Texas A&M Ranks as #1 College in America

According to the Evangelical Outpost:

Aggies are #1? It’s No Joke — Move over Harvard–Texas A&M is now ranked as the “best” university in the country. So says The Washington Monthly magazine in its annual College Guide, which was designed as an alternative to US News & World Report and similar guides. Texas A&M takes the number one spot among national universities on the Washington Monthly list, while Princeton, U.S. News’s top-ranked school, comes in at 78.

UCLA and UC Berkeley place second and third respectively among national universities in the Washington Monthly rankings.

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Linebacker, 59, to Become Oldest College Football Player in History

He’s an empty nester. He’s a grandfather. And now, Mike Flynt is set to become the oldest college football player in history at age 59.

Flynt returned to Sul Ross State this month, 37 years after he left and six years before he goes on Medicare. His comeback peaked Wednesday with the coach saying he’s made the Division III team’s roster. He could be in action as soon as Sept. 1.

Flynt is giving new meaning to being a college senior. After all, he’s a grandfather and a card-carrying member of AARP. He’s eight years older than his coach and has two kids older than any of his teammates.

Why did Flynt want to return to the football field again?

Flynt’s life was supposed to be slowing down this fall. With his youngest child starting at the University of Tennessee, he and Eileen, his wife of 35 years, are planning to take advantage of being empty-nesters for the first time.

Instead, they’ve moved to this remote patch of West Texas so Flynt can mend an old wound and, he hopes, inspire others.

Why did Flynt not finish his football eligibility the first time around?

Flynt was going into his senior year in 1971 when he got into a fight that was far from his first. School officials decided they’d had enough and threw him out of school. He earned his degree from Sul Ross by taking his remaining classes elsewhere.

Of course, Flynt is finishing his glory days in Texas. Whether he makes a significant contribution to the team, there is no question that Flynt is setting a record that will not soon be broken.

Church: 70% College Dropout Rate

The amount of students who are dropping out during their college years is shocking. But I am not talking about a surging attrition rate among American colleges and universities. What I am describing is the mass exodus of many Protestant teens from the local church during their college years.

A new study released by Lifeway Research reports that students are leaving the church faster than college football fans watching their team get blown out in 95 degree heat. According to a USA Today article describing the report:

Why they leave

  • Wanted a break from church: 27%
  • Found church members judgmental or hypocritical: 26%
  • Moved to college: 25%
  • Tied up with work: 23%
  • Moved too far away from home church: 22%
  • Too busy: 22%
  • Felt disconnected to people at church: 20%
  • Disagreed with church’s stance on political/social issues: 18%
  • Spent more time with friends outside church: 17%
  • Only went before to please others: 17%

Reasons cited by the 30% who kept attending church:

  • It’s vital to my relationship with God: 65%
  • It helps guide my decision in everyday life: 58%
  • It helps me become a better person: 50%
  • I am following a family member’s example: 43%
  • Church activities were a big part of my life: 35%
  • It helps in getting through a difficult time: 30%
  • I fear living without spiritual guidance: 24%

Lifeway offers a number of follow up articles unpacking the research:

Dr. Albert Mohler also did a radio show on the issue last week.

Based on my experiences in college ministry, here are the primary reasons I think these students leave the church during college:

  1. Some are not believers. Many attended church in high school because of pressure from their culture, their family or their peers; not because they know Christ and have a burden for meeting with His people for the sake of His kingdom. When their life situation shifts and these pressures are released, then their incentives for attendance are eliminated.
  2. Many operate as spiritual consumers. In out individualized culture, most of these students function as spiritual consumers who view the church as just another vendor of goods. So, their decisions about the church are largely based on what opportunities will provide the best return on their Sunday morning time investment. As long as students see the church as a business united to consumerism rather than a bride united to Christ, this dropout rate will continue.
  3. Most have not been taught to love the local church. As a result, they look at the church as just another option in the large spiritual buffet of Christian opportunities offered on many college campuses. When students can have their ‘spiritual needs’ met through campus Bible studies and Christian organizations, then their investment in church will suffer.
  4. Others put church on the back burner during their college years. This happens for two reasons. First, some forsake the church to sow their wild oats and live for themselves for a season of life. Second, others marginalize the church because they are trying to make the most of opportunities that are exclusive to college in order to maximize their personal and spiritual growth. In other words, in the quest to build a resume (or even, for some, to grow in godliness), the local church is not seen as a quality option.
  5. Last, many are disillusioned with the local church. For some, this occurs as they have bad experiences with the local church they grew up in. They become disenfranchised when they can’t find a church that’s different from their home church. For others, this takes place as they struggle for multiple years to finally settle on a church to commit themselves to during college. They become disenfranchised when they can’t find a church that’s just like their home church.

