Facing Life’s Temptations
About the Guest
What kind of temptations can a student be expected to face on the college campus? Dennis Rainey talks with Ben Stuart, director of Breakaway Ministry and student Bible study leader on the Texas A&M campus, about the realities of walking with Christ on the college campus.
Ben StuartBen Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church, Washington D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served for eleven years as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries, a weekly Bible study attended by thousands of college students on the campus of Texas A&M. Ben earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Ben and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime. They live in the District with their three k...more
What kind of temptations can a student be expected to face on the college campus?
Facing Life’s Temptations
Bob: As your son or daughter heads off to the college campus, you want to make sure that, as a parent, you stay involved, you stay connected to what's going on in their lives. But Ben Stuart, who gives leadership to a campus ministry at Texas A&M University says you've got make sure, as a parent, you're not too involved; that you're not trying to control your son or daughter from a distance.
Ben: More than ever, you're seeing parents involved in the role of student's lives because of cell phones and Internet. Almost, to a fault, there is name for it now nationally. They call them "helicopter" parents.
They can track their student's life on MySpace, e-mail them, phone calls, and so they're very involved. The problem is, often, is that involvement is particularly pushing them toward success and success being finding personal peace and affluence.
And so a lot of the emphasis in parents' life is for their student to succeed, and I would content that definition of success is also material and not substantial.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 17th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to talk today about how moms and dads can stay involved with their sons and daughters as they head off to college without becoming hovering helicopter parents. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. We've got kind of a movement going this week for LHU, a lot of parents are pretty excited.
Bob: Lepine Home University. It's kind of the big thing, it's catching on. We're getting some enrollment happening here and …
Dennis: Our listeners are confused. You missed earlier in the week, Bob is …
Bob: The home university movement.
Dennis: Bob is trying to avoid the risks of sending his children …
Bob: LHU! LHU!
Dennis: … to the secular university, and so he's starting his own home school hybrid.
Bob: That's right, LHU.
Dennis: Lepine Home University.
Bob: Home University, don't you think?
Bob: You don't think it's going to work?
Dennis: Don't give up your day job. We have someone here who I think can set us on the right path, though. He leads a ministry to college students at College Station, Texas. Our guest today is Ben Stuart. Ben, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Ben: Thank you, good to be here.
Dennis: Ben is the director of Breakaway Ministries, which is a little Bible study held in Reed Arena, which is the basketball arena there on campus at Texas A&M, and we found out yesterday that when the Bible study starts, Ben, in the fall, and the freshmen show up, how many are there that first session?
Ben: Typically 5,000.
Dennis: A small, little intimate Bible study of 5,000 kids.
Bob: A basketball arena.
Dennis: And you know, truthfully, I was looking forward to this series of interviews that we're doing with Ben, because I want to just communicate to our listeners that there is a spiritual movement taking place on the campus that's never going to make the evening news. I don't know what it is with the newscasts and why it all must be so negative. But there is good news occurring. There are a lot of young people who are turning to Christ and a lot of great spiritual things occurring on the college campus, and Ben is leading one of those things there at Texas A&M.
Ben, yesterday, we talked about what parents can expect to find on the college campus, and we targeted what young men can be expected to face. Let's talk about what young ladies will face on the college campus. What are you seeing today among the temptations facing our daughters as they go to the university?
Ben: First off, I would say the temptations facing every student, the main issues I see them dealing with are one of worldview, how do I understand the world working and how do I fit into it? And then, two, is a question of identity. Who am I, and their past is coming into that college. I found, for college, that's really where a lot of students start dealing with "Who am I?" kind of issues. I've changed contexts for the first time, and so I'm learning what was context and what was me?
And so a lot of them are starting to learn about themselves and to see – you know, I think there are some things messed up about me. I think there are some family things in my family that aren't right. And often, moving in with another roommate will show that. They'll see someone who came from a very different family, a very different house. They'll see, "Oh, people didn't grow up like me. Maybe the way I grew up had some things that weren't right," and a lot of them are starting to process, "What do I have in me, about me and my family and my history that's good, and what is it that's bad?"
Bob: We've talked this week about pornography and the influence that has on guys and about how there are aggressive girls just like there are aggressive guys. Are there other traps for girls other than aggressive guys? Let's say this woman says, "Okay, I'm a skeptic. Guys, I'm not falling for that stuff. I'm not getting pulled away by some guy. I am now safe."
What are the other things that she could get off into that could be problematic for her?
Ben: Well, the world is full of dangers, and it's almost – how many sins can you define in 30 seconds, you know, what a student can jump into in college, and there's a number of them out there for girls to fall into, and anything from – you know, typically, with a lot of girls, you can find they're emotional in nature, some of the issues that they'll deal with some depression or some identity issues about themselves.
