of the Month: Graduation Gift Bundle

The CPYU Graduation Bundle includes two resources, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness and ConGRADulations! Class of 2009. A great gift idea for graduating high school seniors!

Bulk discount rates available!

Coauthored by CPYU's own Derek Melleby, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness issues a clarion call to students to integrate their faith and learning. Written for a narrative generation, this guide extracts illustrations from the Book of Daniel, The Lord of the Rings, the experiences of real students, and more.

ConGRADulations! is a Music CD, a Media DVD, a Resource Website and a 48 Page Graphic Gift Book. Your seniors will be encouraged as the songs and videos prepare them for the biggest transition of their young lives. Includes video and written advice from Francis Chan and Dave Ramsey. Brought to you by interlinc.

Read Walt Mueller's thoughts on college transition and this gift set.

CPYU's Resource Center offers other great graduation gift ideas.