Photo by Katrina Warme
Religion is a pretty nebulous idea for most college students, even at a Christian school like Pepperdine. All faith journeys are valid, whether you are firm in your religious views, searching for answers or not interested at all, but I believe that the answers to the search for religious validity can be found in a church community.
Lots of college students hop from church to church for many reasons. They are tired of parents, pastors and other authority figures telling them what to do. They can’t find a church that perfectly matches their beliefs. They don’t like the idea of being tied down to a specific congregation. Or they are too far away from churches of their denomination.
However, when you push past these thinly veiled excuses, they don’t establish the reason why church-hopping is necessary or preferable. Church hopping gives you many options, but it doesn’t allow for true connections and deep relationships. This meaningful sense of community is one of the main purposes of religion and what human beings crave.
Humans seek to find something in common with those around them. Finding those who share the same faith as you while struggling through college can help with stress and the unavoidable faith crises. However, having friends of different faiths and Christian denominations is equally important to remain culturally aware and to prepare for the diversity of the real world. Pepperdine presents an unparalleled opportunity to establish yourself and ground your beliefs in a faith community.
The purpose of church is not to simply check it off as one of your religious duties for the week. You don’t get bonus points at the end of your life for sitting in a pew for an hour. Church is not just a refuge when you need it or to attend only on Christmas and Easter. It isn’t there to make you happy or perfect. Sometimes religious leaders say strikingly relevant and uncomfortable things, but this doesn’t mean you should move on to the next church on your list and never look back. Church isn’t supposed to always make you feel warm and cuddly; it takes you out of your comfort zone while still allowing you to be comfortable in a community.
Religion represents something higher, bigger and more important than your or anybody else’s feelings. Perhaps you need to hear the message that is being preached. It might not be what you want to hear, and it might be easier to move on to a different church, go with a different friend or switch denominations. The church-hopping culture we have at Pepperdine certainly makes it easier. However, sticking with a church for longer than one Sunday service can make all the difference.
When you stop hopping around long enough to put down roots with a church, the community and shared vision of those around you becomes apparent. Churchgoers everywhere should be welcoming, but if you only appear sporadically, sitting in the back pew and never talking to anyone, how are you supposed to form relationships?
Hebrews 10:25 addresses the idea of community in worship: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The early church followed Jesus to the death, quite literally. As he spoke of turning away from sin and of matters of adultery, greed and divorce, his followers must have been uncomfortable. However, at the first sign of awkwardness, they didn’t jump ship into the Sea of Galilee; they followed him to the end, because hearing his message and establishing a close community with one another was most important.
Finding a church where you can ground yourself matters. The church community is a place where one can teach, love, support and critique each other in the best ways. We are able to help each other grow in faith when we develop this community. Maybe we should follow in the footsteps of the apostles and seek friendship and community with each other.
Follow Lauren Davila on Twitter: @LaurenGilmore03