When you grow up attending church your entire life how do you know that everything you were ever taught to believe in, is true? How do you determine if you truly agree with the theology that your church practices and want to further pursue Christianity as you leave home and graduate into your journey through adulthood? Did you know that upwards of 70% of students leave the church once they graduate high school and head into college? This is a shockingly high number of people who chose to leave the church at a time when our walk with the Lord will take one of two paths. When we first enter into the outside world on our own and leave the churches that we have been raised in, we discover that we are suddenly faced with a very large decision.
Living in the Post-Christianity world that we do, being the college student that leaves their friends on a Sunday Morning to go to church might not be the “cool” thing to do. Not going to that party on Saturday night so you don’t show up wasted for church the next morning might not be the “cool” thing to do. Missing an event to go to your weekly bible study might not be the “cool” thing to do. I get it if your parents always dragged you to church with them and you never found a community in the Sunday school or youth group. I get it if you feel like everything your pastor ever said didn’t apply to you because you were too young, or if no one ever explained to you what your church actually believed in. I get it if you have been angry at the church for the ways that they have handled certain controversial topics. You’re not alone in your frustration, I’ve been there too. The church is a manmade institution, it has a lot of faults, but it’s purpose it to serve a perfect God who is greater than all those faults combined.
With that in mind, if you truly believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior who died on the cross for your sins but are in a state of confusion and anger towards the church it may be time to start evaluating this whole church thing from a new light. To begin with, please allow me to remind you, the “cool” thing in our society’s eyes is rarely ever the cool thing in Jesus’ eyes. Jesus never called us to pursue a status in pleasing others desires but rather in pursuing his desires. Build the kingdom, not a fan club.
Second, we need to start putting as much effort into Jesus as he does into us. To be honest, you are probably going to have trouble falling in love with Jesus if you don’t know what you believe. We are at a time in our lives when we need to start taking individual responsibility for our faith and grow out of living in the shadows of our parents faith. If you don’t know what your church believes, ask and seek to understand it. If you don’t agree with it or you are bored and ready for a new start there is no shame in searching for a new church. Personally, my decision to seek out a new church and Christian community has radically changed my faith and rejuvenated my passion for the Lord in more ways than I could’ve ever imagined. The bottom line is that we need to be the ones to put in the effort in our personal walks with the Lord. A relationship with Jesus is a personal decision, and can only grow if you are the one to put in the effort to that relationship. Jesus will meet you right where you are brokenness and all, all you have to do is try.
My first two years away at college have been full of this crisis of faith reality. In high school I thought I was confident in my faith, I attended church, I did all the things a good person should do, I thoought had it all figured out and then I arrived for my freshman college. At Christian schools the normal practice of every freshman is to go “church hopping” on Sundays in search of a new normal to make your faith your own. Over the first year and a half I tried everything from the church choir traditional hymns at a local country church to smoke machines, strobe lights, and popular contemporary music at a church an hour away in the city. I am thankful for the basis of the church I grew up in but when it came to continuing my faith journey by myself I had absolutely no clue what I believed, what kind theology I should be seeking in a pastor, or what to begin looking for in a church. All I knew was that I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to be spiritually fed, I didn’t know what denomination I was looking for or the difference between all of them, and I didn’t know what I was doing.
The crazy thing about God is that every person on this planet could have a different way of connecting with him and he would still meet us exactly where we are everyday to welcome us into his kingdom. Through a lot of self-discovery, research, and people pouring into my life, I began to develop a faith journey on my own. If you are in the 70% of people questioning your faith, I encourage you to dig a little deeper. I discovered, it is very difficult to walk in faith without a community to continually encourage, support and build you up, find people that are on a similar journey. Admittedly, it is hard to reboot your faith and take on a new normal, but in my perspective, my eternity is worth more than two years of questioning and confusion. When your looking for a church seek Jesus, not fellowship. Seek genuine worship that will help you best connect with Jesus and feel his presence pouring over you, not just words that sound good. Seek community that pushes you, pastors that challenge you, and messages that move you to action.
If you’re in this “church hopping” stage try everything until you feel Jesus presence and growth in your life. This could look different for different people, that’s okay. By the grace of God in his perfect timing, I have finally found a home in churches that I love both at home and school with theology, worship, and communities that I am completely obsessed with. Always remember our relationships with Jesus are so much bigger than an hour in a church service on Sunday mornings. Put effort into your relationship with Jesus. Feed yourself spiritually, not just in finding a fruitful church but also in your daily life. Reading the bible is the best way to get to know Jesus, start there. Every day is another opportunity to grow, see, question, and learn more about the incredible complexities of Jesus.