Saturday, December 27, 2008

Young Adults Online

A new study from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation suggests that young adults are developing important social and technical skills while online, and online, and online. The study was conducted over 3 years, utilized 28 researchers, interviewed more than 800 young people and logged over 5,000 hours of online observation.

What do you think? You can read the report at


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

university chaplain

Review of The College Chaplain: A Practical Guide to Campus Ministry by Stephen L. White. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2005.
By Nathan Day Wilson

Stephen L. White, chaplain of the Episcopal Church at Princeton University and priest associate at Trinity Church in Princeton, has written an excellent book that combines a vision of campus ministry with practical suggestions for building an effective ministry. I was impressed enough with the text that I emailed White to thank him for writing it. In his reply, he wrote, “The book is what I had been looking for, but could not find, when I first started. I hope it is both practical and theologically grounded.”[1] It is, and it is useful for experienced as well as new campus ministers.
After a context-setting and spirited introduction, the book is organized around eight key functions and sets of responsibilities for campus ministers: pastor, priest, rabbi, prophet, steward, herald, missionary, and pilgrim. By structuring his book around specified functions, White places his work in a recognized line of theological reflection on campus ministry. In 1969, Kenneth Underwood’s noteworthy Danforth Study on Campus Ministries identified the priestly, pastoral, governing and prophetic utilitarian modes of campus ministry.[2] Twenty years later, Barbara Brummett, while not discounting the helpful administrative aspects of Underwood’s thesis, suggested four primary roles for campus ministers in their relations with students, staff and facuty: pastor, priest, rabbi, and prophet.[3] White acknowledges the impact of both of these earlier sources and builds on them to develop his eight functional roles for campus ministers.[4]
In his introductory chapter, White describes characteristics of vital campus ministry. The first such characteristic is the proclamation of God’s Word and celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This central act of worship and community-formation is vital, says White, to “our sense of who we are and to our relationship with God.”[5]
Second, campus ministry should be characterized by hospitality; that is, campus ministry needs to provide a physical space where students, staff and faculty can study, socialize and gather for important reasons or no reasons in order to “let down their guard and be themselves, especially when they are hurting or confused.”[6]
Third, campus ministry should be characterized by presence. This is one of the more poignant reminders of White’s characteristics. He writes that “campus ministry is about being around, being available, being seen by being present as a symbol of the presence of, and the immediate availability of, God in our lives.”[7]
Fourth, campus ministry should be characterized by caring for one another. With this characteristic, White moves beyond the fun and games of campus ministry to remind his readers that campus ministry is also about “helping a faculty member who fears appearing to be vulnerable in a competitive environment get through a family crisis.”[8]
Campus ministry should be characterized by service to others, by having fun, by knowing God, and by equipping the saints. This final characteristic is the place where, according to White, we encourage young adults to strengthen their own faith by sharing it with others. We give opportunities for students to preach, to lead worship, to teach Bible study, and involve them in local and national church conventions and other activities. A number of times at the recent Ivy Jungle Conference concern about the disconnect between campus ministry and local congregational ministry was voiced. It is helpful, then, to read of at least one campus minister making a conscious effort to involve students in local and national church activities.
The boldest sentence in White’s introduction is about funding. “Any approach to funding campus ministries other than through restricted endowments of a sufficient size to fund a fulltime chaplain and a meaningful program merely gives lip service to campus ministry and willfully neglects the future vitality of our church,” writes White.[9] He notes other successful models of campus ministry, such as those relying exclusively on volunteers, but insists that the best promise and potential for stable, secure, and successful campus ministry is through stable and secure funding.
Chapter one, “The Chaplain as Pastor,” is about the pastor who “constantly searches for ways to reach not only those students who may want to ‘do church,’ but also those who are alienated from or indifferent to religion. A good chaplain thinks of him or herself as pastor for everyone, not only those who show up for worship services.”[10] White helpfully stresses the need for patience in campus evangelism. This is a lesson many, including me, need to remember. One of the temptations I face in ministry is focusing too much on visible signs of growth and change; reminders that growth is sometimes invisible, or at least temporarily concealed, are needed.
White compares college students in campus ministry to clay pots made by a potter. The biblically aware reader will recognize this as an analogy born of Scripture, namely Jeremiah 18:2-4, which reads
‘Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

