College was a time of great growth for me spiritually. Here are some things I wish I had known [boomer!] sooner!
- It is crucial that you get plugged in with community. While people can say that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian (and it doesn’t), a result of a healthy spiritual walk will mean you’re going to be going to church, having community, and surrounding yourself with Godly people, because you understand that the people you hang out with will affect the person you become. The Christian walk literally cannot be done alone.
- Invest in one campus ministry. My freshman year, I thought I should just do everything and commit to everything, and there were so many campus ministries that I could do a different one every night. While that may sound impressive and zealous, it’s simply not sustainable, and I’m doubtful it can yield real, deep relationships. Choose one and put all your eggs in that basket. That might make your decision on where to church easier, since campus ministries are often aligned or partnered with local churches.
- Churches and campus ministries aren’t quite one-size-fits-all. People use the term church-hopping, which isn’t quite right, because I don’t think we should choose where to go to church based solely on what the church has to offer someone. At that point, it can get pretty selfish - I may only go to the church that serves me the most. It’s a church, and we’re all following God. I heard someone say that one campus ministry was “better” than another - and if both are truly Christ-seeking, this statement is alarmingly missing the point.
- At the end of my freshman year, I was faced with the decision to join leadership with one campus ministry or another. I went with one ministry and really struggled with connecting with the people there. I switched commitments to the second campus ministry a month or so in and I really thrived there (I spent the next 3 years there). Sometimes you connect with people and sometimes you don’t. I’m not saying that things couldn’t have worked at the first ministry, but I had a hard time feeling like I was a part of the body and that people were really investing in me. The experience has led me to think that one size doesn’t quite fit all.
- Actions/fruit are indicative of your walk. People can really be convinced that they believe something, but their actions can be completely opposite, which should be a red flag. You either don’t believe what you think you do or you are being alarmingly hypocritical. This was the case for me. I said I believed God, but there was a long time in which my actions simply did not align with that. It hurt my testimony to others and undoubtedly marred the name of God. If you know you’re doing what you shouldn’t be doing… something needs to change. I needed to be honest with what was going on inside of me with myself and other people that I knew I could trust.
- In ministry, don’t be satisfied with someone telling you that they believe what you believe. I remember sitting across from a guy in the student union, trying to tell him about Jesus and Christianity, and him telling me that he basically believed everything I believed, though I knew from his lifestyle that he didn’t. What I couldn’t put my finger on was that he didn’t have an idea of surrender and being crucified with Christ, which kinda traced back to mean he didn’t really believe what I believed fundamentally.
- Consider yourself blessed if you offend people and they think you’re weird (and persecute you, essentially). I wish I had spoken more harshly and directly with people. I was too sensitive and afraid of being offensive. When I think back about my reputation at OU, I still feel like I have a pretty good reputation. I have a lot of Facebook friends. But we were not meant to be friends with this world and we shouldn’t desire it (for at that point, we are enemies of God). Being out of college and realizing that I no longer have contact with any of these people - I realize it wouldn’t have been a big deal to lose some friends and reputation.
- Share the gospel with everyone. In CRU, there is a tendency to use the number of spiritual conversations as a metric for level of outreach. A year removed from college, I now think that spiritual conversations are “easy” - at least in my workplace, I haven’t initiated with anyone who won’t talk to me about spiritual things. But it is intensely difficult to effectively live and communicate the gospel.
- College presents more opportunities to grow spiritually than maybe any other time in your life. But as much as people walk away from God in college, people also walk away from God post-college, when there aren’t people specifically pursuing you and keeping you accountable. Faith isn’t a college commitment, but a life commitment, and people need to be saved not to a church or a campus ministry, but to God Himself, or they will likely miss the point and later walk away.
In closing - here are 3 points I hope you’ll take out of this.
- Be in community - go to church and a campus ministry on a regular basis
- Don’t be satisfied with mere “belief.” Understand the necessity of obedience
- Share the gospel explicitly with everyone - you can probably spare to lose some “friends”