Youth Group? Never been. Bible Study? What’s that? My pastor? Don’t have one. I grew up in a Christian home but did not have any of these common support systems. Why? Because my family left the church when I was about eight. I have spent over half my life without a Christian community. My parents did the best they could to demonstrate and encourage faith-filled living, but it simply wasn’t enough. Iron sharpens iron, and a community of believers is necessary for the growth of a young Christian.
All I can remember about leaving the church is our weekly attendance dropping to sporadic appearances until we stopped going altogether. I was too young to understand the reasons we left. All I knew was that there was an issue with the pastor, and my parents felt that it would be better to simply have church at home. The Sunday commute was replaced by a short walk to the living room as we tuned into online worship services. After worship, my parents would teach a “Sunday school” lesson for my younger brother and me.
Our new Sunday routine eventually dissolved into simply listening to sermons in the car on the way to hockey games or family outings. This was not the fault of my parents, as they both held full-time jobs, and compensated for traditional Sunday worship with daily worship and prayer. My parents instilled in us the idea that our personal relationship with God matters more than merely having perfect attendance at church. This is a lesson that I still value, and one that kept my faith alive during this season of my life.
However, when I entered middle school, I really began to struggle with my faith. I attended public school, and my family remained my only Christian community. I had a few friends who shared my beliefs, but not a group I could rely on for spiritual growth. I had lost the simple childlike faith we all possess in our younger years and was running on the fumes of basic Christian ideals. I felt very alone.
By the end of high school, my faith was hanging on by a thread. I truly believed Jesus died for my sins, but I didn’t know anything beyond that. I felt lost. I felt empty and desperate, ashamed to admit that I was a Christian for fear of further ostracization. These feelings would immediately be followed by severe guilt. Without the support of a Christian community, my faith was in danger.
The fear of losing my walk with Christ drove me to pursue a Christian college. While faith was a piece of myself I had often wrestled with, I knew it was the part of me I most valued. I wanted to save it and felt as though it was not strong enough to endure a secular college experience. Unlike most people, I only applied to three schools: Sacred Heart University, Gordon College, and the University of Maine at Farmington. SHU is a private Catholic University, and even though I am not Catholic, the school’s devotion to the Christianity was enough for me. UMF was my safety school, my last resort. I applied to Gordon College on a whim. When it was time to make decisions, I felt God pointing me towards Gordon, despite getting into SHU, which was my first choice. Gordon College snuck to the top of my list until I found myself accepting the offer.
I am now in my second year at Gordon, and my faith is stronger than it has ever been. I still have days where I struggle, but I have learned that times of doubt are common and can strengthen one’s faith. It was not just having a home church or attending chapel that saved my faith; the church is not a building. It is a community. With fellow believers, I have been able to discuss my beliefs openly, pray in community, and study through a Christ-centered lens. These are the simple things many Christians take for granted, but they are essential support in our walks with Christ.
Not only does Christian community support us in our faith journeys, but it is also a place where the Holy Spirit is active.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” Matthew 18:19-20 NIV.
There is a reason that worship at Catacombs is so rejuvenating. To have intimate time with God among others is something powerful. Two or three is all it takes for Christ to move among them. Coming to Gordon allowed me to experience the Holy Spirit in a way I had not been able to for a long time.
Christian community also reminds us that worship is not just for chapel. As students, we are called to study with a Christ-centered perspective. This is a form of worship. We honor God by studying His world and all He has created. A community called together to worship through learning is a powerful one.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17 NIV.
We worship the Lord through our studies, and “sharpen” one another. We exchange ideas, engage in discussion, and pray our way through exams. I can learn and explore with fellow believers by my side, and we are united toward one goal: bringing glory to Christ and the Kingdom.
That is a powerful thing.
Support from a community of fellow believers has grown my faith like never before. Experiencing God with others has rejuvenated my soul. Community is something that many Christians take for granted, but it is essential to our faith. Without community, we cannot learn and grow with one another. We cannot support each other in prayer or call down the Spirit in worship together. I am proud to say, I have found God in many ways through the Gordon community. I urge you to take every opportunity to engage in Christ-centered relationships, whether that’s in Chapel, or with your close friends. Remember, it only takes two or three gathered in His name to do amazing things.
Categories: Faith, Student Life