Writes White, “(The potter) has to be patient and … live with the possibility that there might be some air bubble or a bit of moisture in the clay.”[11] Later White adds to his analogy when he writes that “college students are like pots … (t)hey have to go through fire in order to be strong and to grow and to show all their latent beauty.”[12]
Chapter two, “The Chaplain as Priest,” posits the campus minister’s “main public function is the leading of regular worship.”[13] White discusses the differences between denominational and nondenominational liturgical practices, Taizé worship, and the importance of finding a general style so that every worship service is not brand a mystery of form even to those who regularly participate in the worship services. His lessons apply similarly to congregations; in my present context, for instance, we are innovative with music and placement, and even my preaching style, but we also maintain enough order for worshippers not to feel uneasy. My experience is that when the worship designers change too much too often, it leaves worshippers feeling uneasy and concentrating more on what’s coming next than on worshipping God.
The campus minister, suggests White, is to model the prayer life he or she advises. This practice further helps the campus minister be sure he or she is centering worship and work on God, not on self-celebration or even self-fulfillment. An active prayer life is also important for any minister who is regularly called on to lead spontaneous prayers. In my own experience, I know how hard it can be to draw water from a well that has dried up.
White urges campus ministers to “consider it a part of the office of chaplain to encourage young people to pursue a life of ministry, whether as a layperson or through ordination.”[14] I’m glad he included this exhortation, and I certainly agree with the importance of all Christians – lay and ordained – seeing themselves as ministers, but I wish White’s wording was stronger. We in the church must explicitly invite and encourage students to consider ordained ministry. I affirm that vocation is larger than occupation; nevertheless, we must put squarely before our young people the possibility that their vocational calling to love God and neighbor might mean a life in the ordained ministry.
Chapter three, “The Chaplain as Rabbi,” is, of course, the campus minister’s call to teach and equip. The teaching of campus ministers, unlike faculty members, is always theocentric, always “searching for ways to proclaim the gospel, to make God known, to point to the connection of the reality of God with all other fields of knowledge.”[15] Campus ministers should seize every opportunity possible to explain, elaborate and challenge. I suspect there are precious few camp counselors, youth leaders and Sunday school teachers who do not know the truth of that statement. Often the most teachable moments are not when everyone is sitting quietly around a table, but rather in the middle of some ridiculous game or while riding in the church van, or walking from one place in the church to another. Then the real questions come forth and the true feelings are stated. It falls in line with a statement I used to make when training youth workers: the only predictable thing about middle school-aged youth is that they are unpredictable! Good campus ministers seize those unpredictable moments to bring forth a word of the gospel.
White is careful (and correct) to emphasize that campus ministers are to teach students and others how to think theologically for themselves. This has been my mantra for some time. In fact, I believe one of the reasons campus ministry has lost its appeal for many students is that they want to move beyond the messy games and energetic music for real substance that will help them make sense of their world now and equip them to make sense of, and make moral decisions in, their world later. Campus ministers can provide moral and ethical frameworks so that as the issues change, the responses can be made in view of the standards and methods needed to make sense of the relationship between self, world and Christian faith.
In chapter four, “The Chaplain as Prophet,” White notes a number of Christian prophets, ranging from biblical examples to Bonhoeffer to King to Romero. He cites William Sloane Coffin as the best known prophetic campus minister. This is the other half of my mantra. In the midst of an academic community, campus ministers are ideally positioned to prod others to deeper engagement of issues that matter; they can, and should, encourage, even challenge, others to ask more honestly how we should respond to the world in which we live. Campus ministers should always complement the cogito ergo sum of a college with amo ergo sum, challenging the community to love as well as think. When that happens, campus ministry will be a place where we have the courage and freedom to ask the biggest questions and imagine the existence of those beyond our own tribe. This courage, freedom and imagination might just give rise to compassion, which might, in turn, help us truly love our neighbors as ourselves.
