It’s been said that one out of every 5 Americans is a none. Not a “nun,” but a “none.” The nones are a group of atheologists. A none is someone that has zero religious affiliation. Now, this isn’t anarchy. They are not hostile to religion—they are indifferent. In other words, religion of any kind bears no weight on their lives. They simply ignore it.
What’s more is that studies say one-third of Americans under the age of 35 identify as a none. Here, we are talking about Millennials and Generation Z. Statistics say that just over half of them believe there is a God of some kind, while the other half simply doesn’t care if there is one or not. So, why does this matter?
As colleges and universities all across America kick off their fall semester, we need to understand that this is the reality that new and returning Christian students are facing as they walk the halls of their dorms, meet roommates and classmates, and search for a community to belong to. All semester long.
With that in mind, how can university students start the year off strong and be a good missionary to the nones they will encounter and befriend?
Read Your Bible
Like an NBA player can palm his basketball, a Christian should know their Bible. Paul said it best in 2 Timothy: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
Why read your Bible and read consistently? Because it is the word of God. Scripture is God preaching, singing, and talking to us. Scripture is the primary way we hear and encounter him. On top of that, it is hard to discern what is not true unless you know what is true. This is your primary tool to chisel, build, and connect with nones.
Join a Church
Find a good church to call home. The truth is that there are likely several good churches near you. You can easily spend all semester trying to find the “right one,” but don’t do that. Don’t play the speed dating game. You’ll miss out on so much good stuff by “exploring” all of your options.. I’m not saying don’t do your research. Do, but find a church that preaches the gospel and get plugged in.
Admittedly, one of the questions I ask almost everyone I meet is, “What church do you go to?” Honestly, most people have an answer, even if it’s pretentious. So, over the years I have learned to follow that up with another question: “What do you do there?” Now, I know I’m assuming some stuff here, but I really do believe if someone is going to a church, they should be involved.
Sadly, that is not always the case. Most of the time people simply looked confused and respond with “Nothing really, that’s just where I go.” This happened to me last Sunday, and I told the young guy that the greatest thing he can do is get involved. Parachurch ministries and school clubs are great to serve in, in addition to your local church, but Jesus didn’t die for those things. Even they would agree with that—or at least the ones that I know. The point is this: get involved in a local church. God has uniquely wired you and divinely placed you to use your gifts to build the church (and for the church to build you). You can;t do that if you float around. You need to be rooted to grow.
I recently wrote on this topic in more detail, but suffice it to say that you need to be discipled. This is especially true in college where emotions rise and fall and relationships come and go. College is one of the most formidable times of your life, and discipleship is one of the best ways to help you navigate these experiences with someone who is farther along in life than you. Look deep into the church that you are plugging into and ask someone to disciple you.
Be a Good Missionary
In other words, be a good friend, roommate, employee, or good manager. Relationships are the key to reaching the nones. The axiom is still true: people don’t care what you know or how much you know until they know how much you care about them and their interests.
A good missionary can be boiled down to knowing the gospel, knowing the “gospel” that your friends believe, and caring enough to connect the two. As a Christian, you need to know the gospel and how it applies to your own life before you start applying to someone else’s. Then, you need to know the “gospel” that your friends are believing. Everyone has a functional savior—some sort of thing that they are banking on to save them. You need to know what that is.
Lastly, as a Christian, you need to be able to connect the two. This means late night cheese fries and conversation. This means being available for questions and prayer in tragedy and celebration in triumphs. And this means engaging in awkward, uncomfortable, and robust conversation about Jesus. Just so you know, gospel conversations are almost always awkward, and it’s never as bad as you think it is. Your friends will be glad you asked them. What’s worse is never caring to ask or engage. Don’t do that.
In conclusion, the bottom line is you have a cosmic opportunity right in front of you. Heaven and hell hang in the balance. You have the opportunity to stand in the gap this semester and point your friends to Jesus. The reality is you are already pointing them somewhere whether you know it or not. Point them to Jesus. My prayer for you if you are reading this is that you would get to experience the real joy of seeing your friends saved and baptized. Hopefully by you. Let’s go.