How to Share the Gospel on a Christian College Campus - Radical

How to Share the Gospel on a Christian College Campus

If you look up the hashtag “christiancollege” on TikTok, you’ll find thousands of videos sharing horror stories of perceived legalism, toxic dating culture, and spiritual manipulation. Of the students who attended a Christian college, those who are most vocal about their experience neglect to discuss the key element that distinguishes a Christian college from a secular university: the gospel.

Recognize the Need for Sharing the Gospel

As someone who attended a large Baptist university, there is some degree of truth behind the negative cultural narratives surrounding Christian higher education. However, attending a Christian college was an overwhelmingly edifying experience for me and many of my peers as we grew in our love for Jesus and his gospel.

The reality is, a Christian college campus is far from the utopia of doctrinally aligned believers that the pamphlets might lead one to perceive. Like any campus, there are people with different stories, pasts, struggles, and beliefs.

How Do We Share the Gospel on a Christian College Campus?

The status of one’s heart and eternal destiny should never be assumed, as they so often are at Christian universities. Where there are people, there will always be a need for gospel proclamation (Romans 10:14–15). So, how can we share the gospel on a Christian college campus?

Three Types of Lost Students

Students attend Christian schools for a wide range of reasons. This makes it unwise to assume that all students decide to attend a Christian college because of their faith. There are three general categories where lost or struggling students often find themselves in faith-based settings.

The Nominal Christian

The “nominal Christian” is the student who intellectually believes in God and may attend church occasionally but has not experienced the transforming work of the Spirit.

As Dean Inserra explains in his book The Unsaved Christian,

Many people think they’re Christians but have no concept of the severity of sin, the necessity of repentance, the message of grace, or the overall message of the gospel. They think they’re just fine with God and God is fine with them because they aren’t atheists and have been to church before as a kid.

These students are comfortable with God as long as God does not interfere with their comfort. We are called to share the gospel with the nominal Christians on a Christian campus.

The Jaded Student

This student may have enrolled with excitement about exploring ideas of faith but quickly felt alienated by unfamiliarity with Christian culture. While God had previously interested them, this student now feels “spiritually overwhelmed” by the change in context. In order to avoid further confusion and confrontation, this student retreats from God and chooses spiritual apathy. We are called to share the gospel with the jaded students on a Christian campus.

The Cynical Student

This student finds himself overwhelmed and alienated by a predominantly Christian context. Everyone here seems fake, and their motives are constantly being brought into question. This student feels that “faith” is simply social currency at a Christian college, and they may be partially correct. This student is burdened by doubt, frustration, and loneliness, which leads to a generally cynical disposition towards God and spiritual authorities. We are called to share the gospel with the cynical students on a Christian campus.

The Desperate Need for the Gospel

These are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive, as many students can probably relate to all three to varying degrees. Each category simply represents a trend that I observed while attending a Christian university.

All three of these students share a desperate need for the good news of Jesus.

All three of these students share a desperate need for the good news of Jesus. When sharing the gospel, it is helpful to understand how someone’s context might warp their view of God. This allows us to offer a better and more biblically accurate picture of Jesus to a burdened heart.

Kingdom, Not Culture

Gospel proclamation in a thoroughly Christianized context should be characterized by an emphasis on kingdom over culture. With many lost Christian college students feeling disillusioned towards faith-based cultural constructs, we must be diligent in preaching Christ’s kingdom, not Christian culture.

Transcendence of Christ’s Message

When surrounded by Christian buzzwords, faith-related social events, and Bible classes, it is easy for one to miss out on the transcendent nature of Christ’s message. As Colossians 1:16 reminds us, “all things were created through him and for him.”

Jesus’ message is one that touches every area of our lives and gives us an eternal hope that far transcends the mechanisms of American Christianity. By emphasizing the transcendence of Christ’s message, we redirect the cynic’s eyes from the authorities they may doubt to a Savior they can trust. Jesus is a cosmic Redeemer whose greatness and grandeur cannot be overemphasized when sharing the Gospel.

Intimacy with Christ’s Heart

Regardless of the type of university one attends, the college experience is largely characterized by restlessness. This restlessness can be amplified when one’s peers speak often of a relationship with a God he or she feels distant from.

As Dane Ortlund explains of Christ’s heart in Gentle and Lowly,

We are not told that he is ‘exalted and dignified in heart.’ We are not even told that he is ‘joyful and generous in heart.’ Letting Jesus set the terms, his surprising claim is that he is ‘gentle and lowly in heart.’

When sharing the gospel, we would be in error to emphasize Christ’s greatness and transcendence without pairing this with a discussion of Christ’s meekness.

When sharing the gospel, we would be in error to emphasize Christ’s greatness and transcendence without pairing this with a discussion of Christ’s meekness.

The “spiritual anxiety” that many lost students on Christian campuses experience can only be remedied by an encounter with the gentle heart of Christ. True rest is found in intimacy with the Savior.

The Urgency of Christ’s Call

Wherever Jesus went, He preached a message that demanded a response with eternal consequences. This sense of urgency is often lost or forgotten in contexts where faith in Christ is expected and, therefore, assumed. The enemy would love for Christian college students to assume two things when it comes to campus evangelism.

First, the overwhelming majority of their peers are walking with the Lord. Second, those who are lost will eventually have the gospel preached clearly to them because they attend a Christian school. Both assumptions are false and dull the sense of urgency that comes with the gospel. We should carry and communicate this sense of urgency to those who hear the gospel.

Fruit of Christ’s Lordship

As previously discussed, Christian colleges are full of students with a head-level understanding of the gospel who live lives characterized by unrepentant sin and general fruitlessness. Our urgency in sharing the gospel on these campuses should not be that more students would simply comprehend the gospel, but that more students would have their hearts entirely transformed by the gospel.

Our urgency in sharing the gospel on these campuses should not be that more students would simply comprehend the gospel, but that more students would have their hearts entirely transformed by the gospel.

This means emphasizing Christ’s lordship over the life of the genuine believer and explaining that a redeemed life should not be characterized by unrepentant sin. In doing so, we should be encouraging healthy spiritual self-inventory while being careful not to preach works-based righteousness. As Martin Luther once said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”

Christ Crucified

While these points of emphasis are helpful when engaging with students on Christian campuses, believers should find peace in the fact that the gospel message itself is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). This means that wherever Christ crucified is preached, the Lord is able to bring about salvation. As we go to our schools with this message, let us find rest in the sovereign power of God while embracing the urgency of his good news.

Colton Lee is the Youth Minister of Redeemer Church in Apex, North Carolina. He is an M.Div. Student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He graduated from Liberty University with a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies.

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