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Faith Focus

Each semester I meet with prospective students and parents on Explore Eastern days, and I caution them that coming to a Christian college might be spiritually dangerous for several reasons.

First, attending a Christian school does not guarantee spiritual growth. I wish it were that simple, but there is no neat formation formula (e.g. prayer time + attending chapel – moral wandering = spiritual growth).

Not only that, but complacency is a real danger at a Christian college. It’s fairly easy to become anonymous and drift along spiritually. Christians do not grow by osmosis. Busyness ranks as students’ biggest challenge, and it’s tempting to overlook personal Bible reading when one is taking a course in Old or New Testament. This is part of what makes seminary so spiritually dangerous for many pastors.

Furthermore, “secular” schools can be a great opportunity for growing in faith precisely because of the challenges in and out of the classroom. I and many other Christians attended such colleges and flourished spiritually, despite their hedonistic cultures and hostility toward traditional faith. Both kinds of schools have inherent dangers, but the snares at Christian schools are more subtle.

Second, at a Christian college not everyone believes the same things. Some students come from backgrounds that define Christian faith narrowly, and in many cases have not thought through their beliefs very carefully. These students will have to learn to think critically about their faith and their tradition. An Eastern education will both affirm and challenge those beliefs. Professors and other students from a variety of denominations will present a broader and more complex view of Christian faith. Charismatics converse with Catholics, and Baptists bump into Brethren. A wide range of beliefs and practices will be debated here. That is a healthy process of maturation, but it can be a difficult one.

Finally, Christian colleges can be dangerous to faith because opportunities for evangelism are limited. Eastern prepares students to be people of mission, but meanwhile they are surrounded by believers most of the time. Yet evangelism is essential to a life of faith. I long for our students to be intentionally calling others to follow Jesus. Missional people see everything they do as part of the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20).

Of course, there are all sorts of good, spiritually formative reasons for attending a Christian college. Thank God for schools like Eastern. But let’s be mindful of the potential pitfalls and seek to avoid them by attending to spiritual growth, embracing the complexity of Christianity and seeking opportunities to call others to believe in Jesus.

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