The E Word: Sharing Faith at Uni
University can be a fantastic opportunity to share your faith. But it can also be challenging, especially when university and Christian culture can feel worlds apart. So as we continue The E Word series, we asked Eleanor Wolz to share some of the evangelism tips she’s learnt whilst studying at the University of Sheffield…
Before moving to university, I had never been surrounded by so many people open to trying new things; new sports, new societies… With this attitude of embracing the new I met so many friends, flat-mates and course-mates genuinely curious about exploring the possibility of a God, and open to hearing the gospel and trying church. The opportunities for evangelism felt endless and exciting.
It didn’t come without challenge though. University and Christian culture stand in stark contrast to one another – the striving for grades, for wages, to earn enough that you may be enough could not be more at odds to the truth that only in Jesus are we made enough. Add the drinking and sex culture on top of this and I was soon feeling as if there was a canyon between me and my new friends that didn’t know Jesus.
Perhaps it would have been easier to not out myself as a Christian, to just follow the crowd and the drinking games and avoid any awkwardness or arguments about God. Easier, maybe, but not half as fulfilling, as life-giving. The thing is, evangelism isn’t an optional extra, a side dish to Christianity. It is a direct instruction to disciples to make disciples of all nations. But past the laws and legalism, my greatest lesson learned in my two years at uni is what a joy, what an honour it is to be an ambassador for Christ, to introduce someone to Jesus and walk alongside them as they begin a relationship with Him. More than a demand or action, evangelism is an outpouring of worship, adoration and conviction that the news of Jesus Christ really is good news.
But it can still be scary! Maybe you struggle to find the confidence to tell people about Jesus or have never risen to the challenge before. Maybe you’re not a student yourself but know someone in uni seeking to live out their faith in a secular culture. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way on how to go about sharing your faith as a student:
1. Be yourself
There is a temptation to ‘reinvent yourself’ with a new beginning, to paint over flaws and insecurities and try to be whoever you want – or whatever will get you the most friends. Remember you are a child of God, you have a unique set of experiences, gifts and abilities that only you can contribute. There is freedom in a new start with no baggage, no reputation and no expectations. Take it as an opportunity to grow into the person God made you to be. Your story and your testimony of God hold power:
“Make your testimony tell of God’s grace and not sin’s disgrace.” – Mark Russell
2. Go together
Everyone is so desperate to find friends in freshers! And it makes sense; it is engrained in our human nature to desire relationships as we are designed in the image of a relational, trinitarian God. My church community and midweek house-group have been incredible blessings to me and a place of encouragement and prayer, where we build each-other up and send each-other out. We share meals together and serve the homeless community in the city together. We have a space to invite non-believers into where we can share the gospel just by living out the gospel.
Try church – try a few even! Find the people and place where you will choose to serve, to invest, and receive and share in the blessing of Christ-centred community.
3. Be prepared
There’s something about being a Christian that means I get asked about my moral and religious stance on controversial topics like abortion, gay marriage and science disproving God… sometimes even in the first half an hour of meeting someone!
That said, one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given is to use your uncertainty as an opportunity. You don’t know what the Bible says about the topic you’re being grilled on? GOOD. There is your invitation to invite them to open the Bible together, to invite them to see for themselves the Good News of Jesus Christ. It can be difficult to find a way to invite someone to read the Bible in the least awkward and uncomfortable way possible, but this is so easy. I didn’t think of it, so it isn’t cocky to say this is the Best. Advice. Ever.
4. Name drop Jesus
It is amazing how many chances you get to tell someone the gospel when you slide into conversation that you go to church, you’re a Christian, that you know Jesus Christ. Not convinced? Here’s an example:
You: (chatting and getting to know a new flatmate/housemate) Got anything planned for this weekend?
Them: Yeah, I’m going to X and meeting Y on Z. You?
You: I’m doing X on Saturday, and I’m going to church on Sunday.
EASY. That said; remember to actually listen rather than just shutting off your ears and waiting for you chance to mention church. Tried and tested – not cool. Jesus was compassionate and attentive, so we should be too. If they’re free when you’re going to church or Christian Union event, invite them! Remember church doesn’t require membership, let them know that everyone is welcome exactly as they are. No ‘if’s, no ‘but’s. Play around with the days too, ask what they’re doing in the week, mention your mid-week community and maybe invite them along. You’re smart people, you get the point.
5. Be confident
I don’t mean just in your social skills and intellectual competency – be confident in Christ. You will inevitably encounter people who disagree with you, who have been burned by the church, who will want to argue you into submission and out of faith. Be confident in Christ. This is His battle, not yours. Show grace, show love and acceptance, listen when their words make your stomach churn. They will hate you because they hated Jesus first (Matthew 10:22). Be confident in your identity and salvation. Be willing to lose the argument by your unwillingness to argue back, because it is not your fight to lose when by the blood of Jesus, the war has already been won.