The struggles of attending a Christian university: The temptation of stagnation

There was a reason I didn’t want to attend Liberty University.

Actually, there were three.

When college-hunting during my senior year of high school, I was primarily looking at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. I was a Virginia resident and loved the idea of its nearness to my family, the beautiful stone that comprises the school’s halls, the academic challenge I would experience and the many traditions that make Virginia Tech what it is.  I also loved the idea of attending a secular university, albeit maybe not for the reasons that you might think. 

I grew up in a Christian home with Southern Baptist roots and in a predominantly Christian community. I wasn’t challenged much in my faith in the way of others’ opposing beliefs. When, during my gap year in China, I experienced a broad spectrum of ideologies and pushback against my worldview, I learned to value the inherent discomfort that breeds a dependance upon Christ. I began to associate discomfort with growth, and I saw potential for both of these at Virginia Tech. The environment it creates, and others like it, require that the muscle of faith be developed constantly. In this way, I found Liberty to be lacking.

During a fall CFAW, I observed what I perceived as a prevailing sense of artificial Christianity. Reflecting on this, James 2:14-26 is brought to the forefront of my mind. Students threw around Christian jargon like it was confetti, and quite honestly, it made me nauseous. The culture I was engaging with contrasted sharply with my idea of what Christianity should be, and I found myself developing contempt for those whose shoulders I was bumping on the way to classes and Bible studies and Convocations. I arrogantly regarded the students around me as inexperienced, unchallenged and in need of difficulty. While this certainly was not a Christ-like attitude, and the Lord did end up leading me to attend Liberty, my feelings weren’t entirely unwarranted. 

We students are incredibly blessed to live in an environment where we can safely and confidently practice faith in Jesus Christ. However, hand in hand with this freedom is a temptation to become stagnant in regard to sanctification; faith has the opportunity to remain within the confines of religion: Sunday morning, community groups and nothing more. Lifestyle and intentional practice become checkboxes, and Christianity turns into a label rather than an identity.

Patricia Engler interviewed a student in 2021 who had attended both a secular and Christian university during her time as an undergrad. She detailed her experience, saying, “When I was at secular school, it was really obvious what I shouldn’t engage in. But when I went to a faith-based school, people there were asking hard questions. And when you all come from similar backgrounds and say you believe the same things, then it’s easier to start justifying questionable behaviors and ideas.” 

Sarah Weber, an Olivet Nazarene University alumna, also saw the potential for stagnancy.  “It would have been possible for me to be spiritual(ly) stagnate even at a Christian college. This is true especially because it would have been easy for me to trick myself into believing I was growing just because I was surrounded by Christian people and teaching.” Sustained comfort has a tendency to cultivate complacency, and that is where the “trick” that Sarah mentions lies in wait.

Students will likely struggle whether they go to a Christian or secular university; this is the nature of academia. However, the main focus of your daily struggles should be the taking up of your cross and submitting to your heavenly Father your every desire, hope and faith. The aforementioned struggles of attending a Christian university are still relevant; however, they are not paramount, and they should never hinder you from following that which the Lord has placed before you.

Glen is the social media and web manager for the Liberty Champion

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