There is no easy way to get into this subject. I want to keep it concise, to the point, and pointed. The stats I will provide you will be heavy, painful, and thought provoking. I am writing this blog to fellow believers, leaders, and hope that it points people to Jesus and helps us process what’s going on in our direct ministries and communities, taking us from the broad spectrum we all focus on into a directed and specific discussion on how we can be pursuing our communities with deeper love and conviction.
I wanted to first cover some “pre-reqs” to reading this blog.
1. People sometimes ask me from what authority I speak from, or what gives me authority to “preach” to people. I hope that most of you see it from a heart that loves Jesus and wants fellow Christians to be awakened from sleepiness, as well as encourage and push fellow leaders to think deeper and love more intentionally.
2. I have held a variety of positions in leadership (and non-leadership positions) over the last three years at Biola University. That includes stints with student government, assisting ResLife, working with University Communications and Marketing, coaching high school football, and being trained to lead some ministries at Mars Hill Church Orange County.
I have not always been the designated leader, but I believe we are called to lead at different times.Here is an article by Time Magazine on Leadership Principles from Nelson Mandela.
3. Jesus is the ultimate leader and authority. I want to remind you that these topics will be heavy and hard to process. Pray and seek truth from Jesus on how you can utilize this knowledge to impact the world for His kingdom.
With the recent announcement of new RA’s at Biola University, I had the privilege to meet with a future Hope South leader over FroYo (Yogurtland for the win). We were able to discuss the process of being hired, the hardships of being an RA, the fears and hopes she had, and some advice I had from being involved (although not an RA) with ResLife and from being close friends with many RA’s who have expressed their discontent or frustration over the last three years, with how hard it is to be an RA and how there is a growing disconnect with being able to do their duties and not burn out.
If you haven’t checked out my latest blog on friendships, I highly recommend you do so. It will give you a foundation on my beliefs about leadership and community, and whether you disagree or agree, this blog won’t make much sense without it.
1. In any leadership position, but especially as an RA, we’re called to connect with our team, floor, crew, group, etc., in a deep and meaningful way.
This can be extremely hard if we don’t redefine “friendships.”
If we look at that calling and think that we have to be friends or even best friends with everyone in leadership role, we are in trouble. We can’t be. It’s physically, emotionally, and socially impossible.
We can connect in authentic ways. Realizing this, it’s important to take away the burden of thinking “it’s our job” to be best friends with everyone and make it our calling. The word job is often used in negative light, but I believe it goes right along with “calling.” To call people your job isn’t bad – it’s bad if you check out after 5pm everyday and don’t care authentically for their well-being.
If you are able to successfully redefine the word “friend,” you will then be able to connect to your team or floor in a more effective way.
All of a sudden it no longer becomes a to-do list line but a calling! You can meet up with them in 1x1s and enjoy it, you can goof around with them and actually unwind, you can counsel them in their deepest (and sometimes not their deepest) time of need, and you can build more authentic and quality relationship with them (again, not friendship. Your friends are different than relationships).
2. Delegate well, and push people to reach their potential. If you need to plan a floor event, ask the women and men on your floor to help out. Have them come up with ideas and call places, have them print out a sign up sheet, etc.
This isn’t a dereliction of duty but rather a delegation of duty that will help you succeed as their authority (and fellow student) but also empower them to grow! Now, if you give off all your responsibilities, that’s another thing, but since you are a leader, I’ll assume you don’t do that!
3. Pray, fast, and get away. It’s okay to take a Sabbath day once in awhile. Turn off the phone, leave your MacBook at home, get in the car and go to the beach or coffee shop – I recommend the Art District in LA where Handsome Brother Roasters just opened up. I actually just saw an RA there spending his day reading!
Now onto heavier things.
The following are stats I’ve gotten from a few resources, including Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault by Dr. Justin Holcomb and his wife, Lindsey, Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, and last but not least, My Name is Hope by John Mark Comer.
I bring these stats up to help provide a vision for God’s kingdom and to push people to Jesus. As leaders, we need to be aware these problems and sins exist, and we need to utilize this powerful knowledge to deeply reach our community in love, grace, and Christ-centered visions.
· In 2010, 253 million prescriptions were written for anti-depressants in the U.S.
· America has a population of 311 million people.
That’s 88% of our population who have been diagnosed as depressed, including children, teenagers, and adults, those who know Jesus and those who don’t.
· There are more than 34,000 suicides a year.
· 94 suicides a day
· One every 15 minutes.
A floor in Horton can have nearly 70 people on it.
If we base it on statistics, those who feel the symptoms of clinical depression (prolonged sadness, mood swings, thoughts of suicide, lack of energy, sleep etc., for more than two weeks), then 56 people on a floor could be depressed.
We have students on suicide watch every year. Yet, many times, RA’s aren’t even aware of it…more often, roommates are not aware of it. On top of that, many of our leaders suffer from it.
