Is Your Christian Kid Ready for College? Jeff Myers
Sending your Christian kid to college can flood you with emotion—and perhaps no small degree of fear. Author and Summit Ministries President Jeff Myers helps you navigate the challenges, combat anxiety, and advocating for truth that transforms the world in times of crisis.
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Summit Ministries President Jeff Myers helps you navigate the challenges, combat anxiety, and advocating for truth as you send a Christian kid to college.
Is Your Christian Kid Ready for College? Jeff Myers
Dave: I think one of the scariest moments in the life of a parent is when you drop your kid off at college. There’s this joy—this is a moment you’ve dreamed and prayed about your whole life—but in another sense, you are handing your child off to professors, and fellow students, and people who have totally different mindsets and beliefs than you have raised your child with their whole life; and now you are giving them to the wolves.
Ann: Yes, you worry about them.
Jeff: Yes, yes; it does feel like that.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: We’ve got Dr. Jeff Myers in here. He’s going to calm every parent’s fear—[Laughter]—because you’ve done it. You know the fear.
Jeff: Yes, I have.
Dave: You work with thousands—tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands—of kids over 30-some years at Summit, right?
Jeff: —who are walking into that world.
Dave: How do we navigate that fear as a parent?
Jeff: We have the privilege of working with about 70,000 young people a year.
Jeff: So I get—
Dave: —and they’re 16 to 22?
Jeff: They’re 16 to 22 years of age. I have some sense of what they’re facing. It’s simultaneously exciting—because your child has an opportunity to experience a new world; [to] take some of the things they’ve been working on and accept new challenges. It’s a very big deal to graduate from high school; that’s a huge accomplishment. So, now, they’re off at the university.
What a lot of parents don’t understand, though, is that in the classroom, at most universities in the United States of America, the professors will propose to their children that a different world exists than the one they learned about growing up, in all kinds of different areas. They will propose that the world—in which God is the Creator and Jesus rose from the dead—is not a world that actually exists; that a different world exists, one in which we evolved through random chance processes, starting with the first self-replicating molecule. And we have no truth to guide us, except our own internal compass of our feelings.
This is very similar to what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden, where Satan came in as a liar. Now, the term/the idea of Satan in Scripture—Satan is real. Jesus talked about Satan and the work of the devil. He is a deceiver. That is the core term; he is a deceiver. When the deceiver comes to you, the deceiver doesn’t say, “Hey, I’m about to tell you a lie, but I hope you believe it anyway.” No, the deceiver says, “What you currently believe is a lie, and what I have to tell you is the truth.”
A lot of young people will say, “Wow, my professor said this, and I don’t know what to do. I always thought that reality actually exists, and my professor is saying, ‘No, reality is just our perceptions. We can’t know anything other than our own perceptions and personal experiences. So, we socially construct our own reality.’ All of my classmates seem to believe it and act as if you’d have to be dumb to not believe it. I don’t want to be dumb.”
All of a sudden, you are prepared to imagine that a different world exists than the world you were raised with. And then, you go off to the parties, the social experiences, and so forth. That combination of things can become toxic to a kid’s faith.
Ann: I’m thinking of myself, as an 18-year-old, going off to college: I haven’t dealt with any of my sexual abuse. If there is no God—if I’m the one who is in charge, and it’s my truth—I would feel incredibly hopeless, because I don’t have any of what it takes to deal with the culture in the world. Do you think kids are feeling that?
Jeff: I have never, in almost 30 years of working with young adults, seen such high levels of anxiety, depression, even suicidal ideation. When you don’t have a biblical truth—about God as the Creator; you’re made in His image; Jesus Christ rose from the dead; we have hope in this life and in the life to come; if you don’t have that—what do you orient your meaning and life around? Well, there are really only a couple of options. One is that you’re really tough, and you can force other people to do what you want. The other one is that you’re really broken, and everybody should feel sorry for you.
That is where a lot of young adults are today, really thinking of themselves as victims in the world rather than people, who through Christ, have victory.
Dave: Jeff, what has happened? You have been doing this several decades. You’re saying it’s worse than you’ve seen. What is going on in our culture right now that you would say that?
Jeff: Well, at some point, in the last maybe 50 years in our culture, we have shifted from what I call capital “T” Truth—the idea that—
Dave: —that’s Chapter One of your book—
Jeff: —Chapter One of the book.
Dave: Wait, wait; we haven’t even mentioned Truth Changes Everything. That’s the book we’re talking about a little bit today. [Laughter] You’ve thought about this for most of your life. But capital “T”; I like the way that you describe that.
