Buies Creek, N.C.—Twice-voted one of the 50 Most Influential Christian Leaders in America, Dr. Leonard I. Sweet, the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew Theological School in Madison, N.J., challenged audiences at Campbell University’s annual Reavis Ministry Lectures, Tuesday, Sept. 28.
The founder and president of Spirit Venture Ministries whose writings focus on Semiotics, or the study of language and signs, Sweet proclaimed there are two cultures in modern Christianity—the Gutenberg culture and the Google culture. Members of the Gutenberg culture are those Christians who were born before 1973 and grew up reading books, while the Google culture grew up in the age of electronic technology such as cell phones, iPods and BlackBerries. The two shall never meet in today’s church unless they try to relate in some way, Sweet asserted.
Sweet called churches today “MIA” or Missing in Action because they don’t reach out to youth in the world in which they live. “If your church disapproves of young people with cell phones texting on the front row, for instance, you’re MIA,” he said. “If you can’t find things in your church that drive you up the wall, you’re not connecting.”
Sweet said Jesus gave us a way to interrelate when he told his disciples that he wanted them to be “in the world, but not of the world.”
“The challenge is that we can’t communicate with the Google culture with words and principles,” said Sweet. “It must be done with images and stories. That’s what evangelism is anyway, story telling.”
Sweet relayed the story of how his minister connected with him at 13 by asking him to fill in for the church organist who had eloped.
“I didn’t know how to play the organ; I played piano,” Sweet said. “But I spent Friday night and all day Saturday practicing. On Sunday, I was able to play for the congregation. Why aren’t we calling these kids out at 13 and integrating them into the congregation?”
Sweet served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Theological School at Drew before becoming the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism. Prior to his appointments at Drew University, he served as president and professor of church history at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He is the author of more than 20 books and 120 articles and is currently working on two textbooks, one on preaching, Giving Blood, and one on evangelism, Pay Attention: Every Bush is Burning. His most recent book is So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church.
The L.B. and Mabel Griffin Reavis Lecture Series was established in 1991 at Campbell. It is designed to promote church leadership, outreach and development through the Campbell University Divinity School. Funds from this endowment are used to invite distinguished scholars to the campus to lecture.
Photo Copy: Dr. Leonard I. Sweet delivers the annual Reavis Ministry Lectures at Campbell University.