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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cultivating godliness in college

Love these suggestions. Bread-n-butter, all of em'.

First and foremost, every student needs to cultivate his or her personal walk with God through spiritual disciplines such as regular personal Bible study, Scripture memorization, private prayer, fasting, and personal evangelism. None of these other suggestions will get very far if a student is unconcerned with personal spiritual growth, even when nobody but God is watching.

Second, collegians need to become vitally involved in a local church. This may seem obvious to many readers, but it is surprising how counter-cultural a notion church membership is to some young adults. But there is almost nothing as important as committed involvement in a Bible-believing church. The vast majority of the time that the word ekklesia appears in the New Testament, it is referring to a local congregation of believers. It is among local churches that Christians covenant with each other and commit to hold each other accountable. It is among local churches that the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are observed. It is among local churches that seasoned believers are able to mentor and encourage younger Christ-followers. I greatly appreciate parachurch campus ministries and dorm Bible studies (as will be clear below), but there is simply no substitute for active membership in a local church.

Third, many students should consider becoming involved in a campus ministry devoted to reaching and discipling collegians. This is especially true of students attending a college where none of the nearby local churches are interested in having a meaningful ministry among college-aged adults (unfortunately, it happens). Some of the better campus ministries include Campus Crusade for Christ, Campus Outreach, The Navigators, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, and Reformed University Fellowship. The quality of each of these ministries varies from school to school, so students should do their homework before signing on with a particular group.

Fourth, collegians need to establish a network of accountability. This network can come from a local church or a campus ministry, and ideally it involves two different levels. The first level is a peer group, whether it is a Sunday School class, dorm Bible study, or a campus ministry-sponsored small group. What matters is that the student feels the freedom to confess his struggles and commit to receiving godly counsel from fellow believers. The second level is a mentoring relationship with an older Christian who has “been in the shoes” of a college student. All too often this type of relationship is missing in the lives of Christian students. Many churches offer the opportunity for interested collegians to be pared with a mature believer who can combine biblical counsel and a good free meal from time to time.

Fifth, students need to read good books. Fortunately, most college students are in the habit of reading anyway, so they are often open to reading edifying books, even if they only have time to read a couple of extra books a year. Furthermore, there are some authors like Jerry Bridges and John Piper whose books are both enormously popular with collegians and in many cases are written with college-aged adults in mind. Other solid authors who seem to be fashionable among collegians (at least the ones I know) include J. I. Packer, John Stott, Mark Dever, A. W. Tozer, C. J. Mahaney, Tim Keller, and Tullian Tchividjian. Also helpful, especially if you are struggling with your faith on a secular campus, are the apologetic works of authors like J. P. Moreland, James Sire, Peter Kreeft, and Lee Strobel (I would add William Lane Craig--MD).

Finally, collegians need to maintain as close contact as possible with their families and home churches (assuming they have moved away to attend school). It is easy to virtually walk away from your pre-college life when you move off to a new community and begin school. But students need to continue to nurture close relationships with their parents (especially those with Christian parents) and their childhood churches. These relationships are reminders of God’s past grace, and during difficult times in college, can be reminders of God’s faithfulness and future grace.

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