Gina Ender | Contributing Writer
Matthew 18:20 assures Christians who gather together that God is in their midst. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them,” the verse says. Scripture makes it evident that people are supposed to be following Christ with one another.
As students transition into college, it is important to find a sense of connection among all of the commotion. While many young adults are living away from the familiarity of home, this is an opportune time to rediscover and strengthen one’s faith with a different group of believers.
It is not a question of whether or not to go to church, but where. The Bible emphasizes the importance of worshiping alongside others, but it never specifies what denomination, location or size is best; this is left up to each person to decide. Finding a home church can bring a person a new sense of community, but where that happens will vary.
“I think that the church gets that right. I think that the church, being guided by God who created humanity, understands that to be part of a community is part of what it means to be a human being. Being connected to a church is, in some sense I think, being a human well. It’s reflecting that communal identity of what it means to be human,” Deacon Hayden Butler of St. Matthew’s Church in Newport Beach said.
Butler said he believes Christians become part of “the Church” by engaging in local churches. He said when looking for a church, it is important to have standards but to recognize and accept limitations. He admits he does not believe the perfect church exists, but he believes a home church should have sound theology, make disciples, evangelize and be Trinitarian.
“Paul’s collective terminology for Christians is brothers and sisters, and I think that is significant. He is speaking a reality that Christians are family. I think when the church takes that seriously and attempts to act as a family, I think it takes the ideas of Christianity and it makes them experientially available to people and that they experience that in a very tangible, incarnational way,” Butler said.
Butler said he believes churches should be inclusive of all generations. As the Bible describes church as being familial, he sees that as meaning young, old and everyone in between.
“I think [the local church is] important for intergenerational relationships. That’s one thing that you don’t get here at APU,” director of Chapel Programs Tim Peck said.
Peck said his ultimate goal for students is that they graduate to be responsible, involved members of local churches. He believes that students should become connected with churches while they are still at APU and that the opportunities given at school should not take the place of a home church.
“[Churches] have far more to offer our students, staff and faculty that they don’t even realize that APU can’t offer. It’s not a competition for them to be replacing the other, there is plenty of room and opportunity to be involved in both,” Peck said. “It’s not an either/or thing, it’s both/and.”
Peck said if someone is looking for a new church, it is a good idea to start with a size and denomination they are familiar with. However, he believes college is a suitable time to try different types of congregations.
Campus manager of Foothill Community Church Carrie Akemann suggests people “think about what you’re looking for in a church. Every church offers something a little bit different. That would be the biggest thing that I would suggest. Do your homework.”
She said she believes a church feels most like home through the development of authentic relationships. She believes the church goes against a common “individualistic” culture, and scripture emphasizes the need for community in order for faith to grow.
“I think we serve people better when we actually can get to know them,” Ike Graham of Foothill Church said. “I’m just not convinced that you can love people the same if you don’t really know them.”
Graham, the pastor of Community and Communication, said from his experience that there is a danger of becoming a “consumer” in a larger congregation instead of an active member. He said he believes the best way to prevent this is by becoming involved in a small group with people who trust one another and keep each other accountable.