I usually enjoy my trip to Houghton for the fall Trustee meeting, but this time, something really exhilarating happened. I was privileged to be invited late one evening to give a devotional message for the guys of 2nd West. Jed Boswell, a young man from Community Wesleyan, who lives on that dorm floor, extended the invitation. With joy, I learned that such meetings are a regularly scheduled event. Sometimes they were used for Bible study; sometimes to hash out ideas. They are well organized and include worship time and praying for each other. I shared briefly on the phrase Paul uses “until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19) and focused on the Greek verb which comes directly into English as the verb ‘to morph.’ We discussed together how Jesus is changing us, why it is a more difficult process than expected and how we can cooperate with what God is doing. The evening ended with reciting the 2nd West creed pledging to represent Christ well and singing the Doxology– typical Houghton tradition, deftly mixing traditional and contemporary in the informal liturgy of the evening. I encouraged the young men that what they were doing was a positive example of the words, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV).
I could not help but reflect on how different this was from what went on in hall corridors of the secular college I attended as an undergrad. For one thing, most of those who lived on my corridor sophomore year, I didn’t even know. My roommate smoked (strictly tobacco), another guy on the corridor had his girlfriend as his roommate. I felt isolated socially. That was a contrast from the year before but my previous roommate had flunked out and I nearly had. Neither of us had disciplined our time well—too many distractions. Thankfully, in my second year, some graduate students founded an Intervarsity Christian Fellowship on our campus and I started attending. It gave me the gift of positive spiritual encouragement that these guys in 2nd West are giving to one another regularly. Because of their growing relationships, they will form lifelong friendships with their dorm friends.
This evening experience reminded me why I make no apologies for encouraging parents strongly to send their teenagers to Christian colleges. Not everything is perfect there, for sure. But there are so many possibilities for spiritual encouragement and discipleship enrichment and growth that either do not exist or are not as accessible on a secular campus. Instead, on a campus such as I attended, the student encounters both direct and subtle pressures of various kinds to fall away from the faith. Before our daughter was very far in high school we told her we wanted her to choose a Christian college. She was completely free to choose which one, but since we were paying so much, we wanted to invest our money in something we could believe would be truly good for her. We have always been glad we took that position. It was an unexpected blessing when she chose her Mom’s Alma Mater – Houghton College.