Discussion Faith

4 Ways to Stay a Christian in College

  1. Lose your “faith.”
    1. It is possible that you (not unlike me) were brought up to believe that “faith” was a set of beliefs, handed down to us from our forefathers and the very means by which we are saved from hell. But this is not what “faith” is. In order to have “great” faith (the type of faith that transforms and releases the Kingdom) it is a way of interacting with the world that simply recognizes that Jesus is Lord. In the gospels, every time that Jesus commends someone for their faith, it is always because they recognize His Lordship. That is it. I would suggest that upon entering college, you lose the impressions you have of what “faith” is, because they will only fail you and pick up the Lordship of Jesus every day you get up.
    2. I have read many of the worlds leading atheists, philosophers and thinkers who would love nothing more than to rid me of my faith, but it has not worked. And you want to know why? I have something they know nothing about: a union that goes beyond dogma and into the experience of His presence in my circumstances. To say that reading something persuaded me out of my faith is to say that reading persuaded me into my faith, and that is the kind of faith that we need to lose.
    3. Unfortunately, if you grew up in church, we were taught to seclude ourselves in a conclave of agreeable believers who believe the same things. Jesus gives us a much better faith because we are to go within the community and see transformation. And honestly, you might not have a “faith” or “way of interacting in the world” that can survive the outsider test. Thus, you need to throw it out and re-discover or discover the fresh power in the story of Jesus.
  2. Learn to be a voice, not an echo.
    1. The number one thing that students are never taught to do, nor discipled in, is the art of listening/hearing prayer. Fundamental to the Christian walk is a connection of sons and daughters to the Father. Many young believers are taught that God no longer speaks to us, except through His unbreakable Bible. And then we were told that if we want to hear God speak audibly we should read the Bible out loud. Once again, this is awful teaching that can only win the already convinced! Why? It can only breed a exclusivist culture which flourishes in an echo chamber and shrivels in the public sphere. Jesus is very clear that in John 5, the Pharisees who had studied God’s Scriptures had never “heard” the Father. This is an indictment from Jesus. In other words, it is a bad thing as if Jesus expected them to understand this when they didn’t. Now, I can hear one objection: Jon, this was to prove the divinity of Jesus. Well, that may be so, but Jesus would have had no reason to be upset in His tone with the Pharisees. They read God’s books out loud every week, and yet Jesus says that true followers can actually discern or hear the voice of the Spirit (John 10).
    2. Also, as I have walked around campus, listening to conversations and having some of my own what I have noticed is that many students don’t have their own voice. They quote Tozer, Piper, Chandler, Bill Johnson, etc, and the list goes on and on. They are merely reflections twice removed from the source. Instead, what I challenge students to do is be teachable from the simple voice of the Spirirt, and daily ask God what it is your are to do, and the people He wants you to bless. The reason this matters is because when people speak with us, they intuit that they are having a conversation with a third person who is not there. And that is a problem if you want to have a robust faith in a world of flickering pixels and iPhones.
  3. Tell yourself and others the Story.
    1. Forget as much of your apologetics training as you can. Most of it is bonk anyway! The study of world religions, if you grew up as a Western Evangelical, was to distill Christianity to a compelling alternative to all the other worldviews by proving that, out of all of these options, ours is the best. Sincerely, I have seen this done and it does not work. At best, the Christian comes off as knowledgeable of their own religion and at worst; the Christian comes off as pretentious and paints the Kingdom as an exclusive club doing the same thing as all other religions. We must become an insider in our society. The strength of the Christian faith is that it is not a worldview at all; it is a compelling way of interacting in the world. So much so that if you truly live it out, the implications of such will transform the world around you. Study world religions as a means to understand where people are coming from, rather than as a demonstration in polemics, then meet them where they are at with the most compelling life you have: Jesus.
    2. Just tell the story. It is the most robust alternative story that the world has ever heard, and you will be surprised to see how hungry people are to hear about Jesus. Now, they may be reluctant to speak of the cross but you don’t have to rush to the cross. Just tell the stories in the gospels and watch as they fall in love with Jesus.
  4. Do not be afraid!
    1. When you speak with people who live a lifestyle that has been historically condemned by the church, surprise that person with a bit of Grace. You might be surprised the impact you will not only have on them, but also on yourself when you let go of trying to give them an answer. University is a time set aside for you to think through things you might not think through in the career world. Do not be afraid to think outside of the box!
    2. Every day when you wake up, ask God what lie you are believing and what truth you can replace that lie with. Too many of us are told before college that we might lose our faith, so we already approach University with skepticism. Do not give into the lie that this can not be a wonderful experience for you. Just trust Jesus with every little thing and you will be better than fine, you will thrive.