I want to invite and equip you to join in God’s work of changing lives, renewing university campuses, and developing world-changers. One of my favorite words that the Apostle Paul uses is the Greek word sunergoi, “fellow workers.” He tells the Romans to “greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” in Romans 16:3. He also names Aristarchus, Mark and Justus as “fellow workers for the Kingdom of God” who had “been a comfort to him” in his imprisonment in Colossians 4:10-11. But my favorite sunergoi text of all is 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, where Paul, describing his ministry, writes: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? …. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers.”
Paul understands himself and his “fellow workers” to be “fellow workers,” co-laborers with God in God’s work of building up God’s people and renewing God’s world. Just let that sink in a minute. God is on a mission to heal the world and, astonishingly, He invites and empowers us to work alongside of Him in that work. Last week on my 30th birthday, God blessed me with the greatest “fellow worker” I could imagine. Walking amid the fresh springtime cherry blossoms in New York’s Central Park, I asked my girlfriend, the lovely Alissa Moore , to be my wife. She said Yes and we plan to wed this coming autumn. I am so thankful to have this incredible woman of God joining me on this journey of life and ministry! I want to invite and equip you to be “fellow workers” with us in God’s work, as well. As I shared with you in my last letter (here), this summer I will be moving to New York City where I will begin ministering to students in the graduate, medical, dental, and law schools at New York University and also working with the Emerging Scholars Network, a national initiative of InterVarsity to equip the next generation of Christian scholars to be a redeeming influence in higher education. Our mission is to develop Christian scholars who will be a redemptive influence on the people, ideas, and structures of the academy, and thereby a strategic redemptive influence on our culture and our world. But we can’t do this alone. In his recent book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…And Rethinking Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), David Kinnaman outlines the findings of the Barna Group’s research into the waning faith of 18-29 year-olds. He writes, “59 percent of young people (ages 18-29) with a Christian background report that they had or have ‘dropped out of attending church, after going regularly.'” This drop in church participation largely owes to young people’s perceptions that the Church is anti-science (25%), ignores the problems of the real world (22%), and is either unable or unwilling to grapple with their most pressing questions (36%). I can tell you from my own experience of working in higher education that these negative perceptions are only heightened among young people in the university, the future leaders of our society. A viable mission to the university (and, I would add, to the world) depends on the whole Christian community taking the life of the mind seriously and valuing those whom God has called to serve as salt and light in the academy. Many of you support me because you share our vision. Many of you support me because you already believe in the importance of the life of the mind. Many of you see the necessity of a healthy Christian intellectual life for effective Christian witness. And many of you want to join us in seriously engaging our culture’s most pressing questions—questions about faith and science, secularism, religion in politics, religious pluralism, sexuality and more. I want to support you in all of these things as “fellow workers” with me in God’s work of transforming the Christian community by the renewing of our minds. To that end I have arranged with InterVarsity Press to give you, my fellow workers, exclusive premium discounts on books that I think will strengthen your faith and your witness. Each month I will point you to an InterVarsity Press book that has helped me in my life and ministry, and share some reflections on how it may be of use to you. The following month I will review the book here on the blog, giving you a forum to read along with me and others, and to process what you are learning. Over the coming month I am going to look at James Sire’s classic book, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalogue (5th Edition). This book is one of the few apologetics books that I think every Christian should have on his or her shelf (or Kindle). With clear and often humorous prose, Sire explores the assumptions and implications of eight of the most prominent worldviews in today’s world—Christian theism, Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Existentialism, Pantheism, New Age spirituality, and Postmodernism—analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. This book had a profound impact on my intellectual formation as a teenager and was incredibly helpful to me as I navigated a secular university as an undergraduate philosophy major. Few books have shaped my witness more and it is a joy for me to share it with you. If you are looking for some help in witnessing to your atheist grandson, your “spiritual-but-not-religious” coworker, or your Hindu neighbor, then this is the book for you. If there are other specific topics or IVP books that you would like me to recommend to others and discuss, please let me know. I want to help! Finally, thank you for all of your prayers and support! I am so blessed to have such an incredible community of fellow workers with me on this journey. I hope that you will continue partnering with me as I enter into this new phase of life and ministry in one of our country’s most challenging and exciting mission fields. I am currently working to raise $30,000 in new support by the end of December 2013. To help me get started, InterVarsity has given me an exciting $3,000 matching grant opportunity: Every new donation or increase in giving made through the end of May will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $3,000. So if you donate now, your donation will go twice as far and will take us a long way toward our goal—ensuring that we finish this fiscal year in the black and get off to a strong start in ministry in the Big Apple. You can make donations towards my ministry at NYU and with the ESN here. Thank you again for all of your prayers and support!