“Prophecy,” writes White, “can be thought of as a public exposition of a theological position and of telling the truth publicly.”[16] In this light, it is incumbent to carefully discern that about which campus ministers individually or in behalf of their ministry are prophetic. Campus ministers are not, in my view, called to advance the agendas of a political party.
Chapter five, “The Chaplain as Steward,” addresses issues surrounding the campus minister’s use of quantifiable resources, including student leadership, and money. White suggests establishing a strong and active governing body that cooperatively works with but is not chaired by the campus minister. Campus ministries that fail to do this, according to White, are in danger of losing focus on their intended core mission and using their resources unwisely. White gives the example of one campus ministry that deteriorated beyond this to the point of having a campus minister who had “retired on the job.”[17]
White further addresses the stewardship of student leadership, facilities and alumni information. Then, in good Episcopalian fashion, White delves heavily into a conversation os endowment management and fundraising! This section of this chapter is hands down the best money management and fundraising discussion I have ever read in a college ministry related work. White highlights endowment issues and delineates specific fundraising steps.
In chapter six, “The Chaplain as Herald,” White addresses how a campus ministry makes itself known to the campus at large. White turns first to the task of preaching: “Preaching anywhere, but especially in a university setting, is an opportunity to proclaim the gospel if the preacher can manage to avoid two major pitfalls: the temptation to make yourself the hero, or at least the major figure, of most of your sermons; and the temptation to be too clever.”[18] White reminds his readers that sermons on a college campus, as in a congregation, need solid biblical exegesis, sound theology and inspired social concern.
Web sites and internet use, posters and banners, campus paper ads and community announcements, email and instant messaging, brochures and newsletters are all discussed by White as ways to spread the word about the campus ministry’s availability and openness to new people. Finally, White advises weekly meetings with the core student leadership that empowers them to herald the campus ministry story as well.
Chapter seven is titled “The Chaplain as Missionary.” “The university,” writes White, “is a rich mission field, and campus ministry is an expression of the church’s eagerness to be a part of the lives of all those involved with the university.”[19] The campus minister should be passionate about being a missionary to the college and passionate about equipping, educating and engaging others to do the same. This missionary impulse is evident through our words and actions, noting the admonition of Francis to “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”
Bible studies, Habitat service projects, volunteering at local soup kitchens and homeless shelters, inviting dorm mates to church services, and more are ways White suggests campus ministers encourage their students to be missionaries. When we are missionaries, “we will alert first ourselves, and then others, to the universal reign of God.”[20]
The final chapter concerning the campus minister’s functions, “The Chaplain as Pilgrim,” examines how the campus minister is sustained and sustains others on the lifelong journey of faith. In this chapter White goes from preaching to meddling with me! He writes, “The life of a university chaplain can be a model of a balanced life for others. Instead of modeling super achievement, the chaplain as pilgrim can be a person on a deliberate, purposeful spiritual journey….”[21] These, and the ones that follow them, are great words. These are needed words. One more line from White: “If the chaplain’s attempt to live a balanced life is not genuine, not party of the true self and of daily practice, then it quickly will be detected as fraudulent.”[22]
Campus ministers can and should be companions with staff, faculty and students on a spiritual pilgrimage. The markers for this pilgrimage are daily prayer, regular retreats, seeking and providing spiritual direction, maintaining relationships with the church beyond the university, maintaining boundaries with students, staff and faculty, and taking of oneself physically and emotionally. As pilgrims, campus ministers know that the spiritual journey is made in the company of others.
The journey metaphor seems to me an appropriate one to conclude White’s book. It is a metaphor appropriate to my own life. The geography of my life has been varied. At some points weeds grew tall and unruly; at other points everything appeared well manicured. Some valleys and some mountain tops looked like they would never end, but both did. Scary curves and broad hills concealed what was next. Straight roads and flat plains allowed me to go too fast. While the terrain changes in sometimes frustrating ways, I am often reminded that being Christian is less a destination than a journey, so I’ll keep traveling.

