In recent generations, sadly, college has become, in large measure, the place where Christian faith goes to die.
Studies differ but all seem to agree that upward of 60 percent of students arriving on campus with Christian leanings are overwhelmed, challenged by peer pressure and the secular influence of their professors, only to put their faith aside or lose it entirely.
Instead of “lambs to the slaughter” Christian students need to be carefully prepared to not only “weather the storm” but also, and more importantly, to stand as “salt and light” as they challenge the prevailing mood of the academic world.
For in so doing, they can thrive and grow in their faith while influencing others to stand strong, seeking godly wisdom and direction in the critically important time of exploration and learning that the “college” years represent.
Evidence of how far we have fallen is exhibited by the mission statement of this nation’s first university, Harvard, published at its founding.
Based on John 17:3 and Proverbs 2:3, it reads as follows:
Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him.
Since that time, post-secondary education in this nation has traveled far from its original high calling of preparing young people to become productive citizens and leaders based on a search for God’s wisdom.
For example, 20 years ago the chaplain at Tufts University, Scotty McLennan, famously and sadly bragged that, while many students had arrived on his campus believing that the Bible was the inerrant word of God, by the time they had graduated, they had been disabused of that notion.
The thesis of McLennan’s book, “Finding Your Religion: When the Faith You Grew Up With Has Lost Its Meaning,” stands against the prospect of true deepening of Christian faith for late adolescents and young adults. Instead, it wrongly celebrates the possibility of spiritual growth through eastern thought and a dismantling of the faith that brings eternal life.
Psalm 95:10 describes the current condition as follows: “For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.” Though the pendulum at many universities has swung to the extreme side of “astray,” God’s way is always to restore what the locust has eaten.
In the movie “God’s Not Dead,” a single student, isolated, threatened and marginalized by his professor and deserted by his “friends,” is called upon and used by God to refute the notion that “reason” had disqualified faith as a basis for learning.The triumphant process that the Lord used to see that claim defeated can be replicated in classrooms and in young hearts in colleges all over this nation.
In Luke 6:35-36, Jesus sets the tone. In it, He tells us to love as He did — even when we encounter difficulty. As Paul describes in it Ephesians 6:10-17, “we are on a war footing but our battle is not against flesh and blood but, rather, powers and principalities and the rulers of darkness in this world.”
Our every motivation, therefore, should be to bless and pray for all those He places in our lives. This is especially true in a hostile environment such as many college campuses currently represent. In so doing we pave the way for the true love and joy of the Lord to roll in to change hearts and minds.
In the end, used by Him to change the atmosphere, each student’s college experience can be sweet and fruitful on God’s terms — surrounded by love.
John Leggat is a graduate of Tufts University, and a former real estate developer and outreach minister now called by God to the mission field of helping to prepare and disciple Christian students headed for college. John resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, two of their three children and five grandchildren. He serves on the boards of MentorKids USA and Elevate Phoenix — both of which match Christian mentors with young people whose parents are MIA. For further information go to www.TheWarriorClassUSA.com.
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