How to Be a Successful Christian at a Secular College (Or Sadly, Even at a Christian college)
It’s that time of year again; seniors are graduating and getting ready for college. If you’re like me, a youth pastor or in youth ministry, it’s hard to say goodbye because for years you’ve been pouring your heart out and into these students. Some appreciate it and some don’t, but either way we love them, and the Lord loves them more than they know.
So youth leaders and students please continue reading as I hope this article will guide you to Christian success in college.
I’m just going to give you some brief thoughts on this.
Just straight to the point.
(The First point is tough to chew on but you can’t stop at the first point!)
#1. Examine yourself and determine whether or not you’re a real follower of Jesus
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” – 2 Corinthians 13:5
Immediately, you might be thinking I’m some sort of legalistic Christian, or a jerk. But honestly this is something we all need to ask ourselves especially if you’re at the age where your leaving high school, your parents, (maybe your parents faith), your home, and you’re becoming an adult. Now you really have to decide if Christianity is for you.
I don’t want to cause an unhealthy doubt in you, because we can know that we’re saved (1 John 5:13), but there’s something about asking the Lord to examine you and search you. Paul even said to do this! So what I’m saying is necessary… Examine your faith.
There are too many people who go to college, tell people they’re a Christian, but they live like idiots, and it puts a bad taste in peoples mouth about Christianity. Why call yourself a Christian if you don’t live like a Christian (See 1 John 2:6). Also, if you call yourself a Christian but live like an unbeliever it does more harm for the gospel than good.
I’m not saying you’re saved by doing good, you’re saved by grace, but if you are saved it will lead you to do good. (See Eph 2:10, Titus 2:11-12, Galatians 5:19-25)
#2. Know what you believe and why you believe it
People always act like everyone in college is going to tare you apart if you’re a Christian at a secular college and immediately look down on you, and yes that does happen, but know that there are also people who are open minded about your faith and do respect your beliefs.
With that being said, be prepared for your professor to challenge you, and be aware that he would love to “convert” you to his set of beliefs.
Expect a postmodern or a humanistic professor who’s goal in life is to destroy Christians like you, who “still believe in an archaic deity”
And just because he’s a professor it doesn’t mean he knows all or has taken a step back and looked at Christianity objectively. No, he probably formed his views from people, circumstances, subjective events, etc. Maybe he never even heard the Gospel in a clear eloquent way. Maybe you’ll be the one who shares Gospel with him or her with clarity.
“Sometimes the elders are not wise. Sometimes the aged do not understand justice.” – Job 32:9
Often time’s people will try to use social peer pressure, and personal stories to change your core beliefs. For example: You will meet wonderful people who are homosexuals, and that’s great, Love them, show them you care, be someone they can trust, hang out with them, but don’t change your beliefs and agree with their lifestyle. You can love them and befriend them, but not agree with their lifestyle. I have friends that struggle sexually with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and I’m their friend but I don’t agree with their lifestyle or their decisions. I point them to Christ because the issue isn’t a sexuality issue it’s an idol issue. God needs to be on the throne of their life, not their sexuality or sexual preference. Don’t focus on their sexuality, make it about their relationship with Jesus, and how He will satisfy them like no one else will.
#3. Predetermine what you’re going to do in specific situations
Sin is fun… This is true.
Sin is fun… for a season, the bible says. Let’s not beat around the bush. Sin is fun, but it will come to an end, and it will be painful.
Girls are pretty. Guys are attractive. You’ve longed to be in a relationship with someone, and now here they are throwing themselves at you, or wooing you with flattering words. Be ready.
It’s fun to blow off steam, and have a good time. Expect alcohol and condoms to be given to you like candy given from a creepy guy in a white van. It’s going to happen.
You will want to be a part of the action; no one likes being left out or feeling like an outcast. Get ready for these feelings, get ready for these desires, but predetermine that nothing will take you from Christ. Predetermine what you will do when you’re in these situations.
Joseph did this.