Nathan Day Wilson’s email address is
[1] Personal email correspondence dated 8 December 2005 between White and me.
[2] Kenneth Underwood, ed. The Church, the University and Social Policy: The Danforth Study on Campus Ministries (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1969).
[3] Barbara Brummett. The Spiritual Campus: The Chaplain and the College Community (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1990).
[4] White never mentions William Willimon’s Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry, but given that Willimon also organizes his book around functions of the ordained minister, the similarities are striking. In fact, reading the two together would be rich for seminarians – and for pastors!
[5] Stephen L. White. The College Chaplain: A Practical Guide to Campus Ministry (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2005), 14.
[6] Ibid, 15.
[7] Ibid, 15.
[8] Ibid, 15.
[9] Ibid, 19.
[10] Ibid, 23.
[11] Ibid, 39.
[12] Ibid, 39.
[13] Ibid, 45.
[14] Ibid, 61.
[15] Ibid, 63.
[16] Ibid, 87.
[17] Ibid, 95.
[18] Ibid, 117.
[19] Ibid, 135.
[20] Ibid, 141.
[21] Ibid, 143.
[22] Ibid, 143.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Vital Ministry

Relating scholarship to faith; prompting us to love as well as think; connecting spiritual passions, social commitments and academic pursuits; engaging the great questions; having fun -- these are the things of college and university ministry.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

It really, no not really, breaks my heart to interrupt all the enriching banter about lipstick, community organizers, swine and rock stars, but I’m beginning to wonder if either candidate running for our nation’s highest office has noticed that there are serious issues before the United States and the world that might just need a bit of serious conversation.

As just one example, a presidential candidate could help us learn and grow from our experience of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

I was supposed to be in Washington, DC, that day. In fact, the place I was supposed to be is not too far from the Pentagon. However, my itinerary changed so that I was instead in Charleston, West Virginia, on the 11th. Then the planes crashed and people died.

On September 12 and 13, I worked by phone with other religious leaders to draft a statement.... TO READ MORE, CLICK HERE

Monday, August 25, 2008

English only petition in Nashville TN

Moving well beyond ridiculous into the completely asinine is a petition circulating in Nashville, TN to ban all foreign languages from use on any official communications and publications. The petition has received enough signatures to be placed on the November ballot. Read about it here.

Petitions such as this are completely un-American; they are not at all in keeping with the values of our forebears. For Christians and other followers of the Abrahamic faiths, petitions such as these are completely antireligious; they fly in the face of the hospitality that is central to our religious faith.

But rather than address this embarrassment with either of those truths, I'll address it with a personal word. My family and I lived outside the United States for a short period of time. The country where we lived does not have English as a primary language.

For us, going to the grocery store or sending a letter back home or helping our children meet and play with other children at the park or finding our way to church the first time were all challenges. Many times our saviors were people patient with our very limited abilities in their language and people who were willing to try their little bit of English to help us understand. Their generosity allowed us to survive.

And now a part of my country -- a part of the country that I, in fact, used to enjoy -- is not going to return the favor. I'm ashamed of those in Nashville who pushed this effort, and I hope and pray it is soundly defeated in November.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Place to Be!

If you're around Shelbyville, Indiana, this Sunday, the place to be is First Christian Church at 118 West Washington Street.

Why, you ask?

First Christian is the place to be to hear about exciting, life changing experiences in Swaziland, Africa this past summer! You can worship and learn at 9:00 AM and at 11:00 AM. At 10:00 AM, you are invited for coffee and conversation with the team members.

See you soon at the place makinga difference throughout the world!


Swaziland Christian Hearts Hands

If you're around Shelbyville, Indiana, this Sunday, the place to be is First Christian Church at 118 West Washington Street.

Why, you ask?

First Christian is the place to be to hear about exciting, life changing experiences in Swaziland, Africa this past summer! You can worship and learn at 9:00 AM and at 11:00 AM. At 10:00 AM, you are invited for coffee and conversation with the team members.

Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympics International Relations

I'm not ashamed of it even though some might consider it a disorder of sorts. In fact, not only am I not ashamed; I even admit it openly. It does, after all, strike only every couple years, and it lasts just a few weeks. This time, it's not too bad yet, though it could worsen.

What is it, you ask? Well, the nontechnical name is OISD. What is OISD? It is, as if you didn't know, Olympics Induced Sleep Deprivation. When the Olympics are on, I almost always suffer from OISD.

You see, I love - not like, but love - the Olympics. Always have. Individual and team, well known and barely known, big ticket and no ticket, those I get and those that baffle me - I like almost all events. Sometimes I'm asked if I like the summer or winter games better; the answer is whichever comes sooner. I love the Olympics.

Now, don't get me wrong; I am not naive about the Olympics. I know there are moral questions, such as whether the extreme training of some athletes is worth essentially robbing them of other parts of their lives. I'm as concerned as anyone about the use of performance enhancing drugs. I protest when judges are unfair, coaches are rude and athletes are pompous.

Even with those recognitions, though,

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Zimbabwe's Political Talks

Senior negotiators from Zimbabwe's main opposition and ruling political parties began talks at an undisclosed venue close to Pretoria, South Africa, on Thursday about forming a unity government. Not surprisingly, the two sides differ on who should lead the government and how long it should stay in power.

South African financial daily Business Day reported on Thursday that the two sides are close to reaching a deal but still need to iron out the final details.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gazprom Russia

Do you know the name Gazprom? If not, you may be in years ahead. It's the name of Russia's natural gas monopoly. The Russian government seems increasingly clear about using Gazprom as its primary foreign relations carrot and stick.

Will Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attempt to galvanize other gas producing nations into some anti-western lobbying force? I dunno, but as Medvedev said, "it is wrong to assume that the issue is dead."

So stay tuned. Russia, along with Brazil, South Africa, India and obviously China are rising international players.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Religion and forgiveness

How is it that religious beliefs and religious people both foster and frustrate forgiveness? That's one of the questions I've been asked to write and speak about.

What should I say?


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Spring of 2007
The Château of Coppet
Vaud, Switzerland
Our family was there for my graduation from the Master of Advanced Studies program at the University of Geneva.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Seems like everywhere I turn these days, the topic of forgiveness is there to meet me.

I’ll quickly mention two examples. The first occurred last week when I taught a class in another state on a different topic. At the end of the last class session, some of the participants in the class asked if I would teach the same class and other classes in the future. Forgiveness emerged as a topic and was affirmed by others. In particular, the participants were interested in recent mind-body-spirit research about the positive effects of forgiving and the detrimental health effects of not forgiving.

It’s been known since well before the time of Christ that forgiving others and ourselves has curative powers; and, likewise, refusing to forgive causes more injury and harm.

A second example occurred earlier this week in a counseling session. Here is the rest of the column.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Worship in the park

The text for First Christian Church's worship celebration tomorrow is Psalm 118:24: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. We plan to worship outdoors at a local park, then have games for most ages and then a church picnic.

An extra tent was set up today. Tables and chairs will be hauled out early in the morning. Table coverings, food, all sorts of stuff.

God made this day, indeed, so let's enjoy it!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

High Density Vertical Garden (HDVG)

What in the world is a high density vertical garden, you ask? Well, thanks for asking!
I just came across the term and idea, and I like it. Here's what someone else wrote about vertical gardens:

In Victorian times, houses were very narrow, multi-storied, and had a small "footprint" on the land. This left more land for private gardening, and commons, among other things. Then came the 1960s, and "ranch style" homes, with half-acre grass covered lots. By the 1970's anyone with a vegetable garden in a suburban or city back yard were "hippies," "weird," or "old fashioned."
The 1990's saw the boom of Mega-Mansions on postage stamp sized lots, weekly lawn-care crew visits, and still little vegetable gardening on a respectable scale, regardless of whether one lives in the city or the suburbs. Now we have an oil crisis overlain with a salmonella crisis: both of which the US Federal government seems incapable of dealing with. Vertical gardening might help change that.

