The Well-Dressed Terrorist

There were terrorists on my campus this morning. I didn’t actually see them, but I’m pretty sure they were dangerous and sowing discord. ISIS? KKK? No, it was the Gideons!

Seriously, a couple of my students came in to our class this morning toting those little New Testaments (plus Psalms and Proverbs) that the nice suit-clad men were passing out to anyone who would accept them. One guy decided to use the book as a starting point for a series of jokes until I finally suggested that he was going to offend somebody and needed to knock it off.

To be clear, my students are not Social Justice Warriors and knee-jerk Leftists by and large. They’re reasonably open-minded people, but many of them have not been brought up to take the claims of Christianity seriously. People talk about how college helps young people lose their faith. Frankly, most of them seem to have a pretty weak grasp on the topic when they come in the door. This doesn’t reflect on them or even on their families as much as it does on us–or the church at large.

When I was growing up, you could ask most people, “Where do you go to church?” and get an answer. If they didn’t go to church, they found that a little embarrassing. “Well, we haven’t been going as much lately, but we used to go to . . .”

Today, lots of people have zero connection with the church and feel zero problem with that. And why? Do we blame their parents, their grandparents, lack of prayer in school, the ACLU, John Lennon?

I don’t blame any of those. I blame us–or at least our predecessors. The church had at least some hold on those parents or grandparents, but somewhere along the way we decided to take it all for granted. Or maybe we–or they–decided that the church was for us (or them) rather than for others.

The church in which my parents met, in a thickly populated part of Kansas City, dwindled until only about a dozen seniors were meeting in the basement. They eventually gave the building to a growing, living congregation. The church in which I grew up, half a mile from my house, faded until they were bought out, lock, stock, and barrel, by another, more active church.

What did those two now-dead churches have in common? They became more inward-looking than outward-looking. They took care of their own needs rather than the needs of the lost. The Apostle Paul could have done that. He could have just taken care of that church in Antioch and focused on organizing potlucks and prayer meetings. Instead, he went on the road, starting churches all along his route and making sure not to be assume that the next generation would come to Christ.

Those terrorists, those Gideons, came on our campus to disrupt things, to place the Word of God into the hands of people it has not changed. No wonder these guys face hostility from time to time. Happily that hasn’t happened at JCCC. We’re still open to some terrorists.