I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be a Christian at University, and how exactly I/we fit into society and the church. I have often marvelled at how the life a student leads is perpetually estranged from the “real world”, and how we as students tend to warmly embrace this unhealthy notion by pro-actively ensuring that our contact with those outside of University circles is restricted to a few words over a shop counter. The average modern day student, Christian or not, seems to have a chip in their brain which convinces them that they are the centre of the world/ are in some way different to the rest of society in terms of what they are entitled to. Admittedly the blame does not fall completely at the feet of the student – you need only walk down the High Street to see that shops and businesses have identified students as a key target market in their advertising campaigns – but It saddens me that this is a particularly common problem within Christian circles. That sounds a little harsh, I know, but please give me a couple of minutes to provoke a thought or two.
In relation to my introductory paragraph, I would like to call into question the helpfulness of the infamous “Student Cell Group.” I’m aware that they’re hardly a new phenomenon, and most churches these days seem to have adopted them into their vision, but I’m unconvinced that they hold a great deal of value [although I do appreciate that there are advantages to them]. I was having a conversation with my Pastors at the beginning of the summer about how to cater for the students at my home church, and they were quick to point out that students, of all people, do not need “catering” for. Students have the most time and energy out of everyone so surely, they reasoned, it is only logical that we are the ones doing the giving? We discussed the pros and cons of setting up a student study group at the church, and arrived at the conclusion that it was neither a biblical nor a beneficial move for the students and church alike. Why, Pastors Roy and Ryan reasoned, should students feel the need to separate themselves from the rest of the church when in Jesus’ eyes they are deemed the same as all other adults? At what age do young adults stop considering themselves to be walking the Christian faith differently to other folk in the church and instead embrace the wisdom and experience that they can glean from those who have already been through University and the world of work?
This also raises the question as to where in the Bible we are instructed to slice the church into age brackets and enforce exclusivity. I would suggest that a glance at the Early Church shows us that folk from every background imaginable met together and enjoyed one another’s fellowship. I’m aware that it’s much more cosy/easy to just hide away from everyone else in our little student world and set up what I now like to call “Cell lite” [because how can we get the full meat out of a discussion if everyone involved has the same experience?], but Jesus doesn’t instruct us to seek out convenience and exclusivity. Church is about meeting under Jesus’ name with all of his family together – young, old, poor, rich, funny, annoying. Sometimes you have to put up with it, but tolerance teaches patience and patience is a fantastic Fruit of the Spirit. Can we get a more perfect example of how to do fellowship than Jesus, who spent loads of time hanging out with some spectacularly diverse groups of people from many different walks of life? Acts 20:35 and Leviticus 19:32 also spring to mind.
You [the young adult] also have to remember that when you go to a mixed-age house group, you become an incredible blessing to the elderly folk with whom you have fellowship. Imagine yourself, if you will, at the age of 80. Do you not think it would be a little saddening to see a Christian generation growing up intent on separating themselves from you and your peers and you’re not really sure why. When the young you shows a desire to invest time and interest into sharing your Christian experiences with the unemployed man in his mid-40s or the 60 year-old cleaning lady, it is immeasurably more rewarding than discussing the quotidian nuances of University life. Although it is not always the case, most Christians tend to grow in maturity and wisdom through time. That man in his mid 40s and that 60 year old lady will have an excellent grasp of the scriptures and a wiser head upon their shoulders. Obviously I generalise somewhat, but it’s undeniably a trend. Does your church have mixed-age cell groups? If so, I encourage you to attend one of them.
I appreciate that there are a lot of stones that I’ve left unturned, some of them rather heavier than others. I hope you have felt sufficiently challenged by this article to leave a comment, drop me an email or – even better – just “Go For The Hard Cell”.