Vertical gradens are said to grow vegetables and other foods much more efficiently and with greater food value than in agricultural field conditions.
Other claims are that vertical gardens produce approximately 20 times the normal production volume for field crops; require 5% of the normal water requirements for field crops; function in a variety of environments, such as urban, suburban and countryside; do not use herbicides or pesticides; save significant operating and capital costs over field agriculture; and, will drastically reduce transportation costs to market resulting in further savings, higher quality and fresher foods on delivery, and less transportation pollution.
Maybe worth a try, huh? Here's a visual:

Friday, July 04, 2008

Chautauqua face painting

Thanks to our friend John's quick and apt photography, here is a picture of the girls with their faces freshly painted at the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) houses at the Chautauqua Institution. John Scott Williams of National City CC is the artist, and arguably the most popular person with children at the Institution this week!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Diplomacy education economy entrepreneurship

Said George Fechter today at Chautauqua:

+ Growing the economy requires two things: finding smart people to support and focusing on solving problems.

+ Single biggest and longest-lasting difference in the world would be made by helping women throughout the world learn to read.

+ Higher education can be an effective form of diplomacy.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Chautauqua pictures

A picture of Lake Chautauqua and some of the manu sailboats that adorn it. Enjoy --
This picture is of the Hall of Philosophy. It seats around 500 people and is the location of many great presentations and discussions, including the daily religion lectures.

This is the famous Atheneaum Hotel.

One of my favorite places is the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York. It is an inspiring and engaging place offering a ton of activities in a relaxing and beautiful atmosphere.

My family and I are here this week while I serve as chaplain for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which has two houses on Chautauqua’s campus. One of our daughters is taking a class about computer gaming, and has already written the first level of her new, as yet unnamed, computer game. Our other daughter is taking a beginning ballet class.

Next week Janice is presenting a program on the HIV and AIDS pandemic in Africa, Swaziland in particular, and her recently published book, Exploring Solutions: How to Talk About HIV Prevention in the Church. I am teaching a class on the biblical and cultural history of Satan.

I’ll post a bit here and there about our adventures at Chautauqua.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

New book HIV AIDS discussion in church

Check out this new book on HIV and AIDS discussions in the church and other community settings:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Below is a press release from the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, an organization I respect.

Leading Conflict Mediators Convene in Oslo, June 2008

Conflict 'hot spots', such as Darfur and Chad, Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Lebanon, Kenya, Congo and Cyprus, sit high on the global agenda of mediators.Many of the peace-makers in these conflicts will be among the approximately 100 senior mediators who will assemble in Oslo on 24 to 26 June (Tuesday to Thursday). Their purpose is to exchange experiences, examine critically their mediation practices, consider how to adapt to new mediation perspectives, and to build ties with fellow international professional peacemakers.

The OSLO Forum, as this annual gathering is called, has come a long way in its 6-year history. From just a handful of conflict mediation practitioners at the first meeting in 2003, the Forum has developed into what is now widely acknowledged as the leading global assembly of the world's top mediators.

United States international relations

An opinion column worth a read about smart power in the US:


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New church site

When you get a chance, check out

Still needs some work, but it's underway and will be consistently updated!


Church camp climbing wall

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) church camps in Indiana kicked off last weekend. This picture is from Camp Barbee in Leesburg, IN.

Trampoline on Father's Day

Part of Father's Day, 2008: assembling the

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Youth mission pictures

The whole group!

First Christian Church, Shelbyville IN
Youth and Sponsors
Some Christians promote an escapist theology where Christians wait to escape one world for another. Other Christians strive to enact God's will in this world as in heaven.
36 youth and adults from First Christian in Shelbyville, Indiana are in the latter camp. I'm pleased to be one of them, and proud of their work and witness.
Here we are in Dungannon, Virginia, at the Dingannon Development Commission.

More youth mission trip pictures

More pictures from the youth mission and service trip.

Monday, June 09, 2008

First Christian Shelbyville youth mission

Two more youth mission pictures.