Those who are depressed can often put on a good Christian face to hide the pain and hell they feel inside. Sometimes, we can never tell.
I want to raise the question on why we don’t know. If we’re truly in community, these things will come up. So, how can we be pursuing people deeper and more authentically?
Sexual Assault Victims: Any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.
· Every 2 minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted.
· 17% (or 1/6) men and 25% (1/4) women are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime.
· 90% of young women involved in prostitution (or porn, adult entertainment, etc.) were sexually abused as children.
· 80% of victims are assaulted by a known acquaintance.
· 80% of victims are under 30.
· Only 5-20% of assaults are actually reported.
My heart is grieved when I reread these stats. We’re facing an epidemic – and without resolution. If we break this down, that means anywhere from 1,200-1,700 Biola students have been assaulted or will be assaulted.
Many of whom have been assaulted and either has kept it secret or never properly healed.
If you take a floor of 60 girls in a dorm, 15 are assault victims.
On a floor of 60 guys, 10 are victims.
Many are assaulted by family members or people in the church – which leads to a lie by Satan that they cannot go anywhere to tell anyone.
That lie is from the pit of hell, and we need to reach these students.
Again, how many of us don’t know the truth in the broken pasts of our friends? So, how can we be pursuing people deeper and more authentically?
Porn: Including soft and hardcore images, videos, magazines, or anything that constitutes sexual material.
· 90% of children ages 8-16 have viewed porn.
· Porn sites comprise 12% of all the Internet sites available.
· 25% of the search engine requests are for porn.
· 70% of men ages 18-34 visit a porn site in a typical month
· 1/6 women are addicted to porn.
· 10-14 billion dollars are spent on porn annually – the same amount the US Government typically spends on foreign aid.
· Every second, 28,258 people view porn.
This use to be a leadership topic solely for men. No longer.
On a floor of 60 people:
· 10 women are addicted to porn.
· 42 men are addicted to porn.
If you’re overlooking this as something “everyone struggles with” you are apart of the problem. If you don’t think it exists, you are ignorant. If you think it’s okay, you need to rethink Jesus. So, how can we be pursuing people deeper and more authentically?
1. We need to pursue people in a deeper and more loving way. I wrote about it in my last blog, but I would like to expand on it again. If we don’t know which one of your friends has been sexually assaulted, addicted to porn, or suffer from depression, we either are terrible friends or we’re not pursuing people in deep authentic love. I’d go with the latter instead of the former. However, if you do know whom these people are you better be pursuing them.
This doesn’t mean we force counsel our friends, it doesn’t mean we have awkward encounters where we confront them; it means we actively pursue real community (both shoulder to shoulder and face to face time) with those we love. We need to be spending time with our friends and putting ourselves in positions of vulnerability. By spending time, seeking Jesus together, praying with one another and for one another, and actively seek constant redemption together, then these things will be uncovered.
2. We constantly must be thinking of these things. It can be depressing, but we have hope! These three horrifying stats don’t even include drugs and alcohol abuse. I bring these up to show you that just because we’re at a Christian school doesn’t mean everyone has fallen into grace and healing. If we understand and embrace these concepts, we can love people in a more enriching and authentic way.
3. Not everyone at Biola is a Christian. This is hard to write, it’s harder to accept, and it’s controversial but no one I’ve talked to disagreed. Yes, we sign an admission of faith when we enroll. But that doesn’t mean people have really met the real Jesus.
One study done by a professor in the biblical-studies department said his average class surveys of upper classman shows that less than 40% go to church consistently, less than that are involved in a ministry or community group.
Not everyone at our school has been redeemed by Christ’s love and sacrifice at the cross. There are sleepy Christians, lukewarm individuals, and people who are choosing to live in habitual sins, among other things.
None of these things show that someone has died to their sins and been made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2). In fact, it’s the opposite. I think back to 1 John 2, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Christ’s attributes will reflected in us if we are passionately following him. Living in habitual sin, lukewarm lifestyles, or those who choose not to actively live out their faith are living by the world’s standards, not Christ.
4. We need to push people to Jesus by reflecting His attributes. We need to push people to go chapel, go to ministries on campus, and most importantly, go to church. We need to be mentors and be mentored. We need to seek the scriptures passionately and with a zeal to learn from Christ and see how the church and the apostles lived their life. We need to be tough – but in love and grace – and rebuke our fellow Biolians to love Jesus! There is nothing wrong with that! Some need a quick kick to the batteries, some need a shoulder to cry out, but we all need something.
My greatest hope is that we all become preachers of the Gospel message to fellow Christians, especially at our school. Again, know your audience and know who needs what kind of encouragement, but never flee or grow tired from doing what is good (2 Thessalonians 3:13).
This blog is meant to be a source of gospel-driven truth that pushes all of us in conviction towards Jesus – myself included. They are heavy stats, heavy facts, and hard to accept. But we need to – our communities are in dire need for leadership to step up and lead the way to redemption through Christ and His grace.