The Christian Bubble

2 Timothy 4:3 ESV

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions

Matthew 6:33 ESV

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Corinthians 11:18-19

For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it.   For there must also be heresies among you, that the approved ones may be revealed among you

I want to address an issue which I believe is quite a common occurrence amongst young Christians. I have been at university for seven years now and this post comes from observance over the seven years, but particularly I have felt the need to write this in the last few months.

We love to be around people who are like us; young, idealistic, fun and above all Christian. After all, in that environment we don’t have to address any issues such as drinking alcohol (there is no pressure to drink) or ideas which we find different from ours. We find our safe space.

Safe spaces are great; they allow us to find people who agree with us, who won’t challenge what we say. Or so we think. I believe that we often change ourselves to fit in. I don’t know about anyone reading this, but I often find that young Christians seem to almost be identical in what they listen to, what they enjoy, and the way they talk. It is all a bit weird.

I will be the first to say it; I’m not really your average young Christian. I have never found it easy to be around young Christians, and there are many reasons for that. That isn’t saying I haven’t found friends amongst young Christians, I can think of a few great guys who have been an absolute blessing to me. But I do think these cliques do not help. After all, I’m stubborn and won’t change my ways because other people don’t like it. I don’t fit into the stereotypical young Christian trope and I’m ok with that. I’m actually grateful for it. It means that for one, the focus goes to the Word, and the Lord. My Christian friends don’t make me fit a system but just want me to love the Word and Him and that is great.

You won’t find me around these guys all the time (most of them don’t even live where I live anyway). I love to spend time with non-Christians.; in fact, most of my friends aren’t believers and, as Christians, aren’t we meant to live in the world? I know Ryle argued otherwise, but I honestly believe we can play a big role in people’s lives.

And this comes to my problem with these cliques and bubbles. Apart from the fact I think they turn you into a generic young Christian (I mean literally its weird), they keep your light hidden. They water down your doctrine. I just think of the typical university Christian Union. Most treat the CU like a social club, a place to hang out, and have little interaction with non-Christians. Perhaps I am wrong but I don’t get any other impression. I have often heard the expression that the CU is a ‘home away from home’, but that shouldn’t be the case. Our churches are our homes; the CU is not a church. The ‘bubble’ means that rather than an evangelical centre and mission field, the society becomes a safe space; where they sing happy things that make them feel good, rather than sharing the love and light of Jesus Christ. Rather than standing firm in the faith, the doctrine is watered down so there are no disagreements. It is not wrong to create strong friendships in this environment, far from it, having close Christian friends is vital, but rather these friendships being a product of our labour, it is what we seek first and only.

It creates an isolating atmosphere. I know a few people know who do not go to CU because they do not fit in. If you are Reformed like myself, then I feel the CU is difficult, and personally for me, it became a no-go place. You feel as though you have to be one of them and that is just wrong. The cliques on the outside make you feel as though you miss out, that you are not part of them. If you just want to meet one of them, you find that you can’t because the rest of the clique say no or what not. Christians shouldn’t be like this. We should be accepting people, loving people, and not staying within our comfort zones.

It creates an unwelcoming atmosphere. Our churches, our societies should never be unwelcoming. Yet they are, because we prefer the safe space, rather than what is right. We water down our theology and doctrine to fit in. We keep our light hidden. Christians, we ought not to be in bubbles and in cliques. We need to be radical, be adventuresome and be courageous.

Seven Things CUs Need To Learn

As the next academic year starts, Christian Unions up and down the country re-start. CUs are great; a place for students to come together in fellowship, to pray and evangelise in their campus. I was fortunate in having such a welcoming CU when I went to University, and it probably played a role in leading me to fully commit my life to Jesus. However, they aren’t perfect and in this article I will suggest a few improvements for CUs in general.

