I have encountered many students who are still not involved in a campus Christian fellowship and are floundering like fish gasping for air when it comes to their walk with God. Many aren’t in one simply because they were paralyzed by the choices and couldn’t choose. I want to write about what I believe are things that students should consider when choosing a Christian fellowship once they arrive at college. Before going into that, I believe being in a Christian fellowship is essential to the college experience because we should all be thriving in our faith in college, and not surviving.
In my first semester at Cornell, I was in my own world and truly distracted by everything around me. I went to a fellowship meeting once in a while, a small group when I remembered to, and church if I could wake up. As time went on, I think God used the Spirit to tug on my heart and remind me that he wanted me to grow in my faith and not let it dwindle. To which I realized I needed to get my act together and get in touch with a solid group of believers who could encourage me to love Christ and give me a beat down when needed. I jumped head first into Cru at Cornell and have never looked back since.
I will not give pros and cons to each fellowship on campus because there is no “right” fellowship. God can use each group mightily in a person and I’ve seen it happen in miraculous ways.
So I will begin by presenting to you three criteria I believe should be essential in your decision making. These criteria stem from the argument made by Johnathan Dodson that the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that God redeemed us through a relationship with Jesus Christ, saves us to three things. I believe that the gospel saves you to a relationship with Jesus Christ, transforming community, and God’s mission. I will look at how each of these three things should affect your decisions for a group. If the group you’re looking at effectively has these characteristics, go for it and thrive!
1. Jesus Christ is King
Jesus is the center of the good news, the center of the church, reigning king of our hearts, and must be the focus and exaltation of any college fellowship. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5, ESV) Jesus Christ is the life and light of the world. Without Him there can be no hope or purpose.
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (Hebrews 1:3-4, ESV) Jesus is the radiance and imprint of God. He upholds all of the universe and thus also must uphold any fellowship that claims to live in Him.
This relationship with Christ is essential because it is only in Him that we can find life. It’s not through worship, good friends, or simply doing the right thing. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, ESV).
2. Intentional Community
God did not simply send His only beloved Son to die for just you, but anyone and everyone who believes in Him. He died for His beloved bride, the church, and rose again so that she may have life! We are saved into a reconciling community with believers and called to live a life filled with the Spirit of God.
What does this look like? It’s pretty messy, but awe inspiring and beautiful. One passage I go to frequently on this topic is Acts 2:42-47, of which I will share with you the first verse of that passage. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42, ESV) A community of believers gather around the Word of God, devote themselves to each other (and all the messiness that includes), food and the celebration of Christ, and the communion of God through prayer.
I don’t think any of us have a truly perfect version of that but God has still called us to it nonetheless. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV)
3. God’s Mission
Just as the first two criteria hinge on and are essentially restatements of the Great Commandment, which is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ..”You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV) So also the third criteria must hinge upon the Great Commission.
Before I dive into the Great Commission, I think it’s essential that we understand who we are and our purpose. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV) God did not simply save us for the purpose of saving us or just to bring us back into a relationship with Him. He chose us so that He could use us to bring Him glory with our lives by proclaiming Him to the world. He wants to use us to call out to others to let them know that they too can flourish under his marvelous light! We were created to shout His praise!
Now I can bring up the Great Commission, which states: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV) God has created us, saved us, sanctified us, and commands us to go and make disciples of the nations!
When Jesus gave this commission, He did not do so to just one person but to all of his disciples, and thus to all of us. It was not meant to be a one person job, and still isn’t. We are called to do so as His bride, so that we can all enjoy life with Him forever.
I hope that this was helpful to you if you’re still on the fence about a group on your campus or even if you’re at Cornell. Of course I’m pretty biased, especially since I am now employed by Cru at Cornell. I understand that there may be other reasons that you might feel drawing you to a certain group, but I hope that you would filter your ultimate decision through these criteria. My prayer and hope for all of you is that in your time in college that you would come into intimate relationship with the God of the universe and experience the abundant life that Jesus promised (John 10:10). If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in person or online.