For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (in the third week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.
With today’s post, we wrap up our approach toward reaching this generation of college students, something we call Message, Mode, and Milieu (Mx3). In order to reach young adults today, we believe we have to be able to tell the whole story of God and His invitation to join. This narrative-based approach to the Text is something we call message. We also believe we have to teach this in a way that stimulates the mind, heart, and body; this approach is something we refer to as mode, and we talked about it last month and heard Zack tell a great story about his experience on the BEMA Trip.
This month, we talk about the last component, something we call MILIEU. I remember the first time Bill Westfall presented this material (and many times after that), and I laughed at his word choice and his commitment to alliteration. “Milieu” (pronounced mil-yoo) isn’t a word we typically use in everyday conversation, and I’ve only recently been able to consistently spell it correctly, so it would behoove us to make sure we examine its definition. Siri tells me that milieu means a person’s social environment.
Our social connections continue to be what has the most sustainable potential to impact us. Many sources of wisdom tell us to surround ourselves with the people we want to become. While many mothers have encouraged us to consider the practical sapience (how about that for a word you need to look up?) of, “if your friend told you to jump off of a bridge, would you do it,” we must also routinely have that conversation because of the power of the communal voices with which we surround ourselves.
Community is important. Because of this, we have to be very intentional about the relationships we build with others. ICM has defined milieu as intentional relationships with others in the story. This idea of social networking is intertwined with our idea of message. If God is telling a story and is inviting us to join it, then that means there must be others who are already in the story and others waiting to jump in. As we talked about with discipleship, there is always somebody in front of you, and always somebody behind you.
When you consider all of this, you realize how dangerous it is for a campus minister to just run with a flock of students. If it is simply one campus minister and a bunch of college-age students, the milieu is undeniably weak! In fact, depending on the personality of the campus minister, this is downright dangerous. Another campus minister was talking to me recently, following a workshop on discipleship I had done, about the danger of becoming “cult-like” in our adherence to rabbinical principles. It is incredibly important to realize the dangers of this! I went on to talk to him about how important my commitment to the local church is in the health of my ministry. I personally need to be surrounded by other pastors and leaders who will let me know if I start to get a little crazy. I need my students (and myself) to be surrounded by older folks and children, educated and uneducated, rich and poor, conservative and liberal.
Why? Because diversity is what allows us to grow and gain wisdom. It is in encountering differing worldviews and opinions that I am kept humble and forced to consider other ways of viewing things. It is through this diversity that I learn how to respect others. The Spirit moves and bears the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as I interact with people who see things differently from me. Diversity is what protects us from the close-minded tribalism that threatens to destroy our world from all directions.
And it is this diversity that will help mold and shape young people into the leaders they are going to become. Just because we have intentional relationships with others who aren’t like us certainly doesn’t mean we agree with those people on everything — or even lots of things. It just means we respect their humanity and see our own development bound up in their own.
I need my computer science student to be rubbing shoulders with the IT Director of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. I need my Bernie-Sanders-supporting sophomore to listen to the reasoning behind a Donald-Trump-supporting farmer. I need a newly baptized freshman serving in the children’s ministry with toddlers who are being exposed to a Jesus she only recently met. I need older, more experienced people mentoring my students. I need my students mentoring others in the church. And we all need the mentors to be learning from those they are leading. Why? Because it is this living Eucharist table that reminds us of the world that we are called to change.
If we Impact the U within the context of milieu, we will Impact the World.