  1. There is always a danger of cliques in CUs, where churches group together. This can make it a bit awkward for visitors or for those of smaller churches. In the CU, don’t go to your friends, talk to everyone, chat to those who are on their own. Sometimes, I felt on my own because I never went to one of the popular churches. In my MA year, someone even asked if I was a fresher — not a good sign! At the same time, I don’t judge these cliques because I know they are easy to get into, but always try to avoid them! After all, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, no?
  2. There is a danger of a dominating church. This can lead to the other churches pushed to the side and the committee promoting one church, or one church having too much influence. A CU is not a place for denomination, I love it that a traditionalist and a Pentecostal have the potential to mix in such a space and it should be kept like that.
  3. Welcome traditional churches. Don’t focus on the churches that are big, or are popular, focus on all churches! I reckon 30-50 students at each University don’t go to their CU because they are more traditional in their worship and such and do not feel welcome. The CU is not a charismatic hub; it should be for all churches, so make an effort to include all churches.
  4. Don’t sing your favourite four songs on and on. I have been in a few CU meetings where this has happened and it’s a pain, it’s boring. God is not there. Change it up, sing old stuff, sing new stuff. Write your own stuff! Basically change it up, let God lead, and not yourselves.
  5. Be serious. This sounds like a weird statement to make, but sometimes I felt looking at my CU that some Christians weren’t taking Jesus word seriously enough, I mean we are all sinners, but when some people get put on the committee and you look at their lifestyle, it doesn’t look godly. Now I know, we are all sinners, I am just as bad as them to be honest, but if they don’t even try, remotely to keep the commandments, then how will God bless us? How will people see us?
  6. Don’t be scared to talk about the difficult stuff. Hell, Judgement, sin. They’re not easy subjects and ones that none of us like talking about. They shouldn’t be the main focus of the CU, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything mentioned even once in three years….three years, it does make you wonder. God is love, He is awesome, He is exciting, He is beautiful! Amen to that brothers and sisters, but the gospel is much more. Don’t be afraid of talking about the difficult stuff!
  7. Keep doing what you’re doing. Weird again, eh? Well the acts of love, of kindness that the CU show on campus is always amazing! God blesses you and will use what you do. Keep on showing love and spreading the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Keep on praying, keep on meeting, keep on singing. I was so blessed, especially in two of my years at the CU and I pray that God will bless your CU, wherever you are.

So I hope these points’ help and start something. I love CUs; I love what they stand for and what they are all about. I love how they might have been rejected by the Universities for their stances, because they are faithful! Yet they do need to improve, as we all do. Have a blessed year brothers and sisters at University.

Life of a Christian at University

In this post, I aim to discuss the life of a Christian at university; the difficulties, the witness, but also the joys and experiences that one will find. I have been at university for four years, doing a BA and then a MA at Winchester and it has been an experience! I have met many people, from all backgrounds, and I have become richer culturally speaking because of it. I have met people from different Christian backgrounds, agnostics, atheists and those of other religions. I have certainly learnt a lot from them all, and I thank God for such an experience. However, it has not been all plain sailing, and in this post I aim to address what it is like to be a Christian on campus and the difficulties we can face.

There are certainly a lot of pressures at university, to drink, to partake in sex before marriage and so forth. I was blessed by the fact that in my first year, my flatmates were completely understanding, and a few of them were Christians too. It was great going to the CU along with them, talking about God and encouraging each other, my non-Christian flatmates were also awesome, they never pressured me into doing anything and we had a lot of fun together. However, this isn’t always the case, and pressure can be tough to take, however, to take a stand for God is worth it, you realise you don’t need drink, sex or these things to make you happy or complete. In later blog posts I will discuss in more detail about the struggle with these individual items, particularly relationships. If you struggle with the pressure, then take it to the Lord in prayer, discuss it with him and talk to other Christians. Go to the CU for example and get involved, it is great to be around other Christians regardless of what background they have. In my first year, I had a great CU, great friends, and was greatly blessed, however, my case won’t be the same for all first year Christians. All I can say is that do not be discouraged, God is never far, he won’t let you go, his love never fails us! Once you have found yourself a great church that you feel at home at, whatever denomination (can even differ from the one you go to at home!), you will feel as though you have a home away from home!

