"I’m not interested in putting people in boxes. I’m interested in understanding the flow of ideas,” says Dr. Jeff Myers, president of Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs. And so begins an engaging 90-minute conversation about worldviews, DNA and the best pizza in town. 

We met upstairs in Jeff’s office at Summit. The ministry is best known for hosting conferences that help 16 to 21-year-old students strengthen their faith, understand their world and make a difference with their lives.

Summit’s headquarters are comprised of a beautifully restored hotel building that originally dates back to the 1880s, and dozens of nearby houses in the surrounding neighborhood. It’s peaceful and quirky and Jeff’s house sits just across the narrow, winding street.

With Clive, Jeff’s golden labrador and constant companion, lounging obediently at his feet, our conversation continues. “People don’t develop ideas rationally,” Jeff explains. “We catch ideas the way we catch a cold. Ideas can be in us and dormant for a long time, and then in a moment of stress or confusion, they rise up. They overwhelm us and make us miserable.” 

Survey Says

“At Summit we want to produce resources that help people in churches have a biblical worldview. So it’s important for us to start with a couple questions: Do they have a biblical worldview, and if they don’t, what worldview do they have?”

To find the answers to these questions, Summit recently teamed up with the Barna Group to survey church-going Christians about their worldviews.

Jeff says, “The survey looked at questions that are core to a biblical worldview: Do you believe God is a person, not just a force? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is the Bible a special source of revelation, or is it just like any other religious book? We found in our sample that only 19 percent of church-going Christians really have a biblical worldview.” 

“Which leads us to, what worldviews in uence the other 81 percent? Our survey found that 61 percent of church-going Christians are in uenced by the New Spiritualist worldview. That’s the view proudly brought to you by the city of Manitou Springs, Colorado,” Jeff smiles.

Jeff noted that people often hold opinions that, when followed to their logical conclusion, are contradictory. “People set up a separate context for each question. Maybe they’re compartmentalizing,” he says.

Based on his own experiences, Jeff can understand how we might be vulnerable to ideas that lead us off course. He shares, “My family and I came to Colorado about five-and-a-half years ago to head up Summit. About four years ago, my marriage unexpectedly came to an end. So I’m trying to be a divorced man in charge of a ministry, along with attending PTA meetings and planning menus for the kids. For about a year-and-a-half I tried to be super dad.”

All of these responsibilities piled on top of the hectic schedule of Jeff’s day job. “Hundreds of students are here at Summit all summer. There’s never a dull moment. You never stop to think how you feel. But by the end of that summer, I realized I was in trouble. I talked to a mentor who asked, ‘Are you angry?’ I said, ‘No,’ and I realized that I wasn’t angry about anything. I just no longer cared. I had lost the capacity to care — even about whether I lived or died.”

Pressing Pause

Jeff joined friends on a hunting trip to try to press the pause button. One day he went for a long solo run. “As I ran along those South Dakota country roads, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness come over me and I just broke down.”

“I started weeping as I ran. I turned up the music on my MP3 player, because that’s what I’d been taught to do when in pain — to drown it out. And then the MP3 player battery died. The only sounds were my footsteps on the gravel and my thoughts. So I started to pray. And the words that came out were, ‘God, I think I know what’s going on here: You are a bully. I’ve loved You and served You, so why do You keep kicking me?’

“I knew Christian worldview. I knew apologetics. I believed a biblical worldview holds the answer to all of life’s problems. I wasn’t doubting whether God exists. I was doubting whether or not He was good. And I realized later, that’s probably where a lot of people are at. I know a lot of people who have had experiences in life that are so tough that they doubt God’s goodness. 

“So it was three weeks later that I started work on this new book, The Secret Battle of Ideas About God. It took a while for my team to get over being nervous about what I’d shared with them. But I knew I had to write the book — to understand how I’d been infected by these idea-viruses over the years.

“A virus is a bit of genetic code that weaves itself into the genetic code of a healthy cell, so that when the cell starts reproducing, it reproduces copies of the virus. By the time you know you have a cold, you might have a trillion copies of the virus in your body. So it is with ideas. The battle is against those fragments of ideas that come in that make us feel that we’re unloved, that we don’t matter. That if we were to disappear no one would care.”