That's often associated with their physical body, and so a number of girls that we meet with are dealing with that sort of image issues and how they picture their body, how they see themselves.
Bob: The whole eating disorder side of things?
Ben: It can be a part of it, it can be a manifestation of that, absolutely, and then you have some that, man, they want to prove, "I’m important and matter," and so in the same way men can be driven to find success and worth and accomplishment, you meet some girls who that can be an issue for them, too – "I define my worth by what I am able to accomplish," and that's always a tragic thing because typically what I can accomplish is not a real valuable goal, and there is no peace there.
Bob: When you walk in on your first night of the year at Breakaway, and you see – and, again, I'm thinking of the girls. I don't want to gender stereotype this, but I'm just thinking of the girls who are there the first night, and they have taken great time and effort and pains to determine what to wear, how to get their hair fixed up. I mean, this has been a significant part of their day trying to figure out how they're going to appear when they get there.
For young women, particularly – it's true for young men but even, in a heightened sense, for young women, this issue of how I'm perceived is huge, isn't it?
Ben: Yes, and we're certainly in a culture that encourages that – to define yourself that way. That's how women are positioned in the media, and that's how – that's what girls are presented if what a female would look like in that success is how you'd look and therefore channel much of your energy and time and focus and thoughts towards that issue.
And so it is a big issue for them, and it's a phenomenal challenge, as a minister, to say, "Okay, so how do we encourage this group of students in a thoroughly secularized, materialistic, wear the right clothes, have the right TV, have the right laptop, have the right car, have the right job that makes someone around you think you're awesome.
How do we change that mindset to say "No, live your life for Jesus Christ. Be willing to a hard country and die for Him. Be willing to give all you have for Him." That's a totally separate track than the one they're one. And that's what we try to present – a whole different way of seeing everything.
We did it this semester, the first talk we did at Breakaway. I did, in a real concise way, sort of a sweeping, "This is what the story of God is about." And we used the concept of shalom, of peace, the biblical presentation of it – how God created the world to everything working together as it should be. That's what the word "shalom" meant – it means all coming together and working the way it should, and how it's been broken.
And I talked about how they can effectively feel the brokenness of it in their own life and their families and their relationships, and then how the prince of shalom, Jesus, brought it back. And we just talked about that. This is what the world should be and this is where the world is going.
Ben: [from audiotape.] I create space in my schedule where I decide to give unfettered license to my interior voice, all right? And it's a weird thing if you've never done that, because most of us try to even control the way we pray so that we'll sound more official when we do it, like, "Lord, I just request and that you would handle this moment," right?
I don't do that anymore. For me, in order to not be stressed anymore and my heart doesn't bother me anymore in life, because what I have figured out is when I go, I get a pen out and a piece of paper so my issues won't roll through my head. I put them down. I let them out. And I just let it go.
I remember watching a video when I was in high school. One of our teachers showed us this movie called "Madness," and it was talking about all of these kinds of mental disorders, and it talked about one guy, literally, was working on the railroad, like, way back in the day, and a railroad spike shot through his head, and he didn't die, but it separated his frontal lobe, and so that part of his mind that regulates what to say and when to say it was disconnected. And so, literally, they start doing a reenactment where he's, like, going to his job, and he's, like, "I want my job back." "We can't, dude, you're kind of nuts now."
He's, like, "I'll kill you! You're cute! I'm sad!" all right, and he's just like "Oooh!" But, like everything inside, he's just letting it out, all right, and he's just freaking out, and, for me, that's how I pray now. I open up a book, and I'm, like, "Lord, I'm stressing out about this," and so, for me, I just let it rise and you know what typically happens for me? When I bring an issue to the Lord, do you know what He often does? He lets the issue rise up and some of my errant presuppositions that are tied to it that I wasn't even aware of.
I'll give you an example. "Lord, I'm stressed about school," and I pull that out, and I'm talking about school, and I realize, I'll just let it ride. I'm freaking about school, and I hear this "Why?" "Because I've got to get a good grade." "Why?" "Because I've got to succeed." "Why?" "Because that's where I put my value."
Whoa. That's not about geology is it? So you're dealing with school, and you're dealing with some self-worth issues. Do you even know that about yourself? And, truthfully, a lot of times, we don't figure that out until we just start letting requests be made known. For me, that often happens. "Lord, I care about this so much." "Why?" "Because I want me to be awesome," and it's like "What?"
And so when I start letting requests rise, the Lord will often show me things about my heart that are broken. And so I can give them, I say, "Lord, take school. School is a good thing. Help me study in a way that's positive and helpful and, Lord, trying to find my worth and success, will you break that in me? Will you destroy that, because that has nothing to do with shalom?"
