David E. Koltenbah
Congratulations! You've just graduated from high school and are going off to college this fall. Fine. More than half of the nation's high school graduates are going to college these days, so watch out you don't get trampled as you head out for those ivy halls!
When you get to my age you may note the appearance of a bulge at the equator and the disappearance of some foliage at the North Polar Region. Perhaps you'll understand then how some of us older citizens feel this compulsion to give advice to the young. It's sort of like the instinct of the salmon to fight his way upstream and spawn before he dies. Well, actually I'm not that old. I'm about half way between the age for whom "rock" is a kind of sound made with musical instruments, and the age for whom "rock" is the primary daily activity carried on with the use of a chair with runners on the legs. But folks my age have more advice for the young than a hippy has hair.
Oh, I could give you a lot of it, I could. But if you are a young Christian, I only have one word for now. When you go off to college, put the Lord first. Specifically, how?
Let's assume you have already chosen your college and the general curriculum you will study. You have already decided, perhaps only tentatively, upon a career you will pursue. If you put Christ first in making those decisions, if you picked a profession in which you can faithfully serve Him, then you're the one I'm talking with.
Before you go off to college this fall, locate the nearest faithful congregation of God's people. (If there isn't one near the college of your choice, you'd better think again about the wisdom of that choice). Your preacher will help you locate the church nearest your college. Now before school opens this September, take your family and go visit that congregation. Get acquainted with the brethren there. If you don't have your own car in college (many colleges do not permit freshmen to have cars on campus), make sure the local brethren will provide you a way to services if you can't take a bus or find your own way. They'll be glad to help.
Ask the brethren for an opportunity to serve in that church. They'll know your time will be very restricted while you are in school, but they'll appreciate it if you are willing to lead singing, wait on the Lord's Table, lead in prayer, help out-in the nursery, etc.
Don't expect the brethren to entertain you while you are in their community to go to college. Let's hope they will have you to their homes occasionally even often but remember that you are there to serve, not be served. Expect the local church to give you the opportunity to serve.
As your time permits, visit some of the sick in the church. Visit some of the aged. Nothing so encourages the aged as the sparkle of youth. When you get homesick, go encourage the lonely. You'll be surprised what it will do for him -- and you.
And of course be faithful in church attendance. It's an awful temptation to miss services because of school work. Sometimes it can't be helped. You may have a class or seminar at night which unavoidably may prevent your attending the local gospel meeting. But watch out that you don't begin to rationalize absenteeism. For the most part, if you plan your time wisely, you can still attend services and get up your assignments, write your themes, and hit the books. And that goes for cramming for those all important exams, too! And I know it can be done. Why, I went to school so long that my professors began to wonder if I would graduate first or retire first. My friends said that I was a professional student! And -- if you'll permit this old salmon to flop a little -- I never once missed a service of the local church in all that time because of school work. You may have to, I'll grant that. But if I were a gambling man, I would bet a quarter to the hole in a doughnut, that with a little wise use of your time with very, very few exceptions, you won't have to.
And I don't have to tell you to be careful of your companionships. You know that already.
Finally, don't allow your faith to be shaken. (If you're going to Florida College, you shouldn't have this problem. But you all are not going there this fall. ) If you have been grounded in the faith by God-fearing parents and by a concerned church back home, you probably will come through fine. The extent to which your faith may be assailed will depend in part upon the course of study you major in, the attitude of your professors (some will be kindly tolerant of your convictions, but some will not), but it will depend mostly on the training you received before you went off to college. But the primary assault upon your faith will be of a social, and not an academic, character. You'll likely be far more sensitive about what your fellow students think of you than what your professors think of you. If you lose your faith--if you really had it to begin with--it will be because of pride. So be humble in your acquisition of knowledge. Or it will be because of social and intellectual conformity. So be independent! It takes a greater measure of independence and personal freedom to be a Christian than to lose your faith. You can lose your faith by not standing for anything.
This is why I urge you to be faithful to the Lords church in the college town. You'll keep your bearings always if you're associated warmly with God's people. If you run into problems, talk it over with them. The local preacher will be more than glad to help. And don't forget your brethren back home. They haven't forgotten you, and they are praying for your success.
Say! I didn't intend to write so much. And I certainly don't intend to make college sound so scary to a young Christian. The danger of going off to college to a young Christian isn't really all it has been "cracked up" to be, in my opinion. The real danger is that your earlier training in the home and in the home congregation has been neglected. Oh, I pray that this is not the case with you.
I hope my good friend, Editor Cecil Willis, will publish this little note in time to help you out a little before September. If you live in the Midwest and are coming to Ball State University, come visit us at the North Broadway church here in Muncie before school starts, if at all possible. In any event please give me a ring at home or at my office on the campus when you come here to school. If you're going to some other university, you can probably find a Christian to contact on or off campus, so you'll be among brethren and friends. As I suggested earlier, your home town preacher can locate such contacts, or you can write to Editor Willis. He won't mind if I offer his good offices. He and I were college classmates back in the middle Ages, and He'll like the idea.
So you're going to college this fall! Remember, "The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge." (Prov. 1: 7)
By the way. Your real problems begin when you graduate from college. Maybe I'll write an article on that topic four years from now!
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 35, pp. 6-7
July 16, 1970