Welcome to my series about starting uni as a Christian, if you haven’t already, check out part one where we establish whether we actually want to do this living-for-Jesus-thing.
At the end of the last post I possibly left you feeling like you were going to be on your own at uni (apart from God) which certainly isn’t true (and although God is enough, ground support is a real help). The two main sets of people will be a Christian student group and a church. And there is a way to start linking up with both of these before you get to university!
First, go to www.uccf.org.uk/starting-uni/link-up and link up with the Christian Union (CU) at your uni. I love my CU, it’s where I’ve met the people I would now call my best friends, where I can find support from my fellow Christian students, especially those older ones that been there and done it (and are still going through it). It’s also a great way to be actively spreading the Gospel at uni through evangelistic events and support with your personal evangelism. You’ll get an email from someone at the CU telling you what they do, specifically what’s happening in freshers’ week. UCCF (Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, they support and encourage CUs throughout the country) will also send you a “Starting Uni” version of their great little Uncover gospels. This version is new this year so I don’t know exactly what’s in it but Uncover is an attractive Luke’s Gospel that we use to explore Jesus’ story with other students, so it’s worth seeing it, getting to know Luke a little better and taking advantage of whatever has been added to it for this edition.
Second go to www.fusion.uk.com/connect-with-fusion/student-linkup and sign up with Fusion Student Linkup. This will give your contact details to all the churches in your uni city (that have signed up with them). They will contact you telling you about themselves and what they do for students (note they will come sporadically over summer and into freshers’ week-time). Please don’t make a decision on which church you’re going to be at based on this information but use it to get a feel of where to try (I tried an apparently record-breaking seven churches and I nowhere near got to see all of them in town, so this should help narrow them down before you start).
You may think that you only need to be a part of CU at university and don’t need a church or if you don’t think it now, you may do when you get there. I would say don’t fall into this trap. CU can be brilliant, support your student life well and be a great platform for you to be a part of spreading the Gospel at uni. But it’s not a church.
Mike Reeves, the (soon to be ex-) Head of Theology at UCCF wrote about the CU and church and why they’re not the same but CUs still have an important place. Here are his points about why CU is not a church:
“First: a CU cannot function as a church in the manner in which Paul and the apostles wanted churches to function because it does not have an appointed ministry of word, sacrament and discipline, and must not pretend to.
Secondly: a CU cannot function as a church because, for all the warmth and closeness of fellowship that can be experienced within a CU, it does not have the communal characteristics of a family that the Bible assumes.
Thirdly: a CU cannot function as a church is because it is a specialised ministry that is seeking to target only one mission field. It has a clearly limited missionary objective: students. In no sense does it have the ambition to function as the heterogeneous body that Paul describes in Ephesians 2.”
Essentially a CU doesn’t appoint its leaders based on their ability to teach, unlike a church; there isn’t the same community and family aspect like a church has; and a CU has a very specific mission, whereas a church is to minister to all. You can read the full document here. There is a lot of useful theological, biblical and historical research in there but for those not familiar with examining theology it may be a bit heavy. These points are on page 10/11.
Unfortunately I have heard some not so great stories about some CUs. One common claim is they are very insular and members spend their time with each other and not non-Christians. If you feel the CU is encouraging this, it is a problem and maybe a point that should be raised with the leadership. Whether or not it’s condoned, make sure you spend time with your coursemates/hall-mates and go against the trend. What the CU does by the way of evangelistic events are for you to bring your friends to – why would they care if you’ve spent no time with them?
Some universities will have multiple Christian student groups. And while I’m sure UCCF would love me to say the CU is always the way to go, it may not be. See what they’re each up to and what truths they hold. What’s important is that they affirm the Gospel and that Jesus Christ is central to what the CU does, and they are active in evangelising. UCCF’s doctrinal basis is a good guide to what a Christian group should be professing.
This discussion could go on but I feel I’ll be making more and more insignificant points so just comment or email if you want to know any more about the nitty-gritty of student groups and CUs.
Sorry I’ve been quiet so long, for a while I’ve had excuses for not writing a post but recently it’s just a lack of concentration and determination to sit down and do it, but here goes.