In the book Jeff explores how varying worldviews answer life’s five big questions: Am I loved? Why do I hurt? What is my purpose? Why can’t we get along? Where is the hope?

In addition to the book’s unique and stimulating ideas that encourage the reader to consider the value and truth of a biblical worldview, the pages are highlighted by stories. “The stories I tell are of my own life experiences,” Jeff notes. “This may be a big mistake. It’s a very vulnerable book, but it’s not an autobiography. I don’t want the book to be about me. I want it to be about Jesus.”

Victory Parade

I ask Jeff about how the ways we process factual information and intellectual ideas intersect with our stories and emotions. He ponders for a moment and then responds, “I’m pretty sure that there isn’t as neat of a distinction between the two as I used to believe there was. Proverbs 23 tells us that as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”

Jeff sees a clear connection between the heart, the inner world of ideas and reality. “We use ideas to access reality. So I guess, what I want to know in those dif cult situations in life is, can I trust Jesus with this? Is there some depth in what the Bible has to say? If I’m going to be hanging off a cliff, I want to know that my anchors are well placed.”

Through his studies as well as his own journey, Jeff has come to deeply understand that even when life is falling apart, the hope we nd in the work of Christ holds rm. It’s a hope worth sharing. He says, “The gospel is so amazing. We are not necessarily supposed to go out and proclaim the four spiritual laws. It’s more than that. Jesus tells us to take heart because He has overcome the world. We’re not going out and saying, ‘trust Jesus because He’s in the sky.’ Were saying, ‘Jesus has won! He’s won the victory over evil, and we’re just here to proclaim that.’ Anybody can do that!”

“When the Broncos won the Super Bowl a few years ago, people rode all over town proclaiming the victory. They went to a parade; they talked about it with friends; they shared it on Facebook. We have no problem proclaiming a victory.” Jeff wants to inspire that kind of the enthusiasm in Summit students when it comes to sharing their faith in Christ. 

He says, “Our students are boisterous and funny and searching. I love working with this generation. Summit is most fun when students are here.”

The DNA of a Leader

I ask Jeff about how he and his team approach the challenges of leading millennials. He responds enthusiastically, “I teach our team that leadership is in uencing other people to create change, and the DNA of in uence has two strands: Truth and relationship. Those two strands have to coil together in order to reproduce. The DNA molecule is a double helix. It looks like a twisty ladder, and I teach my team that their job is to put a rung in the ladder for somebody every day.

“If you ask anyone who works at Summit what their job is, they might say, ‘washing dishes’ or ‘night watch.’ But if you ask them to draw a picture of what they’re trying to do here, they’ll draw you DNA — truth and relationship.

“We put a premium on classroom instruction. Bringing in world-class experts. But outside of that, the students have meal times, forums, times on the porch where they can ask any question they want. Each student also has a personal mentor. And through all of this, from large groups to one-on- one, relationship and truth are intertwined on every level.”

On Sundays when Jeff is not busy serving the students at Summit, you’ll often catch him at Woodmen’s Rockrimmon campus. He’s enjoyed being part of the Woodmen community and he sees the church as a place where relationship and truth are lived out. It was a treat for him to have the opportunity to preach at his home church in July, sharing concepts from The Secret Battle of Ideas About God.

Jeff’s office is lined with shelf after shelf of books. He holds a doctorate in philosophy, so its no surprise that he’s passionate about reading. “We tell our students that if you want to be a leader, you’ve got to be a reader,” he says. He loves reading biographies, history, sociology and theology. Jeff adds, “I like books that explain things and give me words to express ideas in ways I hadn’t thought about before.”

As an avid runner and hiker, one of the things Jeff loves about living in Manitou Springs is the ability to walk out his front door and be in a national forest in just a few blocks. Some of the other items he likes about the town might surprise you. “I like to talk about spiritual things and you never lack for a spiritual conversation in Manitou. There’s a religious and political diversity of opinion here that in one way I find refreshing. If you drive down the street, you’ll see as many houses with Buddhist prayer flags as with American flags.”

Oh, and speaking of differing opinions, Jeff assures me that the title of Best Pizza in Town goes to a place called Hell’s Kitchen. Clive’s ears perk up and he seems ready to go at the mention of pizza. Just another day in Manitou Springs, where even the names of the restaurants are opportunities for the man who loves to share ideas about spiritual things.