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Is religion what your students really want?

August 14, 2016

Ever had a rice cake? I gave them to my baby once. Until I tried them.

It’s crispy air disguised as food. It’s like Styrofoam, only it tastes worse and has no nutritional value.

Isn’t this also what college students think of being a Christian?

It’s a list of do’s and don’ts that even Jesus would have a hard time choking down.

Religion, it’s like rice cakes—mostly air, very little substance…and deep down, students know it.

Do’s of Religion

Be a good person: go to church and small group, read your Bible, pray, give money, get good grades, speak nicely to others, and if you’re really going for it, go on a mission trip to help build something or clean up debris.

Don’ts of Religion

Don’t be a bad person: don’t watch bad movies, don’t listen to bad music, don’t drink or smoke, don’t have sex before marriage, cuss, or go to Padre Island for spring break.

Longing for More

Many who grow up in the church, whether they do “bad” things or not, often wonder, “Is this it? Is this the abundant life Jesus promised?”

They have eaten rice cakes all their lives and watch others doing it, saying, “doesn’t it taste like Doritos?” They long for more than religion, and rightly so.

They long to experience:

  • Christ and His transforming power in their lives,
  • deep community with others where they are really known
  • a life living for a cause much bigger than themselves—something that gives their lives eternal significance; something worth dying for.

I find that if my students experience these three things, their lives are full of Jesus; full of beauty, intimacy, risk, passion, joy, and adventure.

This is what they’re missing. This is what they want. And this is what we as campus ministry leaders need to give them.

Get them out of their comfort zones and challenge them to take risks for God’s glory and their own growth.

Get them into smaller settings where they can be real with others, where they are still loved and accepted, but also genuinely challenged.

Help them cultivate holy habits that exercise their souls, such as fasting, solitude, and meditation.

There are many other holy habits that we’ve lost over the years that are so good for our souls. Check out Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline for more on this.

It’s simple, yet so elusive. No recipe exists to ensure our students experience these three things. But they are what we strive for, pray for, and labor for.

Vitally connected to God. Vitally connected to God’s family in authentic relationships. And vitally connected to God’s mission to spread His glory to every people group on the planet.

If you aren’t experiencing Jesus this way in your life, then you cannot help your students live this way.

Take them from rice cake religion to what it really means to follow Jesus as He intended: purposefully, wildly, abundantly, joyfully, with all you are and all you have.

Your student is right, there is so much more than religion.