First Christian Shelbyville youth mission Monday midday

36 youth and adults from First Christian, Shelbyville IN are engaged in mission and service work in southwest Virginia with the Dungannon Development Commission.
In the picture to the left, many of the youth and adults (others joined later) are outside the chapel after Sunday morning worship. The chapel was on a 5.2 mile hike the youth and adults took.
The trip is off to a grand start -- little sleep, lots of work and even more fun; just the way youth trips are supposed to be!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Full Life

My view of God largely influences how I live my life. Said the other way around, how I live my life largely results from my view of God. I’m convinced of this!

The decisions I make, the chances I take, the depth of my relationships, the ways I celebrate and suffer, worship and work, help and hope – in short, how I live my life – results from my view of God.

At the church I serve, we just started a worship series built around this truth. We are calling the series, “How Big is God?” In it, we are exploring two very real questions: 1) Do I view God as small and occasionally reliable or big and always reliable; and, 2) what difference does it make in how I live my life?

If I view God as distant and uncaring, then I am likely to act in ways that are uncertain, timid and passive. When the going gets rough, as it always does at some point, I might give in, give up or give out because I’m not sure that God is really there, really engaged or really cares. My tomorrow is likely to be the same as my yesterday since the unpredictability of change makes growth undesirable.

On the other hand, if I view God as dependably present and utterly loving, then I am likely to act in ways that are confident, trusting and even daring. I know the security of God’s acceptance and the reliability of God’s promises. Growth and change are for me adventures to embrace. Yes, they are still unpredictable, but they can be embraced because God is trustworthy.

With a big and dependable God, I am allowed, even encouraged, to live a big life. What is a big life, you ask? Today let’s look at just two characteristics of living a big life.

First of all, a big life snatches all life has to offer and even squeezes out a little more. I like this quote from Ray Bradbury, "I do wish to run, to seize this greatest time in all the history of man to be alive, to stuff my senses with it, to eye it, touch it, listen to it, smell it, taste it, and hope that others will run with me, pursuing and pursued by ideas."

A big life snatches all life has and squeezes out more.

Second, a big life shares with others. You have gifts the world needs. What exactly are your gifts and who exactly needs them? I don’t know.

As a friend puts it, “Maybe your song won't be sung on David Letterman. It may never make the top-40 list. But somebody out there needs to hear it. Maybe it's the 92-year-old shut-in who lives next door, who giggles every time she overhears you sing, ‘I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Weiner’ outside her bedroom window. Isn't that enough?”

It is. A big life shares with others.

So go on now, get out there. Live a big life. It’s okay, you know, because thankfully yours is a big God!

Nathan Wilson is pastor of First Christian Church on West Washington Street, and a life coach helping people move from where they are to where they want to be in their professions and their personal lives. He can be reached at

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Value judgment making

In The Chronicle of Higher Education ("The Liberal Arts in School and College"), Stanley Katz argues for greater attention to multidisciplinary courses that challenge students to "understand that the essence of education is the courage and ability to make value judgments."

Many learning theorists have emphasized the importance of multidisciplinary approaches to higher education for years; Katz stresses beginning this approach with high school students. Waiting until college is waiting too long.

Do you agree? How would this work in high school curricula?


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

If Every Person Mattered

My most recent newspaper column is avilable at

or you can go to and enter wilson in the search field.

Take care --


Monday, January 21, 2008


My wife received an email that seems to be making its way around.

The email had many accusations, such as
-- “Barack Hussein Obama was born to …a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and … a white Atheist from Wichita, Kansas.”
-- Obama’s stepfather “introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta. Wahabism is the RADICAL ISLAMIC teaching that is followed by Muslim terrorists.”
--“Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ.”
--“While others place their hands over their hearts, Obama has been photographed turning his back to the flag and slouching.”

This email representsa subtle and especially potent form of racism. Racism demeans human beings by demonizing character and creating an element of fear. This was exactly Hitler’s tactic against the Jews. It is one thing to openly debate a person’s political ideas, but it is another to make devastating accusations against his or her character.

Don't stand for this.