Spiritual Spectators: A Student’s Story: Justin van Oeveren

“I learned how to be OK with not having all the answers and not necessarily knowing with certainty, and living in grace,” says Booth UC student Justin, reflecting on his experience of leaving--and later returning to--the church.

August 1, 2013 by Kristin Fryer


Justin van Oeveren

Justin van Oeveren, second-year student, bachelor of social work

Raised in a Christian family, Justin van Oeveren, 26, was highly involved with church growing up. He attended church services and youth group weekly, was a youth leader and went on three mission trips during his teen years. But looking back, he says he can’t remember a single sermon or lesson.

“What I do remember are the relationships that I made—the people that cared about me and showed me by saying hi, coming to shake my hand and asking me how I was doing,” he says. “That’s what had the most impact on me.”

In his teen years, van Oeveren was mentored one-on-one by a youth leader who later became a close friend. They met once or twice a month for coffee, outside the walls of the church.

“He helped me through lots of questions,” he says. “When you’re a teenager, you’re going through a lot of changes and you’re wondering how to live.”

Van Oeveren was at Bible college when he first began to really question his faith.

“As a child, I was taught that there is an ultimate truth, we can know that truth objectively, and there are no questions as to what that truth is,” he says. “Going through college, I began to realize that that’s not the case. It’s very difficult to discern what truth is and where it is.”

But rather than abandon faith, “I learned how to be OK with not having all the answers and not necessarily knowing with certainty, and living in grace.”

Though he still attends church, van Oeveren has mixed feelings about church generally. About five years ago, he stopped attending altogether because the services felt too much like a performance: “The stage, the band, the PowerPoint, the 30-45 minute sermon—it didn’t connect with me at all. If I wanted to be entertained, I would go to a movie.”

After a two-year hiatus, he now attends a home church where he appreciates the opportunity to share a meal with other Christians and have discussions, rather than listen to sermons. “Those conversations are really important to me because they’re engaging,” he says. “I’m able to make what we talk about applicable to my life.”

In his view, this kind of engagement is key to helping young people stay connected to the church.

Speak Your Mind

*

Crashing the Party

Crashing the Party

Marcia Farrell was looking for a church home and found more than she ever imagined at The Salvation Army.

Island of Hope

Island of Hope

In the aftermath of civil war and a deadly tsunami, The Salvation Army is helping Sri Lanka heal.

Opinion & Critical Thought

Courage, My Love

Courage, My Love

When Valentine’s Day is hard.

And a Little Child Will Lead Them

And a Little Child Will Lead Them

Reflections from Lebanon.

Territorial News

Territory Sends Out “Mobilising” Flag

Territory Sends Out “Mobilising” Flag

Travelling across the Canada and Bermuda Territory, The Whole World Mobilising flag supports international campaign.

Council of Churches Issues Statement Following Mosque Attack

Salvation Army stands with Muslims following terrorist attacks in Quebec City.

International News

“Go Children and Youth!” Weekend to Mobilize Young People

Children and youth to be encouraged to join The Whole World Mobilising initiative.

General Leads 10th Anniversary Celebrations in Mali

General Leads 10th Anniversary Celebrations in Mali

Hundreds of Salvationists encouraged to “mobilize” during weekend of events.

Faith & Friends

Love in a Thrift Shop

Love in a Thrift Shop

The Salvation Army helped Dave Crockett rebuild his life and restore his faith, but there was more in store.

A Marvelous Unmasking

A Marvelous Unmasking

Batman fumbles through fatherhood in new Lego movie.