Christian students struggle to share the gospel in secular university culture. Their faith is opposed by professors and students alike. Expressing their faith can lead to undesirable consequences. Still, God is using students to bless people who might not otherwise hear about Christ.
Christians should praise God for this opportunity but should be aware of the potential challenges and discouragements. During my time as an undergraduate student at a large public university, I learned ways to effectively overcome these challenges and share Christ.
Three Obstacles to Sharing the Gospel on a Public College Campus
As a student at a public college campus, I faced numerous discouragements in sharing the gospel. Generally, those obstacles fit into one of three categories.
Some students believe that Christians are hateful people who refuse to accept modern wisdom. Others believe that Christianity is simply about “being a good person,” which, in our culture, means not offending people and affirming people’s every decision.
Most students thought you had to be incredibly ignorant to take the Bible seriously. They were convinced that to accept and promote biblical morality was hateful. Consequently, few people considered Jesus’ call because they viewed Christianity as a step into irrelevant antiquity.
You can always be a faithful witness, but the fruitfulness of our witnessing comes from God.
It is tempting, but often misguided, to focus on changing these notions. When we focus too much on these preconceived notions, we can drift away from the gospel. We cannot completely control how others perceive Christian beliefs. God wants us to focus on what we can actually do through his grace. As Christians, we can focus on living the Christian life well and holding to Scripture’s teachings. We depend on the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth and change hearts. You can always be a faithful witness, but the fruitfulness of our witnessing comes from God.
Many professing Christians on college campuses have imbibed our secular culture’s view of social interactions. That is, “offending people or not affirming their every decision is wrong.” For this reason, many professing Christians may criticize and resist your efforts rather than support them. This can be discouraging, as it seems the biblical Christianity you wish to practice is thrust aside in favor of cultural appeasement. Efforts to alter biblical teaching to reflect our sin-filled culture make the faithful Christianity you’re sharing appear irrelevant and backward to unbelieving students. Though it might not seem like it, God will keep his promise to overcome unbelieving lies and spread the true faith to the ends of the earth (1 Cor. 15:25). Wait on the Lord with joy, because he is always moving his gospel forward.
Do your best to share the truth in love. Before you go to college, locate a church where faithfully spreading Jesus’ message is the members’ priority. Having Christians who support you will make a great difference in your evangelism.
Our own fears of being rejected by our peers can hinder us from sharing the gospel. Many of your classmates will assume that you’re on the same page with their beliefs. If you’ve developed friendships with non-Christians, you may be concerned about damaging them by sharing your faith.
God is always with us. Pray that God would remind you that it is a privilege to suffer for the gospel (Acts 5:41). Jesus warned, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” As Peter writes, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…” (1 Peter 3:14). The pain and shame we endure are nothing compared to the blessings God will bestow on His faithful children.
Four Things To Remember When You Share the Gospel on a Public College Campus
There are at least four important things to remember when sharing the gospel on public college campuses relating to our life and gospel advancement.
We often stumble into sin. Sometimes this happens in the unbeliever’s presence. Though we can’t be perfect, our obedience to Christ removes distractions from our evangelism. More than we realize, unbelievers watch our behavior more than they listen to our gospel presentations. Are you participating in sexual immorality? Are you known as someone who curses and slanders others? Most people will scoff at our faith if we tell them to repent but persist in sin. They will wonder what the point of the Christian faith is if there is no difference in conduct. Remember to cultivate a close relationship with Jesus while you tell people about him (Romans 2:22–24)
Many Christians won’t pursue friendships with unbelievers unless they convert. This can be off-putting to unbelievers and make them feel that you don’t actually care about them. Not every conversation has to be about the gospel. You can talk about common interests and attend events together because they are made in the image of God. We can be friends with unbelievers and get to know them. This must not become an excuse for sharing in their sins or damaging our witness, but an opportunity to show constant love (1 Corinthians 10:27-31). We should continue to love them by seeking opportunities to share Jesus and being an example of righteous living.
After You Share the Gospel
Conversations after gospel presentations will likely involve questions about how the Bible applies to different areas of life. It’s best to have a biblical understanding of justice, gender, sexuality, and morality because unbelievers will want to know the particulars of the Christian life to which you’re calling them.
Many Christians have carefully examined how the Bible applies to various areas of life, so I recommend searching for resources from authors who are unashamed of biblical truth. Proclaiming the good news of salvation through Christ is the first step, but teaching them obedience to Christ is the next (Matthew 28:20).
The Power Behind You
Matthew 28:19–20 teaches that the Church’s success in baptizing the nations and teaching them obedience is directly tied to Christ’s universal authority. God is actively working through your efforts to accomplish the Great Commission. Evangelism is letting people know that Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth, and through him, they can receive forgiveness and a relationship with God (Revelation 1:5, 1 Peter 3:18).
Sharing the gospel is an opportunity to remember that Jesus is trustworthy, wise, and always with us.
College campuses are often plagued with a culture of depravity, but no one is out of Christ’s gracious reach. God has saved prostitutes and even witches (Joshua 2:8–14, Acts 19:19). Be humble and remember that the only difference between you and the worst of unbelievers is the grace of God. God can save your non-Christian friends and classmates.
Press Forward and Share the Gospel Boldly on Public College Campuses
Evangelizing on public college campuses will bring great joys and discouragements. Some days you will feel like nothing can stop you from calling sinners to repentance and other days you will feel unbelievably weak and vulnerable. No matter what, Jesus is with you. He gives you the strength to walk boldly in his will. Sharing the gospel is an opportunity to learn that Jesus is trustworthy, wise, and always with us.