The First Sunday
My oldest son is a freshman in college, so I’ve thought about this question: What is that important piece of advice for a graduating high school student heading off to college? Or if it’s not college, just to life on his own or her own? There are so many things we want to say, but one of the simplest, most important decisions that someone’s going to make that first weekend when they’re at college—that first Saturday or that first Sunday when they’re off in their own apartment—is whether or not on that Sunday morning they’re going to go to church.
It sounds so simple, but it’s so easy to miss that. There is no lone ranger Christianity. Remember John Stott, who was not given to overstatement. He was very proper, very British, very measured. Remember a line in one of his books that says, “An unchurched Christian is a grotesque anomaly.”
To be a Christian is to be a part of the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is to be made visible. Just think of that image of the church as the body of Christ. Christ is the head. It would be a grotesque thing as a Christian to say, “I don’t need the body. I just have the head.” Decorpulation is “I do away with the body.” If you just think you have you and Jesus, that’s like saying, “I just want a severed head with me in a bucket walking around.”
You don’t want the body? You just want the head? Or think of the image of the church as a bride. You want to disrespect Jesus’s bride? Or the church as a building; that's like saying Christ is the foundation. You’re just going to have a basement and you’re not going to build something upon it? Nobody drives around town and sees a foundation in the ground and thinks, “That’s ready. I’m going to go live there.” They understand that foundation is to be built upon.
And so the young person just stepping out on their own for the first time has to make that decision. What am I going to do when there’s no one to make me get up and go to that church?
To be a Christian is to be a part of the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is to be made visible.
Live streaming isn’t the same. That’s not church. You may get teaching through that, but that’s not embodied. That’s not what God means for us to do. And so on that first occasion, when you have to make that decision, it’s those little things. We so often focus, especially with young people, on the big decisions of where you’re going to go to school, where you’re going to live, who you’re going to date, who you’re going to marry, or what you’re going to major in that we miss those little decisions. And sometimes it’s that first opportunity you have to establish what maybe your parents made you do your whole life. And now when they can’t make you do it, are you going to do it on your own for yourself?
Get up, drive somewhere, get a ride, figure it out, and show up in church with people who aren’t a part of your campus group. They aren’t all the same age. They don’t sing all the songs that you like. They aren’t doing all the same things you’re doing. It’s a little awkward, but you press through that and you get up and you go to church. That is absolutely indispensable for setting a young person—or any person—on a trajectory of lifelong faithfulness and obedience to Christ.
Kevin DeYoung is the author of Do Not Be True to Yourself: Countercultural Advice for the Rest of Your Life.
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The further into college you step, the more you realize that what you thought was the destination is really only an incredible depot for decisions.
Kevin DeYoung talks about how Christians (parents and non-parents alike) can help children to trust Jesus, embrace the Bible, and love others—even those with whom we disagree.
Kevin DeYoung argues that the last thing that God wants us to do is be true to ourselves, at least when it comes to our natural selves.