Nearly every Christian teen going off to a secular university has a desire to share their faith and really make a difference for the cause of Christ. Many Christians walk into a classroom or a dorm room ready to change the world, one convert at a time. While the aim is good, this approach often leaves something to be desired.

Match a brash technique with a world that thinks Christians are people who can't think for themselves and you've got a recipe for disaster. Witnessing on a college campus is both an intellectual and social pursuit. Now is the time to think about how you will approach your college professors and fellow students, be an excellent witness, and keep your faith in tact.


1. Study up.

Expose yourself to different ways of seeing the world. Educate yourself on the basics of the philosophies/religions. By understanding how other people think, you will be able to find common ground, hot spots of contention, and opportunities to show the difference between your faith and theirs. The more worldview savvy you become, the better equipped you are to speak intelligently to those who disagree with you. See 1 Peter 3:15.


It's equally important that you brush up on your Bible knowledge. Know what the Bible really says about things like drinking, sex, interacting with others, etc. This way you can be prepared to clear up misunderstandings people have about God and help people see the wisdom found in The Good Book.

For some good resources see the "helpful resources" list below.

2. Listen up.

There's more to speaking up than talking. According to Proverbs 18, "Speaking before listening is both stupid and rude," (The Message).  Listening is more than just waiting for someone else to stop talking before you interject your ideas. A person is more likely to respect you if they feel listened to and understood. In other words, if you really pay attention to what others are saying, you'll have more opportunities to share God's love with your friends and peers. Ask thoughtful questions. Think critically about their responses by asking yourself questions like: Why do they feel this way? Do they have a situation in their past that has soured them? Are they looking for truth? Be okay with occasional silence.


3. Love up.

If you neglect to love, you've missed the boat entirely. That's what it's all about. Like the apostle John says, "The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love-so you can't know him if you don't love," 1 John 4:7-8 (The Message). There are a number of ways to show love to others:

Attitude. An attitude of humility and respect toward those who disagree with you will help you make strides in your relationship. Keep a cool head and keep your anger at bay. Remember that even though they may say unkind things to you, God loves them. They matter to Him and thus they matter to you.


Actions. Showing you really care for others can leave an indelible mark on them. Offer to study together, invite them to parties (not just those with a religious agenda), take them to the campus clinic when they're sick, etc. Small things add up to greater eternal rewards.

Caring. Offer to pray for them. As certain people share their struggles and concerns with you, show compassion.


Note: Lessons in loving others are often less about them than it is about you. Pay attention to what God wants you to learn through this whole process.

4. Live it up.

This boils down to practicing what you preach. 1 John 2:4-6 in The Message says, "If someone claims, 'I know him well!' but doesn't keep his commands, he's obviously a liar. His life doesn't match his words. But the one who keeps God's word is the person in whom we see God's mature love. This is the only way to be sure we're in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived."


If you live God's way, you're bound to stand out on a college campus. Read up on how Jesus lived and pay special attention to who he hung out with. He spent his time with prostitutes, fishermen, tax collectors, and other less-than-perfect people. He probably heard more than his share of curse words and knew more than his share of questionable characters. And he loved them into the kingdom one by one. However, be wise. Don't put yourself in a dangerous situation. Make sure you can interact with these folks without getting yourself into trouble.

5. Speak up.

When God opens a door for you to share His message of love, do. Saturate your words in prayer and be bold. Speak knowledgeably and kindly, but don't compromise your stance. They will respect you more for sticking by your convictions than being wishy-washy. Expect to make mistakes and be willing to be questioned. Go for it!


And remember, God wants those on your college campus to come into relationship with him even more than you do. You may not see the end result in this lifetime, but God will use you if you are willing.

Helpful Resources:

 

How to Stay Christian in College

New Evidence That Demands a Verdict

 

Faith Has Its Reasons (NavPress)


When Critics Ask


This article originally posted February 17, 2004.

Lisa Marshall is a 2000 graduate of the University of Colorado. She currently works for The Navigators in Colorado Springs, CO.