And I have found when I do that, when I am not anxious, but I let my requests be made known, do you know what happens? A sweet peace sweeps over me. Paul says it this way – "Don't be anxious about anything but in everything let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses comprehension, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus." He says when you start to do that, a peace will seep into your life, and it's a crazy peace. It's amazing.
Ben: And I found that centrally connected with that, we even – I met a kid two nights ago, I went to dinner with him after Breakaway, and he showed me his arm, and he had tattooed "Shalom" across it, and, like, "Well, I'm not sure that's what I had in mind."
Dennis: Do you have that message on CD?
Ben: We do, yeah, and we podcast as well, so people can go on iTunes and look up Breakaway Ministries and grab those.
Dennis: I want to go back to the issue of female identity on the college campus. Does the issue of modesty ever come up in your Bible studies?
Ben: Yes, all the time.
Dennis: We asked you earlier this week if the issue of pornography was a subject of any teaching at your Bible study, and you said, "It's coming soon to a theater near you," at your Bible study there.
What about modesty? Have you taught on it yet?
Ben: I've certainly mentioned it in an applicational way. An example, I just finished the Book of Jonah, primarily because I saw that it's really connecting with where their life is. I mean, here is this guy, I mean, he says he loves the Lord, but when it really comes down to it for Jonah, when the purposes of God come cross with his purposes, I'm going my way, and if God calls me to Nineveh, and I don't like Nineveh, I'm going to Tarseus. And how God takes the believer and pushes them into that moment where they have to deal with it – where are your ways cross purposes with God's way? He's going to push that issue, if you're His kid. He's not going to let that go.
We talked about how in Jonah, chapter 4, his root issue was love. I like when God loves me, but I don't love other people, I don't care. I care more about me. And so to illustrate that, I said, "Most of our root issues with sin are love issues." I said, "Pornography, man, if I really loved women, I'd be praying about, 'Lord, rescue those poor girls that get wrapped up into that world. How do I fund the people who are helping them get out? How can I help my sisters know God in a way that encourages them?'"
But, often, we say, "No, I love me more than I love them. I want to look at these girls, use them, so I'm going to do it." And, for girls, I said, "You know, with the modesty issue, man, we know that guys' biggest struggles with purity and with their eyes and so a way to love your brothers would be to put some clothes on." I said, "But often there is an insecurity that manifests itself in the desire for attention, and you know you can get attention if you show some skin. So a lot of you decide, I know they're wrestling with that, but I love me more than I love them, so I'm going to wear something risqué that gives me the attention I want."
Dennis: And so what do they say when you, you know, took them into the belly of the fish?
Ben: You know, it was funny, when I said – I did the guys one with pornography first, and the room is just silent. You can feel the tension, and – but I illustrate the point of how it is a love issue.
And so when I went to the modesty one, I said, "Girls, you know guys wrestle with that, and you decide to wear less clothes." You just heard this audible "Mmmm."
Dennis: Was that the guys groaning?
Ben: I think it was. It was a lower grown of approval, I guess. But it certainly is an issue and, you know, for girls, it is. I try not to make fun of them about it, because it is so deeply tied into their emotional sense of well being, and my heart just breaks for the havoc in girls' lives, their inner lives, because of that issue.
I'll never forget, when I was a college student borrowing a girl's notebook once for class, and I needed to copy her notes. I had skipped class, and so I was copying her notes and flipped through the notebook, and there was a letter she had written to herself that just absolutely, she was tearing herself apart – for her image, how she looked. I had never dealt with that, I had never seen something like that, and my heart just breaks for the way girls really deeply wrestle with that, and so I certainly address it like I did with Jonah, but I try to do it in an understanding way knowing I don't deal with it the same way, but it's such a deep issue.
Dennis: You know, what you're really pointing out is that these young people, as they finish the process of emerging into adulthood, desperately need spiritual shepherds. They need the coaching from those who walk with Christ who have a biblical worldview who can gently love them and invite them out of the world and into a relationship with Christ where they can live for Him and where, ultimately, as you said it earlier, Ben, if God called them, go to a foreign country and be martyred for their faith – be courageous to represent Christ because of wanting to be a part of the Great Commission.
And, personally, I am bullish on college students. I get pumped when I get a chance to speak with them, because they represent the future.
Ben: They're awesome.
Dennis: They are going to be the next generation of husbands and wives and moms and dads. They're going to run our factories and our cities and our nation, and we, as an older generation, must reach down, and we've got to challenge them with authentic Christianity.
