Sermon Illustration: Welcome to College

Earlier this week, the New York Times posted an article entitled “Welcome to College. Your Parents are in the Tents Next Door.”

The article begins with this:

Tianjin, China – When Yang Zheyu arrived at Tianjin University this fall for the start of his first year, he had all the essentials. Winter coat. Dictionary. Four pairs of shoes. Toothpaste.

And a few hundred yards from his dormitory, in a cobalt-blue tent set up on the floor of a gymnasium, he had his mother at his beck and call, ready to bring him bowls of instant noodles, buy him soap and scrub the floor of his new room.

“I feel safer when she’s here,” said Mr. Yang, 18, from a central Chinese town more than 700 miles away. “I’ve  never been away from home before.”

This is real life.  “Tents of love” are being set up at particular places in universities all over China. Why? Because their children want their parents close and because parents want to be nearby. Neither parent nor child are ready to be independent of the other.

Now. I realize this is much easier for me to write, considering the fact that I haven’t had to send a child to college yet. But still. . .

Isn’t the point (or, at least, one of the points) of parenting to prepare your kids to launch into life without you? Aren’t we parents supposed to expect a time when our children will be “on their own”? In fact, aren’t we to intentionally prepare them for that very thing?

I confess to reading this article in a small state of shock.

Until I thought about the purpose of Christianity. The purpose of the church. The purpose of following Jesus.

I wonder if we (the church) aren’t guilty of the same thing as these Chinese parents? Jesus said that if we follow Him, He will make us to become “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) In other words, if we follow Jesus, we will make more followers of Jesus who will be launched to make more followers of Jesus.

I wonder if we are guilty of getting our groups/classes/studies together so we can stay together – forever and ever? Do we gather, knowing we will soon need to scatter? Or do we gather, hoping we have found a group we can stay with? Is our view of Christianity like a cul de sac? Or, is our view of church like an exit ramp on an Interstate? Do we look to be an “end,” or do we work to be a conduit?

The point of parenting is to prepare children to launch into the world.

The point of discipleship is similar. As we follow Jesus, we look to make another follower of Jesus, who will be launched to make another follower of Jesus.

Paul’s dying words to Timothy were these: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

Learn in order to teach so those you teach will be able to teach.

Or, to put it another way: Follow Jesus in order to launch others who will help others to follow Jesus.

Isn’t that the point?