I read myself hoarse tonight, poring over a fantastic book that Stacey and I could not put down. What began with me spouting off a few funny quotes while we sunned ourselves this afternoon turned into hours of digging deep into the rich loam that is The Unlikely Disciple. I have never read a memoir written by a young person that was this honest and real...it just knocked my socks off. The unique opportunity to see Christian culture through the eyes of someone foreign to it was priceless. Kevin Roose never sought to defame anyone in this book--he was just honest and very graceful. There are some things he mentioned that stung, but these are often things that also bother me about the particular brand of Christian culture purported by Liberty University. Kevin's struggle with faith but complete openness to fully participate in spiritual life on campus was remarkable. I also loved the random shout-out to my alma mater Grove City College that occurred amongst the pages.
But what will stay with me the most is what the book said to me about the value of relationship in a person coming closer to knowing Christ. Kevin presented himself as an 'insider' on the campus and was able to view everything without pretense and bias...and he walked away experiencing what it means to be truly loved by a Christian community. Maybe we should never put labels on people, separating them into camps of 'saved' and 'unsaved' and just live life with them. No shying away from doing the stuff of faith with them, ushering them into the experience but being gracious when they aren't ready to participate. Maybe this is 'relational evangelism' done truly well. I've always had an inkling that living life and drawing others alongside was it, but it never felt fully formed. This book as assured me of that truth.
The hard part is that life is rarely like a residential college campus, where you spend most of your time with the same people, doing all the activities of work (study), meals, sleep, and play together. There is no other time in life when community is so obviously present. This makes me all the more affirmed in the power of the collegiate moment to shape the trajectory of life and all the more empowered that God has me working in this moment with just these people. May He continue to provide me with the grace to expand what I've learned through this book into things I can put into practice on a daily basis with the students I serve.