I’m a Christian and this year I started university. All year I’ve been discovering that doing this isn’t as straightforward as just turning up and going with the flow. So I am humbly going to put some pointers and hints down for all of you who are in the position I was a year ago. Don’t take everything I say to the letter, it’s based on my experience and obviously different universities will also have slightly different circumstances. If you’re not in the UK you may find this useful but just be aware that I am and things may work differently where you are. Oh and please ask me questions!
So I’m splitting this into a few posts and the first couple are about before you even get to uni, what to think about and what to do.
Right, so you’ve just finished your A-Level exams and you’re starting to enjoy your summer, pretending you’re not just waiting for your results. Now I know that you may be panicking about your results and I’m not going to tell you that you’ve done fine because honestly, I don’t know! But I will say that there’s no point letting them overshadow your summer and preparing for university. Although if you’ve handed in your BTEC coursework or you’re just finishing up your year out or… [insert activity here] then I guess you’re not worrying which is lovely for you!
There’s something you need to think about and consider before we go any further. And it’s actually pretty crucial.
Are you serious about living your life for Jesus?
You won’t have the safety net of your parents, your familiar church family, your youth group and your youth pastor/minister any more. I’m not saying these people will be deserting you or leaving you on your own but you won’t see them on a daily/weekly basis and it’s extremely easy to not keep in touch. I sincerely hope all of you reading this can say “yes” to that question above but you need to take the time to know that is your answer. Because when you get to university you need to be firm and sure of who you are and how you’re going to live. I don’t mean you need to have every detail sorted out but you need to know that you’re not going to live as the world does. We are called to be in the world, but not of it. We are to be salt and light that points to Christ. And it takes effort. And to put in effort you need to have motivation. And if motivation for living out your faith has come from people around until now you need to be ready for when they’re not any more.
If this applies to you, I’m not saying this to break you down but actually to build you up. When your relationship with God depends on Him rather than other people it is so much richer and frankly, amazing, than when you’re just being carried along. So please, take a look at you walk with God and see where it’s at right now. Make the conscious decision to follow Him regardless who else is in your life.
But hey, I’m not saying you’ve got to do this with no “ground support” at all, just the people providing it will change completely. In my next post I’ll tell you about who these people will be and how to start linking up with them now.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The God that created the universe, fashioned the stars.
He was willing to become a small, defenceless, vulnerable, weak and probably crying, baby.
He wasn’t born a magnificent palace as he deserved, but amongst the animals in a shed.
The first people to see him were shepherds – not exactly a King’s welcome.
He was to grow up and be perfect.
In his ministry he made lame, walk; the blind, see; the dead, come to life.
He came alongside the poor, the sick, the troubled, the rejected and the lowest of society.
He did not condemn them but showed them love.
Then these people, fuelled by the religious leaders of the time, demanded his perfect, sinless life be ended.
He was beaten, mocked and humiliated.
He given a crown. Of thorns.
He was nailed to a cross.
He suffered, slowly dying through suffocation.
And then this man, the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Christ, the Promised One, the Prince of Peace; breathed his last.
He was killed.
And in that moment the father in heaven could not look at him.
Because he took all our sin, what we have done, what we will do, upon himself.
And he died with it.
A perfect sacrifice.
A sacrifice so that we can be clean and sinless before God.
Because he loves us so unconditionally, more than we can even comprehend.
He could not bear to leave us in darkness to rot and die in our sin.
So he made a way.
That way started on Christmas Day, with a defenceless, vulnerable and weak, little baby.
I don’t know about you but when I think about this I just get excited. I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to shout from the rooftops how amazing this is. But most of all, I can’t do anything else but love God back. So I devote my life to serving him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
This Christmas, if you’re a Christian, please don’t forget what you are celebrating; it’s just so incredible that letting everything getting on top of Christ is not worth it.
If you’re not a Christian, think on how incredible this news is! God is motivated by love and wants to meet with you and show it to you. He’s done all the work, he just wants to enter a relationship with you. Yes, huge powerful God wants to be in a relationship with you.