Jeff: Yes, so capital “T” Truth says that truth exists. It’s not easy to find; you have to work at it; you have to seek the Truth. We’re seeking—as believers, we’re seeking—Truth biblically. This is the kingdom of heaven: “Seek first God’s kingdom and then everything else will be added to you.” That’s the way Jesus put it. But it is a search; it can be found. Truth exists; it’s knowable.
And then, the other view—the one that’s become more popular in the last 50 years—is small “t” truths. That Truth, capital “T,” either doesn’t exist or can’t be known by us; it’s too remote. What we can know are the individual truths that we apply to our own life situations. This is the battle: capital “T” Truth versus small “t” truths.
The whole book of Truth Changes Everything is just one story after another of people who believed, not only that Truth exists, but that Jesus is the Truth. Now, think about that for a minute. You have the Greeks, who all said, “Oh, truth exists. We can develop logical formulas; we can develop math; and we can use all these things to help us discern the truth.” John came along, in the Gospel of John, and said that Truth exists. It’s not just a mathematical formula; it’s not a logical proposition. It’s a person; it’s Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word…” There was a person who united heaven and earth and makes it possible for us to understand and relate to God.
Dave: And Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth.”
Jeff: Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) Jesus said, in John 8:32, “If you follow My teachings, you will know the truth”—Greek word, alétheia, means reality—“you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
This is where I start with young adults: “Is there anything you’d like to be set free from? Is there anything that you’d like to be set free to? Because freedom isn’t just getting away from bad things. Freedom is having the world open so that you can pursue good things.” That’s how it starts: ‘The Truth exists.’ And it was people who believed that Jesus is the Truth who changed the entire course of the world in all kinds of good ways. We want to understand and study their stories so that we can figure out how we should live differently in our own time.
Dave: As we read through the book, you have story after story of Jesus-followers who made an impact, where they were when God put them there at that time. Do you have any favorites?
Ann: I thought that was fascinating.
Jeff: You liked the stories?
Dave: Oh, yes.
Ann: Yes, I just thought, “Man, it is true how godly people have changed the course of our world; and yet, most people don’t know anything about that. I would guess most kids don’t know that hospitals or orphanages—so many things—were started by believers.
Jeff: Yes, I started in the book with the idea of the dignity of human life. We all believe that humans have dignity. We all recognize that bullying is bad and that you should never hurt someone who’s vulnerable. You should help people who are vulnerable. But why do we believe that? That kind of belief does not emerge out of an evolutionary perspective of life. It would not emerge out of a totally materialistic secular view.
It’s got to be something else: “Where would it come from?” It came, in history, with the biblical idea that humans have souls. Starting in the book of Genesis: “God breathed life into the man and he became a nephesh/a soul.” He became a living soul. “What is the evidence that human beings have souls?” Well, there’s a ton of evidence for this. We exist; we know that we exist; we know that we exist separately from one another; we know that we can act intentionally; we know that we have a substance that is continuous.
You know, I had my appendix out at age nine. I didn’t wake up from anesthesia less than Jeff. I was still Jeff. I also know that there are mental states that exist that are not physical. All of these things are indications in the world of philosophy today: “That idea of a soul makes a lot of sense.” Because we have souls, [and] because we bear God’s image, then we have dignity.
All the way back in time—one of the people I looked at was Catherine of Siena; she’s very famous. For those who are listening who are Catholic, you would know about
St. Catherine’s feast day. She was a young woman who, during the time of the plague, ran toward the people and the cities rather than away. She was told, “You have to get out! Come with us. We’ll keep you safe.” She said, “No, I’m going. I’m going back in.” “Well, why?!” “Because I want to be with Jesus.” “Well, Jesus is everywhere.” “No, Jesus sits with the suffering, and I want to be with Jesus.” That became the basis of modern medical care.
Even today, in a secularized world, probably 20 percent of the hospitals are run by Christian organizations: Catholic organizations, Lutheran organizations, Baptists. “Why?” Because it was the basic belief that human beings bear God’s image, and we all have dignity. It is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. [It] even formed how we understand war—the idea of Just War Doctrine: that you can’t just go to war for any old reason. You have to have reasons why you do it; it’s got to be a just cause. These are all principles—even when we know we can’t live in peace, the biblical idea that human beings have dignity still guides our actions to this very day.
Dave: And that comes from the foundation of absolute Truth, right? Imago dei is based in: “There is Truth. It’s a person.” You don’t get there apart from that.
Jeff: That’s correct, yes. That’s what surprises people, because they think, “Oh, well, what is truth ultimately? It’s got to be sort of like a math program or something. It’s got to be very logical.” But when you realize, “Oh, no. From God’s perspective, the truth is He made human beings to bear His image. And that we all have value, and dignity, and worth. That we’re identifiably His.”