My hope is that studies like this will renew the sense of urgency in our local churches and our denominational entities to make every effort to redeem this pivotal time in the lives of our young people. As long as churches continue to lump college ministry into the pastoral duties of other ministers and denominational entities continue to slash budgets because this area is unprofitable, this dropout trend will continue.

Teens and Social Networking

The Washington Post carried two stories (here and here) describing trends in social networking among teens. Here are some of the interesting stats:

  • 66% of teens who have profiles say their profile is not visible to all Internet users.
  • 46% of teens whose profiles can be accessed by anyone say they give false information on their profiles, sometimes to protect themselves.
  • 49% of social network users say they use the sites to make friends.
  • 23% of teens who have been contacted by a stranger online say they felt scared or uncomfortable because of the encounter. (That translates to 7 percent of all online teens.)

What teens post on their social networking profiles:

  • 82% include their first name.
  • 79% post photos of themselves.
  • 66% include photos of their friends.
  • 61% include the name of their city.
  • 49% include the name of their school.
  • 40% have included an instant-message screen name.
  • 40% stream audio to the profile.
  • 39% link to a blog.
  • 29% include an e-mail address.
  • 29% included their last name.
  • 29% post videos.
  • 2% include a cellphone number.

It seems to me that as the social networking phenomenon develops, users are maturing (if you can use the term ‘maturing’ for anything related to teens) in at least one sense — they are becoming more conscientious of the consequences of their online decisions. In other words, they are starting to realize that ‘those pictures’ may cost them ‘that internship’. And they are recognizing that it is unwise to make all of their personal info available to all people.

With that being said, the ongoing problem with social networking is that most people portray themselves as who they want to be rather than who they truly are. In the effort to market themselves, people try to reshape the reality of who they are by reinventing themselves online.

Yet, trying to cover up who we really are did not originate with Facebook or Myspace. It’s been going on since the first tailors sowed fig leaf garments to cover up their shame (Gen. 3:7). But a day is coming when the righteousness of those garments will be revealed for what they truly are — filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). A new day is dawning when these garments will be exchanged for those that are white as snow.

New York Times on the Rise of College Spirituality

The New York Times reports:

Across the country, on secular campuses as varied as Colgate University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley, chaplains, professors and administrators say students are drawn to religion and spirituality with more fervor than at any time they can remember.

More students are enrolling in religion courses, even majoring in religion; more are living in dormitories or houses where matters of faith and spirituality are a part of daily conversation; and discussion groups are being created for students to grapple with questions like what happens after death, dozens of university officials said in interviews.

The article cites a number of possible reasons for the increase in spirituality on college campuses:

  1. The rise of the religious right in politics.
  2. September 11th
  3. An influx of evangelical and international students
  4. The war in Iraq
  5. The search for answers in crisis
While these may be factors in the increase in spirituality on campus, they are more likely derivative issues coming from a deeper reality: this generation is beginning to echo the words of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes–‘vanity of vanities, all is vanities’ and ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’
In other words, they have seen the best technology, they have experienced the latest instant gratification, they have ascended to the heights of social network prominence; and in the end, they are beginning to realize that there has got to be something more than this. Each of the above reasons cited by the ‘experts’ points to a deeper issue:
  1. The rise of the religious right in politics–Students realize that politics and faith are inseparably linked. Experiments with secularization have been found wanting. Since they recognize the connection, they are seeking to understand how to integrate the two.
  2. September 11th–Students realize that we live in a broken world. Evil is a constant echo in life. So, students are turning to Spirituality in an effort to make sense of this.
  3. An influx of evangelical and international students–Students realize that we live in a world guided by various faith. Because the global community has not been as thoroughly corrupted by the secularist influence from the west, international students bring an increased spiritual component to college campuses. Furthermore, as evangelicalism has continued to lose its cultural significance, nominal Christianity has shrunk to a degree. Those students who are genuinely engaged in Christianity are actively expressing their faith in college.
  4. The war in Iraq–Students realize that conflict abounds. They are looking for hope and a source of peace in the midst of uncertainty and trials.
  5. The search for answers in crisis–Students realize they don’t have life figured out. There are daily challenges that are forcing them to seek for answers that the culture can’t deliver.

Before we develop too much excitement about these reports, we must remember that a growth in Spirituality does not mean a growth in Christian spirituality. What comes of this generation’s spiritual quest remains to be seen.

