After nine years of college, five majors, and one school transfer, I’m starting my final semester for a bachelor’s degree in communication this week. If everything goes according to plan, this will be the last time I have my pre-semester huddle with myself to remember my class strategy:
I don’t tell people at school I am a Christian.
Immediately sharing my faith in a university setting has historically only closed doors for me. I would rather have my classmates get to know me- let them get to understand that I love them. Let them get the chance to know that I make jokes, not judgements. I bring snacks, not condemnation. My Bible is for reading, not beating. I ride to class on my bike, not hovering on a cloud of my own self-righteousness. (Too much? I’ll move on.)
I get frustrated when someone in class announces that he or she is a Christian on the first day. It is usually proclaimed with an air of superiority, as if this Christian title should grant instant moral authority. One might as well announce “Well I already know everything about morality and any decision I will ever have to make so don’t bother questioning me or even starting a conversation with me. I’m here to be right and to judge you who aren’t.”
So what are my hopes? In a class of 30, I want to actually get to know six or seven people, develop meaningful relationships with two or three of those, and then be able to actually share the gospel with one or two. Really, I like my faith to be a little bit of a mystery because it gives me the opportunity to be genuine with folks. It is not assumed that I’m anti-everything and anti-everybody and therefore having a conversation or questioning me should be avoided. Compare that to other semesters when, on the first day, I had to reveal I was a Christian because the professor asked where I worked- the only conversations I was able to have with my classmates was with a Republican who called himself a Christian also. And the only reason he talked with me about faith was because he expected me to side with him in his defense of the prohibition of Sunday alcohol sales. I didn’t.
You may be thinking that this seems like an extreme way to avoid judgement. To be clear; I always share when someone asks. And I always strive to be asked at some point in the semester by the group I form relationships with. When they ask I get to hold their attention for more than one word (“Christian”) which allows me to communicate a little bit more about why I believe.
So, college Christians- what has been your experience? Share on the first day or wait and build relationships?