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September 09, 2019

Finding a Church When You’re Starting College


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College is a wonderful season of life in which you will learn many things and mature, both intellectually and personally. If you moved to attend school, prioritize finding a good church. It is vital for your spiritual growth and maturity during these transformative years.

How are you to choose which church to attend during college? Historically, three marks have identified evangelical churches, and these marks can provide wisdom for you in choosing a church. They are proper…

  1. Teaching of the Gospel
  2. Administration of Baptism and Communion
  3. Church Discipline.

While parachurch ministries and even chapel services at Christian schools can be a blessing, they should not replace a local church. If you prioritize these three things, you’re likely to find a good church for your college years.

1. Biblical Preaching

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

First, look for a church that faithfully handles the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15). The whole Bible points to Jesus Christ, not to traditions or to a teacher (Luke 24:27; John 5:39). Thus, Christian worship and what is preached should be shaped by the Bible.

Gospel-centered churches have a reverence for the Bible, and therefore they receive the Word with gladness as the very word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). When faithfully preached in the power of the Spirit, God speaks to His people.

When you regularly hear God’s Word, you will grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). The Word of God is profitable and applicable for you today. It will train and equip you to live in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Regularly hearing faithful preaching is essential for your faith at all times—that includes your time in college.

Be cautious about choosing a church based on its popularity, size, or activities. Your soul will not be nourished by those things. Go to a church where the Word is an imperishable treasure (1 Peter 1:24-25), and where people live by the very Word of God (Matthew 4:4). Go to a church where, every week, the gospel is proclaimed and the Bible is explained.

2. Valued Ordinances

Second, it is important to consider if your prospective church values baptism and communion.

After His resurrection, Christ appeared to His disciples, and He commissioned them to plant churches by teaching and baptizing new believers (Matthew 28:18-20). Baptism symbolizes a believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection, and it illustrates how the blood of Christ washes away sin.

Likewise, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus instituted the New Covenant meal of the bread and cup. At the Lord’s Table, Christians partake in remembrance of Christ’s death and forgiveness, as well as celebrate in anticipation of Christ’s return and the marriage supper of the Lamb (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Your convictions about baptism and the Lord’s Supper are important enough that they should inform what church you attend. Worship where you agree with the mode and theology of these ordinances, and do not observe these ordinances thoughtlessly or in less appropriate settings. When you celebrate these properly in the context of the local church, Christ is glorified.

Evangelical churches practice these ordinances because they exalt Christ and illustrate the gospel. They affirm, nourish, and strengthen a believer’s faith. When you regularly see them with your church family, they should point you to the gospel.

3. Church Membership

Third, I encourage you to not float around from church to church when at school. You need the community of a local church, and they need you. Whether on Sunday mornings or in a small group throughout the week, the mutual encouragement of Christians glorifies God and is good for your faith (Hebrews 10:24-25).

The best way you can be part of a local church is by becoming a church member. Just as you pay attention to professors and administrators because they are keeping watch over your studies and grades, submit yourself to the teaching and authority of pastors and other leaders of the church.

God gave the local church leaders equip Christians with the gospel and to help congregations mature (Ephesians 4:11-13), and they are accountable to him, to keep watch and care for your soul (Hebrews 13:17).

Membership values both authority and fellowship, and when you commit to being part of a local congregation of God’s people, they will watch over your life and doctrine, as well as encourage you in your academic studies (1 Timothy 4:16).

Go to a church where you can be a committed member of the congregation all throughout your college years. Emulate godly church leaders and honor them by becoming a member (Hebrews 13:7).

Go to Church

When you go to college, do not neglect to meet with other Christians in a local church, for Christianity is not a solo experience. The Christian life is a Word-saturated life. In church, you will regularly hear and see the gospel with other believers through the singing, praying, reading and preaching of the bible.

If you are a Christian and have never been baptized, get to know a faithful congregation and be baptized so that you can grow and enjoy the Lord’s promises with other believers. Then seek the Lord’s further blessing when you come around the Lord’s Table.

Emulate your pastors, elders and small group leaders, and seek to grow in personal holiness. Become a faithful member of a gospel-proclaiming church during college, for when you do, your faith will abound. Being part of a church is more than a formality; it is the family of God.

David Tank

David is the pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Sheldon, Iowa, and a former Pastoral Resident of Unlocking the Bible at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church. David holds a B.A. from Sterling College in Kansas, and a M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his wife, Sarah, have one son.
David is the pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Sheldon, Iowa, and a former Pastoral Resident of Unlocking the Bible at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church. David holds a B.A. from Sterling College in Kansas, and a M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his wife, Sarah, have one son.