NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, September 13th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Olasky Interview.
Jeff Myers is president of Summit Ministries, which trains Christian students to think and act Biblically. Recently WORLD Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky interviewed Myers about his work.
EICHER: Today we have excerpts of their conversation, held in front of students at Patrick Henry College in Virginia. We’ll pick up just as Marvin asks how Summit equips students.
JEFF MYERS: One of the key things that we communicate to them is that bad ideas come into our minds and hearts, like viruses come into our bodies. A virus is an obnoxious kind of infection because you can’t really kill it, because it’s not alive to begin with.
So a virus is a bit of genetic code coated with a protein. The cells accept it. They bring it in, and then begin to reproduce it, and I think the same thing happens with ideas in our minds and in our hearts, and we may not even realize we have those bad ideas until a bad moment arises, or something terrible happens, or something doesn’t go our way and then our immune system is compromised and the bad ideas begin to rise to the surface.
So we want students to be sensitive so they can be inoculated to the bad ideas that are so much a part of the culture today. I think that’s at the heart of it. That’s what’s distinctive about Summit as opposed to other programs that merely focus on Christian apologetics.
MARVIN OLASKY: Okay. And bad ideas have consequences. Bad ideas often underscore bad behavior. So what are the types of things that the high school aged students who come to Summit, eventually after a week or so, are willing to talk with you about or talk with the other teachers about that they don’t really want to talk about with their parents?
MYERS: In our program with our instructors and in our open forums where the students can ask any questions they want and in the small groups, they start to feel safe because they know they’re being given truth, but it’s in the context of personal relationship. Then they begin to share things that they have gone through and Christians are not immune to the things you hear about in the news. There is abuse that sometimes gets revealed. There is addiction, and that could be addiction to some sort of a substance or to pornography. We are often asking our students this question. What barriers would stop you personally from living a life that’s fully committed to Jesus? And most of the students will say it’s some habit or behavior that I’ve picked up of which I am ashamed that sets me aside from God’s Kingdom work, and if they don’t have a safe environment in which they can talk about that, then it usually gets buried – that’s sort of our culture’s approach to solving problems.
OLASKY: What you’re saying just reminded me of Augustine’s prayer of sorts in the fourth and fifth century. “Lord, make me a Christian, but not yet.” Do you get that sense sometimes from students that they actually are… they realize it’s sinful, but they still enjoy it and they want to continue it?
MYERS: I think shame and enjoyment sometimes go together in a perverse way in a sinful world. So I’m sure that’s true. The question is how motivated a person is to overcome that shame and live with purity. So on the issue of pornography, for example, if a student says, “I’m ready to reveal the fact that I am a regular user of pornography and I feel ashamed about this and I feel set aside…”
OLASKY: Which is probably about 70% of the time, right?
MYERS: We think it’s probably about 70% of the students, and these are students largely from Christian homes. You really have to get over the shock of that possibility in order to effectively minister. But once they get to the place where they’re ready to begin grappling with it, we’re there to help them. Help them set up accountability, help them find counseling when they return home, help them strengthen their biblical worldview, and the consequences are very practical.
I had one student say to me, he came back to Summit the following year, and said, “Last year, when I was here, I could not break an addiction to pornography. I felt shame, and yet I just continued to go back to it over and over again,” which is the nature of an addiction of any kind. Eventually, you know, you choose it in the beginning but then it chooses you.
So I asked him, “So what happened?” He said, “I’ve been able to be free from this.” I asked him, “What’s the biggest change in your life?” And he said, “I’m sleeping all the way through the night for the first time in years.”
OLASKY: And what did he change in his behavior that he was able to become free from that?
MYERS: He was able to do some really basic things. Set up some accountability so there was someone else looking in on the things he was looking at. He was able to grasp that shame over something does not set you aside from God’s Kingdom work. You’re not stuck in this for the rest of your life. We care about you. We want you to know the truth in your mind. We want you to be able to live the truth in your heart and then we want to walk alongside of you.
OLASKY: So 70% have that experience. What other experiences do you think are common among the high school aged student who come that are also troublesome? Anything else rise to that 70% level?
MYERS: I believe there are five questions that everybody in the world is asking, and our students are just like everybody else. Am I loved? Why do I hurt? What is my purpose? Why can’t we get along? And what hope is there for the world? I think not feeling loved is common to the human experience.
One thing we find common is a lack of a sense of purpose. “I don’t know where I’m going in life, or if I do know where I’m going, I don’t know why I’m going there.” I think that’s symptomatic of this stage of culture in which we live is that there isn’t a general purpose out there for why we all do what we do. And so what am I? I think we’ve got a generation that primarily identifies as consumers rather than as producers. It’s not what I can give to the world. It’s what I can buy from the world that makes me valuable and so you can understand then easily why they would think they’re not loved because they’re loved as long as they’re buying stuff, picking up stuff, doing what other people want them to do.
EICHER: That’s Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries, speaking with WORLD’s Marvin Olasky.
Read the full interview here.