This afternoon a blog post came across the twitter feed from Ed Stetzer.  Sometimes I want to pull all the hair out of his Vandyke in disagreement and sometimes I think he is right on the money.  Regardless, he is always interesting.  Today’s post was all about the correlation between college students and church drop-outs.  (Read Stetzer’s post here).  Today, Stetzer was right on the money.

Apparently, what started it was a claim by Santorum that said 62% of college students drop out of church.  Stetzer is a stats person–so when claims like that come across his screen, he goes and hunts it down.  What was interesting to me was that the key research he cites is from my Alma Mater.  Stetzer blogs:

For example, one study from the University of Texas looks at the idea that colleges are corrosive to faith.

You can read the report summary here. In it, they claim:

Thus, the assumption that a college education is the reason for such a decline gathers little support. The results remain the same even when we employ multiple regression models to account for other factors that might explain the college-religion relationship (such as age, marriage, drinking habits, and sexual behavior, to name a few). Simply put: Higher education is not the enemy of religiosity. Instead, young people who avoid college altogether display a more precipitous drop in their religious participation…
In conclusion, the college experience–more than the education itself–seems corrosive to religious faith only among those who were at an elevated risk of such corrosion when they arrived on campus.

Sometimes I miss the 40 Acres.

My wife and I have been talking about college lately because our oldest daughter is nearing the time for her to pick and choose where she would like to matriculate.  I was a deeply committed Christian when I went off to Austin, Texas to learn at the heathen university.  I turned down scholarships to Baptist universities and other Christian colleges in order to experience life in a different way.  I realized three things about the connection between faith and college.  None of this is statistical, like Stetzer.  It is rooted in my own experience.

1.  Living in a secular environment helped me master the difference between true faith and cultural Christianity.

2.  Faith that cannot survive the scrutiny and challenges received at the hands of pagan psychologists, sociologists and biologists is not really faith at all. (Or as I learned in church, “Faith that fizzles at the finish was faulty from the first!)

3.  I learned how to do Christian ministry by living in a non-church world.  My life there prepared me for life and work in a a cultural environment which is not friendly to my faith.

4.  We can learn things about our own faith from people who do not share it.  Knowing how the outside world sees me and my kind helps me understand where they are at and how far I need to go in order to communicate with them.

5.  If all truth is God’s truth, then learning and education are a part of God’s work.  There is no way that education can be a hindrance to knowing and following God.


I got in last night after driving five hours through what felt like monsoon conditions from our Annual Meeting of Northwest Baptists.  This morning has been a mad-dash to catch up on all the work I left behind.  Most of it has been the endless administrative stuff but I also spent some time working on the “Thanksgiving” sermon for Sunday.  It is a special one; and I’m eagerly looking forward to it.  But before I let the week pass it is good to review the three days we spent in Eugene, Oregon.

The Great Stuff:  The preaching was spectacular this year.  Ed Stetzer was one of the keynotes and he was awesome; even if he seems to have a phobia about Twitter.  Our very own Jon Fredericks from Discovery Community Church in Tacoma.  I cannot over state how great his sermon was, and how timely it was.  Wayne Cordeiro preached Tuesday night covering some material from his new book “The Irresistible Church.” I need to confess; I might be developing a man crush on Wayne Cordeiro.

The Good Stuff:  Much of the emphasis was on church planting.  Some people would say I should put this in the category of Great Stuff; because church planting is great, and we are actually working at planting a new church in Silverdale, Washington.  But this is only Good Stuff because it is beginning to feel; quite honestly, like there is no room for people like me and churches like mine anymore.  Only church planters seem to matter and they just can’t wait for us to get out of there way.  More than once this week I felt very much like I was being told, “If only you were as spiritual and cool as a church planter is.”  I don’t think that is the intention of anyone, but it sure is beginning to feel like Seattle and especially Portland church planters are “more equal” than others.

The Bad Stuff:  There were two bad things–one was very very bad and the other was just yucky bad.  I’ll start with the yucky bad–our hotel was a dump.  The staff were friendly and kind; but the property was very disappointing.  The meeting space was crowded and convoluted.  My bathroom was disgusting.  The ‘clean’ towels smelled bad.  I’ve had better stays at Motel 6.  the second bad stuff was that the final reality that 13 staffers were fired due to funding cuts from the denomination (NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD) due to less revenue and restructuring.  It is amazing to me that our denomination talks about reaching un-reached people all the time, but in this region–perhaps one of the most unreached in North America, the word is given to lay people off.  Sometimes Baptists can be so stupid.

The really great stuff, though, is that I am back in my church where the real action is.  One of the great mistakes we can often make is to begin to think that what happens in the denomination is what is really important.  I don’t think it is very important at all, except in that it helps local churches fulfill their mission.




This morning Pastor Greenbean left his comfortable little hamlet and traveled south.  A good friend and I carpooled down to Eugene, Oregon for the yearly gathering of the regional expression of our denomination.  These meetings are usually comprised of pastors, church leaders, and denominational employees.

The drive down was not bad at all.  It is about a 4 1/2 hour drive; depending on traffic.  It rained most of the way.  On the drive down we solved, in order:  The budge deficit of the U.S. Government, Immigration, tax problems, and the problem with church today.  As you may have guessed, we felt quite accomplished before we ever arrived!  Besides that, I thought I might share some of the highlights significant events of the day.

Event One:  On the drive down, my friend asked me if I wanted a piece of gum.  I said, “Sure,” and he gave what he called “Japanese gum.”  He said he gets from friends in Japan.  The gum felt like a cough drop–with all the nasal opening power of Vick’s Vapor Rub.  It is called Black Black.

Event Two:  I went to the bookstore almost straight away.  One of the benefits of these meetings is the portable bookstore they set up.  I saw the most beautiful book I’ve seen in a long time.  The cover was, and I can’t overstate this, gorgeous.  I said out loud as I held the leather bound decorative book, “Can you judge a book by its cover?”  A woman standing about 5 feet away, who I didn’t even know had heard me almost shouted, “NO!”  We both giggled and we decided that if they had spent that much money on the cover; that must mean the contents are junk.

Event Three:  Just after finishing the book store I ran into a colleague I haven’t seen in several months.  He took one look at me and said, “Looks like you’ve put on weight.”

Event Four:  I come to these things for two primary reasons.  The first is to meet up with people I don’t get to see very often.  The second is for the preaching . Ed Stetzer preached this evening and it was very good–really more of a sobering reminder of what everyone in the room already knew but needed to be refreshed.  He preached from Matthew 4:17 and talked about the Kingdom of God being about the “reign of God,” the “rebellion of people,” balanced by the good news that the Kingdom is “presently near,” and that we as people need to “repent.”  He did pretty good–three of them even start with the same letter.

I haven’t had a chance to look at a schedule for tomorrow yet; but I”m sure it will be a great day.