rebelling against low expectations

Three Tips for Following Christ at a Secular College

Excuse the generalization, but homeschooled kids like myself can have have really strong imaginations about the scary world of “school.”

As we watch the Christian movies and hear the warnings of our Sunday school teachers, our minds get stuffed with ideas of all the persecution we could face.

Well, after just three weeks as a dual-enrollment student at my local community college, I can tell you with 100% certainty: that’s not reality.

Living for Jesus doesn’t typically lead to debating with professors or being mocked by classmates. In reality, it’s a whole lot less vicious and more complicated than that.

If you’re thinking about attending a secular college or university, here are some things you need to know.

1. Box-Checking Won’t Cut It

College is draining, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You can’t make an impact for Christ unless you’re making time to connect with him on a daily basis. And I mean really connecting–not just checking the boxes.

Since my schedule is different each day, I’ve become more flexible about when I get into the Word. On school mornings, I read and pray through a Psalm as I get up, then work through my daily reading plan during one of my breaks.

Ideally, I always want to meet with God before I start my day, but that doesn’t mean deciding, “I will have my quiet time at this hour for this amount of minutes every day.” While this works for some people, it isn’t the only way to approach daily devotion.

The point is to be in fellowship with God all the time, regardless of whether we crack open our Bibles at a set time each day. When I have this goal in mind, I interact with God in a personal, meaningful way. I pray for a clear mind when I take that test, I thank him for the cool weather as I walk to class. Through this, I grow far closer to God than I ever could just by checking boxes.

2. Unbelievers Can Be Nice Too

I know, it’s hard to believe not all non-Christians are cruel atheists out to destroy our faith and publicly shame us for our beliefs. Sorry, God’s Not Dead, but the real world isn’t quite so simple.

Down here in the Bible Belt, the lines get blurry real fast. As if it weren’t enough that half the students think they’re good with God because of childhood church attendance, the professors are a challenge of their own. My professors are:

–A self-proclaimed “gay male” who believes religion is for people of a specific personality type
–An atheistic evolutionist who sees religion as the perpetrator of historical atrocities
–A feminist who doesn’t seem to care about religion but sure does like to curse
–My favorite, the “everything goes” professor who thinks all religions are great

As far as I know, none of my professors are Christians, but none of them have shown any hostility toward my faith. One of them even praises it!

But why would they be hostile? Why would they even care?

Most colleges aren’t hiring instructors to persecute people of faith. That’s not their job. They probably couldn’t care less whether you worship God, the earth, or a three-toed tree toad.

That’s not to say you won’t face any opposition; just don’t expect your professors to be burning Bibles in their free time.

3. You Don’t Have to Give Gospel Spiels

Evangelism isn’t just walking up to random strangers and asking them about their eternal state, or putting up posters advertising, “Hell is bad, but Jesus loves you.”

Jesus didn’t call us to be sales reps for a product called heaven. The faith we share in him ought to be a relational, logical faith that is demonstrated in our actions and naturally evident in the way we think and speak.

If we are close to God, it shouldn’t be too difficult to bring him into our conversations. If our lives center around Christ, the papers we write and the speeches we present will mention or reference him.

Explicitly or implicitly, our beliefs should bleed out into our lives.

I wasn’t planning to share the gospel three weeks ago. One of my classmates and I started talking before class. She told me she had considered dying her hair rainbow colors, but felt like some people might not react well.

I told her I didn’t agree with LGBT opinions, but I still respected them as people and didn’t care how they styled their hair. She asked me to elaborate. I told her what I believed was God’s design for sexuality and even how marriage reflects Christ and the church.

Rainbow hair ultimately led to the gospel.

While she didn’t fall on her knees in instantaneous conversion, she was open to hearing what I had to say. I may have been rambling, but I spoke the truth as clearly as I was able. God provided an opportunity, and the words came authentically.

No pre-packaged gospel spiel necessary.

Go Be an Ambassador for Christ

Going to school with non-Christians can be a pretty eye-opening experience for those of us who have grown up in Christian communities. We may face a bit of culture shock, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In three short weeks, I’ve had more opportunities to share the gospel than in all my fifteen years of life.

If you can take classes at a secular school, I’d encourage you to consider doing it. Students, these are the years of our lives when we are molding our identities, discovering and deciding who we are. If we’re too locked up in our protective Christian bubbles to reach out to our generation, who will?

And to those of you who aren’t there yet, who don’t have a way to break out of your bubble, know this: God will provide those opportunities if you search and pray for them.

If school isn’t a way for you to interact with unbelievers, think outside of the bubble to make opportunities. Where are the non-Christians? How can you get to them?

Trust that God will make a way, eventually. God has prepared various good works for us throughout each season of life. If widespread evangelism isn’t one of them right now, be faithful in serving your church or loving your family or discipling your friends, or whatever it is that you can do.

Whether you’re at a secular school or not, you have the opportunity to shine for Christ. You can be a witness, in your words and your actions. You can live for him.

Wherever you are, follow Christ wholeheartedly today.

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About the author

Olivia Morgan White

Olivia Morgan White is a Ministry & Leadership major at Bob Jones University. A nonfiction writer turned novelist, she writes to connect with fellow introverts/hobbits. Olivia hopes that by connecting with characters and worlds, her readers will be empowered to impact the world around them. You can find more of her writing at her website.

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rebelling against low expectations

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