How to Stay Christian in College

They call it “the bubble.” It’s the perception that your campus, however big or small, college or seminary, is cozily quarantined off from the surrounding world. Life is different when you’re safe “in the bubble.” At least for now, you’re protected from the real world and the suffocating responsibilities that being an “adult” will one day bring.

True, the realities of campus life and being a full-time student often produce a sense of disconnectedness from society. College and grad students aren’t always the sharpest on keeping up with what’s happening outside the bubble.

But while there may be some truth to the bubble experience, it can be unhelpfully deceptive and give way to a crippling lie: that campus life isn’t real life. My race hasn’t started yet. School is just a scrimmage; the real thing begins after graduation. This is one of the most important myths to dispel for the Christian student.

Pop the Bubble

After living four years “in the bubble” as an undergraduate, then working on staff with a college ministry for four more, taking graduate courses, and now interacting with students about How to Stay Christian in Seminary, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned personally, and am eager to pass along to full-time students, is this: Pop the bubble.

Don’t believe the lie that life really hasn’t begun because you’re a full-time student. Don’t think that what you do, or don’t do, on campus won’t affect the trajectory of the rest of your life and bring consequences that can be hard to shake. In particular, don’t give yourself a pass on the normal Christian life because “this is a special season” that somehow makes you immune to temptation, demonic attack and the deep deceitfulness remaining in your own heart.

If you’re a student full-time, it is a special season for growth—for study, for developing habits of mind and heart that will benefit you, and others, for a lifetime. It is a springboard to lifelong learning, not one long last day of recess. Be vigilant to protect class and study time, within reason; if God’s call on your life for now is to be a student, embrace his call and don’t squander this season of preparation for a life of need-meeting.

But it is vital to fight the instinct to think of ourselves as exceptional. That we’re exempt from saturating our lives in the word of God, or continually availing ourselves of his ear in prayer, or genuinely belonging to his body in a local church. You are not a student first, but ten thousand times a Christian first.

And in Christianity, there are no holding patterns, no pauses or time-outs, no respites from everyday soul-care. No bubbles. Today always matters (Psalm 95:7; Hebrews 3:13). The risen Christ is ever on his throne. Satan is always scheming. And your heart is never in neutral, but either getting hotter or colder. This “special season” of life is way too special (and normal) to give yourself a pass on Jesus, his gospel or his church.

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David Mathis
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.

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