Merry Christmas to all and God bless you.
So last week I posted a reaction to Bristol CU’s decision over women speakers (they were slightly liberalising their previous policy of not allowing them at all to certain, limited setting). I came out in full defence of their decision, despite the fact I’m an egalitarian. Their “u-turn” to allow women speakers in all CU settings did actually make me happier (assuming they didn’t take it because of the pressure they were under). But I want to concede that I probably didn’t have the full insight into the situation and I was challenged by comments and other blogs I read. So I asked around a bit in my CU and found that although there is a large complementarian presence there, a lot of them wouldn’t have a problem with women speakers at CU because their beliefs mainly apply to leadership rather than preaching, and generally only in a church setting. So I was sort of wrong. I still hold to the principle of my argument though; I still think it is a valid decision for a CU to take if they feel that is the best way to retain unity. But I’m not perfect, by any stretch.
Today, I want to confess something I really struggle with, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Okay first to say what I’m referring to and why it’s a problem. I take pride in my academic work. I put the effort in and I get good marks, great! This is fine, I think, as long as I don’t start boasting to others about it and put myself above other people because of it. But I know that this isn’t of eternal importance. When I serve God I know it is much more important than any of my personal achievements. But this service isn’t what gives me salvation. It’s when I think about the fact that there’s a God so huge and powerful who created the universe and everything in it. And that he cared about and loved me so much that he was willing to come to this earth as one of us and suffer and die in my place so that I could have a relationship and eternal life with him. I can’t do nothing. I have to live my life serving him.
All good so far, right?
Well, yes. Except in my head I have a habit listing all the things I do at church, at CU and other situations where I serve. I start hoping that this person or group of people noticed that I did this or start imagining conversations where people are saying how great I am because what I do. I wonder if I have done enough, for example, for the CU committee to think I’m suitable to be on committee next year. Will people be saying I’m a great example to others? Am I the most enthusiastic fresher? All these things swirl around my head. And I hate it. If I catch myself I have to think of something else to make it go away.
I hate it because it makes me worry about my motives. I know that I shouldn’t serve God in order to impress other people, to gain leadership positions or be famous in Christian circles. I believe (although sometimes I am really not sure) that this isn’t why I do it and it’s my sinful nature trying to make me proud and I’m weak to it.
Most people probably don’t know about this. I generally manage to keep it under wraps. There’s the occasional time I slip and say how my week is so busy because I’m doing so much at church and CU, then realising what I’ve done and try to laugh it off as some sort of joke. Then I leave worried that person thinks I have got my motives messed up, and think less of me, then I get all the thoughts going round my head again.
We all have our failings, this is one of many of mine.
There isn’t much of a conclusion I can give here but writing this down has helped, I know that I should continue serving God and rejecting sin but that will only work with God’s help. I hope that anyone who struggles with similar problems can now know that they’re not on their own. We all have our struggles with sin, whatever it is, admit to yourself it is an issue and ask God to work within you and help you fight it.
Thanks for reading 🙂
Feel the need to write a blog post about this in the light of Bristol CU’s (alleged) decision to ban women from speaking in their meetings, weekends or events. (HuffPost story here.) Last week I wrote about unity in the Church and how CUs were an amazing example to churches working across the denominational divide. Maybe after this you wouldn’t agree. But take a look and you’ll see I actually used the women teaching example to show how well it works. The CU at my university doesn’t have a ban per se (to my knowledge) but we haven’t had a woman come to speak to us at our meetings. The reason for this is that some Christians believe that males and females have different roles in the church. Before being specific anyone should be able to understand that this isn’t a ridiculous claim. Men and women are clearly different physiologically and are naturally better at certain things. Although I don’t agree, there is grounding from the Bible (namely Paul letters, in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12), that would say that these differences extend to leadership and preaching.
I believe that Christians who take this view have considered it carefully and have reached that decision with integrity. It certainly isn’t a view that is sexist and misogynistic. It is simply a belief that certain roles are suited to men and other to women. Women’s contribution is equally as valuable and important, simply different. EDIT: Although there certainly exists a minority who hold similar views but for sexist reasons. These people I am not defending and will not defend in the future.