Being a Christian on campus, means we have a great responsibility! We have a call to witness! Now this does not mean we go around forcing the gospel down people’s throats, dread to think what that would achieve! Our actions can speak louder than words, whether it is not swearing, or not going out to nightclubs, forgiving friends who have failed us, or to simply show love even in the darkest times, people notice these things and wonder why are they different? I have had many a good conversation with people about the Gospel, and I have hardly ever started any conversations myself! People are curious, and that is great, you don’t have to be going round saying “Jesus loves you” every five minutes, just show them by how you act. My biggest failing was that I never got involved in the CU properly, I attended events in my first year, but started to decline my attendances from 2nd year onwards, and it is shameful that I did. CU’s are called to evangelise, and have a great impact at University, whether its talking about the gospel or giving people tea and coffee on a Wednesday night to people who had been clubbing. The love shown at CU’s has been a great encouragement to me, and the desire for God never ceases to amaze. I have even had some amazing personal experiences, and I can only recommend them to people of all different denominations.

Being a Christian means that we are different from other students, but that doesn’t mean we keep ourselves in our little bubble and never talk to others! Many of my friends over the four years have been non-Christians and they have helped me as I have helped them. Do not feel as though you can only be friends with Christians, firstly it’s a bad witness, secondly you can learn so much from them, and learn more about human beings in general. University certainly moulded me as a person, I became more confident, I became crazier! Being at University moulded my faith; I began to trust God more and more. At uni, you will go through pain and hardship, I won’t make it sound like a fairy-tale, it isn’t. Do not however, be scared of it, God may call you to uni, he may not have, but if he has, take the challenge and be that light. Trust in the Lord, and if you wander, the Lord will bring you back, remember through the trials and temptations that he is standing next to you. Lean on him, let him carry you! I wish I had more and more when I look back. I messed up big time, and made some huge errors. We aren’t perfect, but God always brings us back, and that is just wonderful news.

Do not go to university expecting to find your one true love. In some ways, I thought I would, I was naïve in that. I will discuss relationships in more detail in the future as it needs an entire post dedicated to it, but I made mistakes, and it wasn’t good for my spiritual walk with Christ. Now you may find the perfect partner, that Christian girl or guy who is fantastic, many of my friends have, and I am really happy for them, but it isn’t guaranteed. Even though I tried, I have never had a Christian relationship, but God will put someone into our lives when we and that person are both ready. There is no rush, focus on the kingdom, and the people around you, and see what happens.

Another bit of advice would be about politics. Be careful! University is all about politics, it seems you have to either be really left wing or right wing, maybe that’s just me being sceptical, but don’t get drawn into needless political debates. It won’t solve anything, and will end up with people getting really angry and annoyed. I’m not saying do not get involved with politics, I truly believe that Christians should get involved as much as they can. What I suggest is to avoid all the petty arguments and hate. Learn to understand other points of view and respect others. Basically follow the example set by Jesus, as in all things!

I recommend that you should find a place to meditate.  A place where you feel at ease, where you feel inspired, or just a place that is quiet.  For me Winchester Cathedral was a fantastic place to go to, whether during the day or night.  I always found it easier to talk to God there, I could focus my mind better on him.  Of course God meets with us everywhere, and there is nothing special with the Cathedral, but places such as these can just help us focus, and allow us to clear our minds and can be a real blessing.

So in conclusion, university is a big step and change in one’s life, and it isn’t necessary easy. There will certainly be ups and downs, but is it worth it? For me personally, it was. It helped me build up my confidence, meet other people and learn so many lessons that I don’t think I would have learned anywhere else. University however, is not the be all and end all, you should not feel forced to go or feel it’s what everyone does so you should to. The life at university is not for everyone and no one should ever be ashamed for not going. However if you do go, then pray, and walk with the Lord, and who knows what might happen!