First Law of Motion

3 Feb

Newton’s First Law of Motion

“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

I serve as the director of a Wesley Foundation on a fairly large campus. I was fascinated to learn that the majority of student leadership activity is accomplished by around 3% of the student body. It comes significantly short of the usual 80/20 rule that I had experienced in local church ministry where 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.

In the context of ministry where I serve, I could count on one hand the number of students that have expressed any interest in doing mission work in our community. The larger group of students loves to plan for fun fellowship events, though. Finding enough people who want to participate in a spring break mission trip is difficult, at best.

In the last two years I have observed a growing two-fold trend among our students who have come from the “Bible Belt.”  First, I have seen among an increasing number of our female students the practice of a “Princess Theology.” For them, Jesus is the handsome prince on a noble steed who comes to rescue and adore them. God is King and they are the princess daughters of the King. They have said, “When God looks at me, I take His breath away.” In a number of male students we have seen the influence of a theology where Jesus is “Macho Warrior” (a la Mark Driscoll.) They see themselves as a princely fighter, out to right the spiritual wrongs of the world. These theological viewpoints seem to spring directly from being the generation born in during the resurgence of the Disney movie influence. From “Beauty and the Beast” to “The Lion King,” these children have grown into young adults who are awaiting God’s magic to work in their lives.

In both of these theological practices, worship and prayer are their only foci. It’s all about their inner relationship with Jesus. “Jesus and me.” The idea of service and mission is of little interest to many of these students, and social justice issues cause them to raise their eyebrows in suspicion. They believe that God will give them all they ask for. They have heard,” I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13, NRSV), and believe that God will fulfill their wishes like a genie of the lamp. The “princesses” will be adored and the “warrior princes” will be equipped for an inward, spiritual battle as they pray.

Is this a unique issue to our area of the Bible Belt? Are others noticing this trend, also?

The work of campus ministry provides us with the daunting task of modeling a different understanding of the life of faith. We work, along with the Spirit, to help inspire students to move from this inwardly-focused spirituality to a practice of taking up one’s cross daily and following Christ into the cost and joy of discipleship. We continue to offer service projects and mission trips in the hopes that there will be a breakthrough into a wider understanding of an active life of discipleship and being a living sacrifice.

Sometimes I wonder if there will ever be that “aha!” moment when a student makes that important connection between their inner and outer life. Then, on occasion, a student comes by my office for a conversation about their growing understanding of a call to live a more active life of faith and my hope is renewed…at least for a while.

In what ways is God’s Spirit acting like that unbalanced, stronger force in your campus ministry to set your students in motion? What things have brought about “aha!” moments for your young adults?

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Tim Kobler is the Director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He has been serving in campus ministry for ten years. Tim received his Bachelor of Music degree from Southern Illinois University,  Carbondale, and his M.Div. from Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. He is a self-avowed computer and gadget geek. He is also the father of Clara (16) and Andrew (12).

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