Bob: And I have to ask you in that regard, because I'm hearing people say, "Seventy-five percent of the kids who leave the high school campus go into the youth group, they get to college, they wash out." And I've heard people say, "We've got a couple of generations, and we'll be like Europe." Do you think that's true?
Ben: The difficult thing with moving into college, you go – some of these kids, it was just – I think John says it, it's either 2 John or 3 John, he's like "The reason they went out from us, because they weren't one of us." He said, "If they were one of us, they wouldn't have gone out from us." And I think that's the hardest thing to see when you see students leave high school and go into college. Some of them, they wore the suit of religious accoutrement, because their parents wanted them to. When they got to college, they said, "I never cared at all."
I can't even imagine how terrifying that is, as a parent, of going, "I'm not in control of my child's soul, and whether or not they love Jesus." I can set the stage, but I can't change the human heart. And that's what fuels a prayer life, for me, especially, because I know that when I go into preaching, I go, "I can set up this room, but I can't change their hearts. I'm complete incapable," and so just begging God to do it, to do something, and it's bigger than what I can do.
And so in terms of it being like Europe, I think Jesus said it, "The love of many will grow cold," and I think you do see that. But then he describes about "this Gospel will be preached to the nations," and I'm seeing almost in a relieving way, a really clear delineation. There's a lot of students who they don't feel that pressure to say, "Well, I'm Christian."
They go, "No, I don't really believe much of that." "Oh, all right, so you're not a Christian and you're willing to own that." And then you've got the ones who say "I am," and in that crew, more and more, you're seeing students who say, "I am," and whatever that means for my life, I'm ready.
Bob: So I would that they were hot or cold, it's starting to happen?
Ben: Yes, you do see it. You see some students that are just white-hot, ready to do something about it, and they're exciting. College is such an exciting time to intersect with a human being's life. It's amazing.
Dennis: It really is.
Ben: But you do run into a number of them that they are set ablaze, and they understand a call to follow Jesus will likely take me to a hard place in this world.
Bob: I'm listening to Dennis talk, I think he's recruitable for your ministry. I think you could get him down – I think you could move down there and work on the campus, couldn't you?
Dennis: You know, I really love college students. Young people and what's going on in their lives today across the country is so important. We have to invest in the next generation. And the thing I want parents to hear from what Ben is sharing here is, you know what? The college campus is not a spiritual black hole.
Dennis: Matter and human beings are not being sucked into this thing never to be seen again spiritually with any kind of love for Christ or commitment. There are great things happening, most likely, on almost every college campus across the country.
Bob: And you ought to be discerning, as parents, because not all of them have got great things going on, right?
Dennis: And, Bob, that's exactly where I was going with this. As you select a college or a university for your son or daughter, go check it out. Find out where the students are that are white-hot, and what are they doing, and how many of them are there, and does your son or daughter – could your son or daughter connect with them?
I have to say, in fact, I was just asked recently by a parent who was getting ready to take their child away on a senior trip, their child is a senior in high school, and I said, "Go find out what's happening spiritually on the college campus."
For Barbara and me, that was just as important as the career development and educational process that they were entering into.
Bob: Absolutely, in fact, I remember, as I would take my kids on a campus visit, one of the things I'd do, as you'd go through the dorm tours, I would look on all those bulletin boards and just see where are the signs that say "Bible Study Wednesday Night." Where are the signs that are promoting something, and if you didn't see it, then you had to wonder what is happening on the campus, and it caused at least a yellow flag, maybe a red flag, to come up in my mind as we were visiting a particular college campus.
This is one of the subjects that Thomas Shaw addressed in his book, "College Bound." Do you remember we talked to him about this when he was here several months ago. He works at Moody Bible Institute, and he's written a very helpful book to assist us, as parents, as we help our children make a college decision. The book is called "College Bound," and we have it in our FamilyLife Resource Center.
You can get more information about the book by going online at FamilyLife.com, or calling us at 1-800-FLTODAY. If you're on the website, you'll see a red button that says "Go," in the middle of the screen. When you click that button, it will take you right to the area of the site where you can get more information about the book, "College Bound" and other resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife to help you as you prepare to launch your son or daughter onto the college campus.
You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY to request these resources. Again, it's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can get you the information you need so you can have the book, "College Bound," or other resources sent out to you.
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And, with that, we're going to have to wrap things up for today. I hope you have a great weekend, and I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. I want to invite you back on Monday. W have a couple of young husbands who are going to join us, and our goal on Monday is to see if we can help young wives understand their young husbands a little bit better. These guys have written a book about communication with men. It's called, "Yup. Nope. Maybe." We'll talk about that Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back Monday, yup, for another edition of FamilyLife Today, yup.
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