Church and College
It’s been about a month since the end of the college football season and my annual depression is officially in full swing. Incidentally, it’s been about a decade since the end of my own college career. Those were the days – play all day, party all night, squeeze in some class in the middle. Good times. My mind often wanders back to those days. I think this is why I enjoy college football so much – it is nostalgia as much as sport. I don’t think I’m alone here. College sports are a multi billion-dollar industry. How else do you explain the money, time, and energy people pour into consuming a product produced by amateurs... at schools they never even attended?
Where does this passion and interest come from? I think the answer is profoundly spiritual. I think the ‘itch’ that college ball scratches is directly connected to how God designed the Church to operate. I’m convinced the romance and nostalgia of the college experience taps into something holy, something for which we were designed.
Here’s what I mean: think back to what was great about college. It was a time when friends were family – roommates, fraternities, sororities, and intramural teams, all of it was designed to revolve around relationships. Dorms had unspoken open door policies, apartments had communal fridges, life was lived together, and isolation simply was not a viable option.
For many of us, college was a time of great freedom along with comforting oversight. Seniors showed freshmen the ropes. Professors, advisers, and coaches all provided direction and guidance. The campus was a safe place to learn and ask questions. We were expected to take the basics taught to us and study and reflect on them, exploring new angles and insights.
Life was also lived with a goal in mind. We were all being trained to be sent out. Even those of us who changed majors nine times were being tutored to use our gifts to make the world beyond campus better. At the end of the day, a university’s reputation is based on the accomplishments of the alumni outside of the classroom and we all somehow knew that something was expected of us. Our collective identity was not as current students as much as it was as future doctors, teachers and engineers. Most universities (underneath several layers of Latin and pretentiousness) claim this type of mantra as their operating principle. Harvard’s research, service and leadership development all emanate from their search for “veritas” (truth) and the University of Texas believes that “what starts here changes the world” (not including getting blown out by Arkansas in bowl games apparently).
Are these not the same elements that marked the early church? They took care of each other, pooling their resources to make sure everyone had what they needed. Their Christian walk was defined by the their devotion to the mission of their Savior – not just information about Him. And like any good university, their success was measured by the number of people that were sent out, rather than the number that would sit through it.
College was a place where we could be intimately known, encouraged in our gifts and sent out to play our part in a mission that was bigger than any of our individual pursuits. And for many, college was as close to the family of God as they have ever gotten and they ache for it every Saturday afternoon.
Perhaps its time for the Church to go back to school.