I tell you, this changes the life of students so much. I was visiting with a student the other day. She came to our program and had some pretty profound disabilities; not able to communicate very well. She came to me after I spoke about the idea [that] every human being bears God’s image, that there is nothing that could be wrong with you that would ever change that. You are identifiably His. She came to talk to me, and she was able to communicate to me, “I never felt like I could do anything for God because of my disability.” I said, “So, what do you think now?” She said, “Just watch me.”
Jeff: That’s what I want. That’s the story of success right there. That God looks at her disability and doesn’t see a person who can’t make a difference in a world like ours. He looks at her and says, “You’re my child! You go for it.”
Dave: That’s beautiful. And it also makes me think, as you think of the social media world we live in, where Jesus-followers are trying to influence through this thing called the internet, that we can communicate with people we don’t even see, all over the world—often, at least [in] my perspective, that Jesus-followers not responding to an unbeliever, or a skeptic, or a questioner with the grace of God to someone made in the image of God, but more like judging and cancelling, back and forth. That can’t happen if we understand the image of God in everyone. Am I right?
Jeff: One of the things we want to try to accomplish in the two-week Summit Ministries programs we have for 16-22-year-olds is, not just help them understand the truth, but learn how to communicate it relationally. People tend to swing back and forth from passive to aggressive. Passive is [speaking nonchalantly]: “Well, you have your truth; I have my truth. Whatever you believe is true for you.” The aggressive is: “Watch this. This video shows this Christian speaker demolishing in 30-seconds the argument of his atheist’s opponent,” or whatever. We want vengeance; we want revenge. We feel powerless; and we feel like, “Yes, that’s great. Give me the mic drop moment.”
What we want to do, instead of just going back and forth between passive/aggressive, is transcendent: become an advocate. “What do you advocate for?” Advocate for the Truth, and you advocate for the other person at the same time. It’s automatically moving toward the other person rather than away; rather than bumping heads, it’s seeing ourselves as side by side, moving toward the Truth.
Dave: Yes, and I was picking up not only, Jeff, what you are saying but how—
Ann: —that’s what I’m thinking, too—
Dave: —tone, whether it’s online or in a personal conversation.
Ann: Oh, yes.
Dave: I was also thinking of a family: “This is Dad”; “This is Mom” “How are we responding to our son or daughter’s questions tone-wise? Are we aggressive, and are we loud? Are we like, “You’ve got to be kidding me?” Or are we loving and listening? That’s what I’m picking up.
Ann: If I could go back in time—[Laughter]—we all know (Dave and I know), I would lose it with our kids sometimes. When we talked yesterday—
Dave: —she is fun when she loses it. [Laughter] She’ll be stomping around the house.
Ann: One time, in a previous episode, where [I’m] like, “Honey, I want to listen to your music.” I’d listen to their music—“Are you kidding me?! This is obscene!”—and then, I’d throw it in the trash. [Laughter]
Dave: —literally threw a cassette in the trash.
Ann: And then Dave—thankfully, Dave’s so different—took it out of the trash. He said, “Let me listen to it.” And then, they had a great conversation about it. So, for those of you who maybe made mistakes, maybe you can relate to this. I do think the tone is everything, and our desire to know them [and] wanting to know them is everything.
I’m curious—your subtitle of your book is How People of Faith Can Transform the World in Times of Crisis. You’re saying that we, as believers, can still transform the world. What do you mean by crisis?
Jeff: We see rising crime levels. We see purposelessness among young adults. We see a nation—and I’m speaking; because we’re recording in the United States right now, I’m speaking of this environment—it feels like our nation is fractured. I work with students from lots and lots of different countries. The story is the same. they all tell me their nation feels fractured. It feels like bad people are getting away with things that they shouldn’t, even at the highest levels. All of these things are bad.
Seventy percent of people right now say they don’t think the government can be trusted to solve these problems. Well, if the government can’t solve it, who is going to solve it? Because it’s just too big; there’s too much going on. So, we do feel like we are in times of crisis.
I was doing an interview a few months ago. They said, “Well, this is the worst time ever, right? Like things are getting worse and worse all the time.” I said, “Why would you say that? Because the evolutionist assumes that things started out bad—you know, it’s the first self-replicating molecule—and they’re getting better and better all the time. That doesn’t mean that we, as Christians, have to say the opposite: ‘Things are getting worse and worse all of the time’.” [Laughter]
Instead, we look back in history. We want to learn from history. Why? Because we’re part of God’s story. It’s not just the story of your life; it’s the story you are in. History is going somewhere, and it is going there on purpose. We look back in history, and we see that our time of crisis pales in comparison to some of the things that have happened in the course of history; far, far worse times. One of the things I look at in the book (and this seems so morbid now that I think about it); I just look back at the Black Death. “Okay, what can be worse?” A third to half the people died the most gruesome excruciating death you can imagine. Imagine a third to half of the people you are interacting with today, gone. It’s horrifying.
