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Saturday, 16 July 2011

Survey says... (what the University of Heidelberg students have to say about God)

As you may have read in our latest newsletter, our plans for the fall in part entail starting a college ministry out of our local church, Victory International. I was so encouraged when I worked with the college ministry at our sending church Watkinsville First Baptist in the two years before moving to England and wanted to do something similar here. Vic Doss runs a great program there centered around Jesus, loving the students and just giving time to them - to hang out, disciple, encourage and challenge. On any given Sunday he'll have 80-100 students that come to fellowship, hear a short preach/teach/testimony and then he has small group table leaders that ask a group of 6-8 students sitting at their table a series of questions to generate discussion. At the end, there's a time of group Q/A usually and a time of prayer.

In addition to this Vic hangs out with students over coffee several times a week, has monthly get togethers of one variety or another, has a weekly program for guys called Fight Club and a weekly program for girls run by our pastors wife Carla. Vic also encourages student adoption by the families in the church where mentors are created and students are just loved on (and fed of course!). What I love about Vic is that he and his wife Cynthia are just super passionate about Jesus. And Vic is a mans man - he wants to encourage guys to be strong in their faith, to follow after Jesus' example and to just be everything they were called to be. Men being men - who would have thought it?? Likewise Carla loves on, encourages through her life and testimonty and opens her house to 40-50 college students every week. I had the priviledge of working with Carla and helping with this bible study and I tell you it's as encouraging for the ones that help out as it is for the students that attend. Just girl stuff and it's awesome.

Which leads me to Germany and a different bread of student...

Well, hopefully not entirely. What I've found so far in surveying the students at the University of Heidelberg is very little spiritual background whatsoever. Their parents may have been catholic or protestant but they never went to church. They aren't interested, don't think it's necessary for their lives (although they could see how it might be interesting for others) and marginalize God almost entirely out of their day to day thinking. I've met students who are humanist agnostics, atheists, evolutionists and students that didn't classify themselves as anything but so far I've only met one christian who was raised in a Lutheran church and whose life was so busy he didn't have time for anything except attending church on Sunday mornings.

The students are however very nice. They are very considerate especially since my German is far from perfect and they seem to genuinely like the questions asked of them. For reference, these are the same questions Vic and his group of volunteers asked the students at the University of Georgia. Namely:

1) What is your spiritual background?
2) In three words describe your religious experience to date
3) If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
4) If God asked you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?
5) On a scale of 1-10, rate your goodness

The answers I've gotten to the third question interested me the most. So far answers have ranged from:
Why did God choose me for this life and this time?
Why did you make war?
Why do we die?
Why are there so many differences between people?
What is the purpose of the nasty things in life - like certain insects or animals (ticks, rats, etc)
Why do so many bad things happen to people?
Why are Africans born into such poverty and Germans born into such wealth?
Does the fantasy world of elves and dwarves and fairies really exist? (yes He was deadly serious!)

Most have questioned whether there was a God, was a Heaven and if there was whether they could trust Him or whether they even wanted to go to Heaven in the first place. Some I've met have been majoring in Philosophy and dismissed God on this account (doesn't Philosophy translate into a lover of wisdom and if so, wouldn't God be the greatest Philosopher that ever lived??). Some were biologists and dismissed God and creationism on this basis. All seemed intelligent and willing to share their ideas but I refrained from debate and simply asked the questions and listened this time. Fascinating. That's how I walked away, being fascinated by each and every student I met and also wondering whether I was going to have to modify the questions a bit for this audience.

Alan will tell you one of the things that fascinates me the most in life is Apologetics - the defense of the christian faith. I love learning. Probably because I feel so dumb when I talk to my dad which is why our conversations are often limited to, "How are you? How's your day going? How's your health? How's Chloe?" Then it's always a quick, "well your mom's not here but I'll tell her you called." lol - He's probably the greatest apologetic mind in Athens (or very close to it) and He's my dad. Those that know him know what I'm talking about so I'll just leave it at that.

I listen to Ravi Zacharias and his team at RZIM as regularly as I can. Ravi for example says there are four questions every person is going to have to answer in the course of their lifetimes. Somehow I want to merge these questions in with the ones from Vic... they are:
A question of origin: "How did I come into being?
A question of morality: "How can I determine what is right or wrong?"
A question of meaning: "What is the purpose of life itself?"
A question of destiny: "What happens to a human being when he or she dies?"

The problem I have found is people just simply don't ask the questions. They don't even consider them or if they do they don't think about the answers long enough to make them do the slightest bit of intelligent research or discovery. Probably the devil just distracts them right as they are thinking to themselves, "yeah what will happen to me when I die?" with the buzzer on the dryer signaling the clothes are ready to comes out or with a phone call from a friend or with the thought that it's cold and I should put on a sweater. He'll do whatever it takes to distract and to keep people from the truth. At least when I'm talking to the students and asking these questions they are forced to sit and think about the answer and maybe just that the Holy Spirit will use to plant a seed in their minds that can be watered and fed. That's my prayer at least. In the fall we'll have cards printed for the college ministry that we can give them so they can give us a try if for no other reason than to meet folks and to enjoy some free food.

Back to Apologetics...

I would pay big bucks to be able to attend the RZIM Oxford apologetic conference this next week in Oxford. Ravi, Stuart McAllister, Michael Ramsden and many others will be speaking and when they talk intelligently about christianity and why it just makes sense and it's not a self contradicting religion like Islam and Hinduism or Naturalism I just get excited. I wish I didn't jumble all my words and had the ability to speak to folks like these guys do. They inspire me. Quotes this week were, "The problem we have today is not that we don't have anything to be grateful for but that we don't have anyone to be grateful to." -Michael Ramsden or "If you are a christian you are commanded to give an apologetic (a defense for the reason you believe). It is a command to the church. The only question is whether you are living in disobedience to that command."-Michael Ramsden. "Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever; and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow."-Ravi quoting Augustine.

Anyway, this is getting long so I'll write again in a few days but it's just a few things on my mind and what I'm studying and up to for those that care. Thanks for continuing to keep us in your prayers and for supporting us here. And if you don't pray for us maybe you'll take the time today and become part of what we're trying to do here for Jesus in Germany.

1 comment:

  1. Mary - thank you for the kind words. I smile everytime I think about you. The reason I smile is because it makes me happy to know someone who is so aware of God's grace in her life. I pray for you and Alan every Monday so if you ever have specific requests let me know. I'm excited about the ministry you guy are bulisinf there and I'm hoping to come visit soon. Give your man a hug from team Doss and kiss that beautiful daughter of yours one extra time for us today. We love! Keep swimming in the ocean of His Grace!