Texas A&M Salutes You: E.Y. Mullins

E.Y. MullinsIt’s not everyday that you learn about how the history of your alma mater and your seminary connect. But today is one of those days.

E.Y. Mullins is a noted Southern Baptist theologian. In addition, he served for 28 years as president of the Southern Baptist Seminary beginning around the turn of the 1900’s.

So what’s the connection? After finishing high school in Corsicana, Texas, Mullins attended Texas A&M University. Since Mullins was born in 1860 and A&M didn’t begin until 1876, this suggests that he was one of the earliest graduates from the institution.

After his time at A&M, Mullins later went on to be a student at SBTS. Then, he became president of the seminary and helped to restore its health after the Whitsitt Controversy. Though not everyone agrees with Mullins’ theology, everyone agrees that his influence on Southern Baptist life is undeniable.

Today, we salute a great Aggie and a great Southern Baptist — E.Y. Mullins

WWJD? Be Expelled From College

Foot Washing

You’ve probably heard of several cases where Christian campus organizations have come under fire for their beliefs or practices at American colleges. But this story from Savannah State University may take the cake:

According to the facts alleged in the complaint, SSU officials formally expelled from campus Commissioned II Love, a Christian student group, complaining that the group engaged in “harassment” and “hazing.” The school claimed the students’ public expressions of faith constituted “harassment”—even though the conduct in question would have had to have been a serious, unwelcome pattern of behavior to meet the legal definition of harassment, as spelled out by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in a 2003 statement.

Specifically, to legally be considered “harassment,” the students’ conduct must be “sufficiently serious to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program.” It is difficult to imagine that members of Commissioned II Love engaged in such aggressive and persistent religious proselytizing so as to meet this exacting standard.

All of this so far is not too unusual, but here is the clincher:

As if that wasn’t enough, SSU also claimed that Commissioned II Love members were guilty of “hazing” because group leaders washed the feet of new members in an introductory worship service. The ritual foot-washing, an ancient Christian custom said in the Bible to have been practiced by Jesus and his disciples, is a common activity among some contemporary Christian groups, but SSU claimed that it constituted hazing because it was “an activity which endangers or is likely to endanger the physical health of a student, regardless of the student’s willingness to participate in such activity.”

The obvious absurdity of claiming that foot-washing is “likely” to endanger club members’ health seems clearly to indicate a tacit institutional hostility towards the presence of Christian groups on SSU’s campus. Surely other student groups have engaged in activities equally or more likely to “endanger the physical health” of members as a foot-wash—say, for example, traveling somewhere by bus, or simply crossing a busy street.

It’s hard to know how to even respond to this. If the whole situation wasn’t so sad, then it would be funny.

I speak from experience here–I was involved with one campus Christian organization foot washing experience before. While it was a nice gesture that intended to unify the group, reflecting on it now causes me to realize that it failed to truly capture the significance and the purpose of the act of foot washing. There’s something mildly anti-climactic about placing well manicured feet in a plastic tub intended to hold sorority t-shirts to be soaked in water mixed with dish washing soap.

What’s the significance of footwashing? It’s hard to realize just how lowly this role of foot washing was in Jewish culture because we live in a day of pedicures, birkenstocks, and flip-flops. Though people are still weirded out by the feet of others, there isn’t the dirty grotesqueness today as there was then. Walking in sandals on dust-laden dirt roads was a recipe for dirt.

It was an act of respect for a host to provide this service to road-weary travelers, but it was an act of shame to be the one to do it. It was often reserved for the lowliest of servants. So, the significance of Jesus doing this could not be overlooked by His disciples.

What’s the purpose of foot washing? Jesus’ foot washing was not simply setting a pattern for good personal hygiene among his followers. Nor was it merely a bonding exercise designed to create unity. If it was, then they could have all just gotten the same tattoo or bleached their hair or watched Monty Python for the 20th time (it’s merely a flesh wound…but I digress). The purpose of Jesus’ foot washing was to model sacrificial service–a willingness to humble ourselves for the sake of the Kingdom.

The same Shepherd King who poured out water upon the disciples’ feet would just a few days later pour out water from His side as He was pierced for our transgressions upon the cross.

So, we may never reach the point when the universities understand that foot washing is not hazing. But we, as Christians, should strive to reach the point where we understand that foot washing is much more than hazing–it was part of the continued preparation of His disciples to declare war on the kingdom of darkness.

The way that Jesus humbled Himself in this act foreshadowed the way that He would humble Himself even to the point of the ultimate form of hazing–death on a cross