College is the time when young people emerge from the protective realm of their parents’ authority and venture into their own lives, lives which are affected by their own decisions. For many, this is an intensely freeing sensation, but it is also a fairly daunting one in some respects.
As a Christian, one of the hardest things about coming to college was leaving my home church. I had attended the same church since the time I was four years old. When I started school in a new city, I hadn’t really put much thought into where I would attend church while at college.
At first, it seemed like such an intimidating task. I was trying to find the place where I would receive a significant amount of my spiritual nourishment. I had to make sure it was perfect. I had to make sure the preacher was preaching solid doctrine, that the people were sincere, that Jesus was really acknowledged as King. The last thing I wanted was to settle in a church that didn’t speak truth. But I was no theologian. What qualified me to know what made a good church versus a bad church? I felt woefully ill-prepared, so I was intensely paranoid at the beginning of my “church hopping” experience. But, the longer my search lasted, the more comfortable with the task I became. The challenge, in and of itself, was bringing me closer to God.
When I walked into a new church, I wouldn’t know anybody there. I was a total stranger in that place. But for some miraculous reason, I never felt like I was visiting a church on my own. I always felt like it was me and the Holy Spirit exploring the place together. I would have this feeling of, “Okay God, it’s just you and me.” I felt urged to test these churches against what I knew to be true from Scripture. I admit, I don’t always think about consulting the Holy Spirit when I make a decision (something I should probably work on), but in this case specifically, it was an adventure to go through this experience with my God by my side, making the decisions together.
For the first time in my life, I was having to define the qualities in a church that really mattered to me. Every church I visited was a little different, and I learned something new about myself at each one. I learned what style of teaching really speaks to me. I learned what kind of atmosphere of worship helps me better approach the throne of grace. I learned that I disliked it when I could slip in and out of a church without being noticed, but that I loved it when people reached out and made an effort to know me.
I eventually found a church that satisfied each of these desires in my heart, and the time I spent searching for my church home was an intense blessing to my soul.
I remember what it was like church hopping when I was in school. It’s easy to get discourage if you don’t have the right mindset. I like your explanation of taking the Holy Spirit with you. I think it’s also important to remember that no church is perfect. They all have their flaws. What’s most important is that they view Jesus the right way and they have the right heart for His people.