Joseph was the ruler over a very wealthy man’s house named Potiphar. And one-day Potiphar’s wife begged Joseph to sleep with her. She begged him day after day to sleep with her. No matter how strong you are spiritually this had to be tempting, this had to be a battle. And Joseph responded, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” – Genesis 39:9
This is the mindset we must have. That sin is against God; and even though no one is looking, and even though someone else is initiating the sin, I’m going to predetermine to choose Jesus’ will and not my will.
Here’s what I want you to do… take a moment and envision everything that can, and will, happen to you in college. Things you don’t want to happen, and things you do secretly want to happen. Ok, so think about those scenarios, and decide right now when you’re alone with that guy, or with that girl, or at that party, what are you going to do? How will you respond? What will you do next?
You have to decide what’s more important to you, having temporary fun, or your relationship with your Heavenly Father?
We know the answer… “In His presence there is fullness of Joy.” – Psalm 16:11
Predetermine how you’re going to respond in specific situations
#4. Be bold but don’t be annoying
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,” – Romans 1:16
We’ve all seen it, the super bold Christian who speaks Christianese and turns everyone off to the Christian worldview. Don’t do that. But also, don’t be ashamed and timid.
Usually Christians are in one of 2 categories, Conformers or Condemners.
We either conform to the world and look just like the world, or we condemn those who are not like us, and cause them to never even be open to the gospel because they always feel condemned by us.
How about another option, option “C”, how about we’re Christ-centered.
How about we represent Christ to them, who was able to eat with people in sexual sin, and hang out with the religious people who misunderstood the gospel, and yet he transformed them, by love and the power that’s in the gospel message.
#5. Be real/be loving/be compassionate/be humble
You don’t know it all, and you don’t have it all together. You don’t have all the answers. You have the answer, which is Jesus, but YOU are not the answer.
This is not theoretical Christianity. These are real people with real problems. Pray for them, be real with them, be authentic. Call your unsaved friends. Pay for their lunch. Drive them home from parties. Talk to them about Jesus. Live out the faith.
#6. Spend time with the Lord personally/privately
Don’t forsake this one!
The moment you ignore your private prayer life, bible time, worship time, etc., is the moment you will drift from the Lord. Guaranteed.
There is nothing better than this.
“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” – Psalm 84:10
#8. Find a good church community
I’ve noticed many times as a high school pastor many students go off to college far away from their home church. They love their home church (which is great) so they watch it online, or they look for a church just like theirs but they don’t find one that matches up to the church they went to, so they don’t really go to church, or they church hop all semester and never commit to one church community.
Listen, you can church hop (temporarily) and check out other churches, this is the best time to do that, but eventually you got to find a church community that you can love, commit yourself to, and let them speak into your life and shepherd you.
#9. Pray always. Fast often.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17
The world is desirable. So pray always, and fast often.
If you find yourself with a stronghold in your life, or borderline addiction, then fast from food.
When you fast from food you’re teaching your body that you’re in control. When your stomach is hungry and it says feed me, you say, “no you don’t control me stomach, you don’t tell me what to do flesh, I tell you what to do.”
And this is the idea.
When you crave that girl or that guy, that drink, that drug, that video game, that religious feeling of pride that your better than someone else; fasting teaches your flesh, “No I wont give in, you don’t control me, I control you.”
Fasting was a way that Jesus was able to cast demons out of a man when the disciples couldn’t. Jesus was fasting and He was able to break through that stronghold when the disciples weren’t able to.
I’m telling you… there is power in fasting.
I had many of my friends, and people I just grew up with, walk away from the Lord when they went off to college and experienced more “freedom.”
It broke my heart.
There is nothing better in this world than Jesus. Yes sin is fun and tempting temporarily, but Jesus is water to your soul that will satisfy you like nothing else!
I beg you brothers and sisters:
Stand in the grace of Jesus.
Rest in His finished work, and walk worthy of the calling to which you were called.
I use to do ministry on college campuses back in California, and what you just read are a few things I observed from some Christians that did Christian college life well.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all at whatever university you’re at. Amen.