You would think—you would think—people would say, “Well, clearly God has abandoned us. We’re going to abandon Him. We don’t need Him anymore. We’re just going to change. We’re going to turn off the lights: ‘Go away!’” But instead, what happened after the Black Death—and this is what I talk about in one of the chapters of the book, something very surprising? People didn’t say, “God has left us.” They said, “God is with us through Jesus. He’s right here, suffering alongside of us.” You see it in the art, magnifying the suffering of Christ. You see so many of these paintings about the suffering Savior. Why? Because they didn’t just see God as out there some place; they saw God as: “Right here; through Jesus, He is walking alongside of us. He’s suffering with us.”
That changed their perspective on everything. The economic structure changed; the art reflects this; the music changed; the development of medical care; the development of science. Everything came out of that. It’s like a revival on steroids, isn’t it? It’s like a revival that applies not just to our human heart, but to everything.
Times of crises are often used by God to produce phenomenal change. We see it happening around the world right now. I have an American-centric perspective that’s not good in the situation because I miss the work of God that’s taking place around the world. Hearts are being changed; lives are being changed. We are never to give up.
We sometimes think, “Well, God is silent.” But you know, in Scripture, God brings us into the desert, not to abandon us, but to be with [us]. God hangs out in the desert. Silence is not evidence of God’s absence. It’s an invitation to presence. If we can take on that perspective—
And yes, maybe we’re on the brink of a world war. I really don’t know, but as Christians, we’re never to say, “We now have permission from God to give up, because everything is bad.” Instead, if we’re the ones who are willing to say, “You know, everybody else is retreating; I have the opportunity to advance,” “Everyone else is trying to escape; I have the opportunity to engage.”
Ann: You’re saying that is how we transform the world.
Jeff: You can bring so much transformation. I give a lot of examples in the book; one of them is in the area of education. John Wycliffe was a professor at Oxford University. He decided to translate the Bible from Latin into English. This was very risky for him to do, because Latin was thought to be the perfect language. If you translated it into English, you are making it vulgar; it’s like adding curse words every third or fourth word. He said, “No, Moses heard from God in his own language. The disciples heard from Jesus in their own language. People need to be able to hear from God today, in their own language.” He translated the Bible from Latin into English. The English language was not well-formed. There were 1,100 words used for the first time in print in the Wycliffe translation of the Bible—
Ann: —I didn’t know that!
Jeff: —literally formed in the English language to communicate biblical truth to every-day people. And now, today, English is the number-one trade language in the world. It has led to a level of prosperity that is unprecedented in the course of history. It started out because a guy thought, “People need to hear from God in their own language.” You don’t have to control everything. He didn’t say, “I can’t make a difference unless I become the king of England.” It’s like, “No, I’m just going to translate the Bible into a language that people are actually using; form language, make it better.” And then, history changes as a result. God takes those little efforts.
Shelby: Hey, stick around, because Jeff has some encouragement for us to stand firm in our faith, despite what is going on in our current culture. I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Dr. Jeff Myers on FamilyLife Today. Dr. Myers has written a book called Truth Changes Everything: How People of Faith Can Transform the World in Times of Crisis. Many people believe that we are living in a time of crisis right now. Whether or not you believe that, this book is going to be helpful for you as a call to action to defend truth in our turbulent times. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on “Today’s Resources” to get your copy, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. That’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Alright, let’s hear from Jeff with some encouragement for us to stand firm in our faith.
Jeff: I think there is a perspective of faith that is super powerful here. I am not a Christian because I want to turn the clock back to the 1950s. I am a Christian because I want to preserve the core principles from Scripture that allow for flourishing and blessing of the nations. When a child walks away from the faith, it’s not that we have one less kid filling the pews. It’s that they’re walking away from reality and the opportunity to be a blessing, to be a giver rather than a taker. That’s part of what we want to restore.
Shelby: Coming up tomorrow, we’re going to try to answer an important question that a lot of parents are asking, and that is this: “Will video games ruin my kids?” I know a lot of parents are asking that question as they’re wrestling with how to deal with the subject of video games and their kids. Drew Dixon is going to be with Dave and Ann Wilson tomorrow to talk about just that. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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