So when you’ve got a large group of people from different denominations who believe different things on these issues that you want to keep united, this decision makes sense. Preventing women from preaching out of respect for those have taken that view, is a difficult yet courageous decision to make. Lets be clear, this isn’t the CU taking the view that women aren’t allowed to preach on principle, simply that it is the best way for the CU to run practically, respecting the views of all. The CU doesn’t (or shouldn’t) take a view on these types of “secondary” issue. Many CUs do allow women to preach. Perhaps a ban is too strong and simply a convention would be more appropriate but this is detail in comparison to the actual issue here.
I hope this clarifies and explains some things. UCCF is the body that many CUs are affiliated with and get support from. Their policy has no restrictions on preachers based on sex – the only requirement is agreement with the Doctrinal Basis, which is a relatively broad set of beliefs based around the basic fundamental beliefs of Christianity.
All views are my own, I don’t claim to speak on behalf of any of the people or groups involved, I simply want to try to explain why this situation is why it is. All comments welcome.
So about a week ago, for the first time since freshers’ week I agreed to go out. Our flat had won a competition on Facebook by getting the most “likes” on our guestlist and we would get £250 VIP package at a particular club’s student night. Most people were going so I felt it was the time to make an appearance to show I’m interested in socialising with my flatmates. I also knew people would be getting pretty drunk (the package involved free vodka and other discounted drinks) and I thought I could do my best to keep an eye on people so that they get back in one piece.
I got reminded about what clubbing seems to be about. Lots of people in a relatively small space with incredibly loud music with the alcohol flowing. Then the girls are wearing very little and the guys aren’t complaining. I saw one couple whose mouths were stuck together for at least 40 minutes and let’s just say the guy wasn’t keeping his hands to himself. I’m avoiding making assumptions on how well they knew each other but it was just one example of what I could see all around; people going too far just because its acceptable (and to some degree expected) in that setting and the fact they were drunk to varying degrees prevented them from thinking through the consequences.
I realise that’s not what everyone is there for. I mean, I wasn’t and I full well know other Christians go out clubbing with their friends. And of course many non-Christians just want to have a fun night out. Contrary to many (generally older) Christians belief I don’t think the setting is incompatible with having clean fun without alcohol and sexual undertones. Altogether I enjoyed myself for about 10/15 minutes during my three hours at the club, but I think if I hadn’t dedicated myself to regularly checking on the people who were a little worse for wear I may have a little more. On the other hand it’s not really my scene so who knows? But I can certainly understand why it can be enjoyed, and cleanly.
I find it sad that so many people pin their hopes of finding intimacy (and unfortunately, romance) on a situation where most people will do things they wouldn’t usually do and go further than they maybe would sober. I realise that’s exactly what certain people are looking but that’s a different issue. Still I’m not saying it’s a place you can’t find romance. But wouldn’t it work so much better if it was somewhere to meet someone, get chatting, exchange numbers, dance a bit and meet again, minus the alcohol? And perhaps plus full clothing? Thereby building a normal relationship without rushing it before it’s even started. But now I’m getting into relationships and that wasn’t really the idea.
Oh and after getting back to my flat, my flatmate and myself ordered in pizza at 2:30 in the morning, I mean, why not? Now that part was fun!
So clubbing could be great way to socialise with people, if only it was a little less… alcohol fuelled and sexualised? Well it’s definitely possible to go without submitting to that and maybe if more people did we could make an impact. It’s very normal for Christians (me included) to avoid going out because we don’t want to be around what happens. But if we are confident we can stick to our beliefs and principles (and limits), I think it we need to be there. To show our friends there’s another way to enjoy ourselves; and if there’s enough of us doing it, perhaps shift the standard? It’s a high target but just saying there’s no chance isn’t going to get us anywhere.
What do you think? If you’re a Christian do you go out with your non-Christian friends? Do you feel the atmosphere pressures you into acting in a certain way? Do you enjoy it because/in spite of it? If you don’t are you worried of being led astray? Or just not your cup of tea?