California Baptist University’s Office of Spiritual Life started a chapel series on the importance of a healthy church this semester.
John Montgomery, dean of Spiritual Life, said a survey taken two years ago inspired this series, as it affirmed students’ low participation in their spiritual lives.
He said the intention is to show students the importance of church and teach them whether church attendance and Bible reading is relevant today.
“What is astounding is that the ones that say they are a Christian and follow Jesus and say they read the Bible daily is incredibly low,” Montgomery said of CBU students.
Not only is there a low percentage of students who dive into the Bible, but there is also a low percentage of students who attend church.
“If students are not reading their Bible and they don’t really know the Bible, then it stands to reason that they don’t know what the church is supposed to be, because the church is revealed in scripture,” Montgomery said.
CBU students have buzzed about the statements made by speakers during this chapel series and have reflected on when they have been among the low percentages.
“I always said I was a Christian because my family was, but we never went to church,” said Ashley Navarrete, senior biology major. “I was ignorant about (the Christian life). I didn’t have knowledge about biblical stuff.”
Michael Sutherlin, sophomore business major, noticed a disconnect between knowing the importance of church and making church attendance a priority. Until students begin to make that connection, the numbers will continue to drop.
“It’s tough because we’ve been told all our lives that church is important,” Sutherlin said. “I don’t think it’s as simple as having somebody in chapel preach about how important it is. It’s almost like you have to make a conscious decision by yourself to make church a priority. You have to make it a priority and not an option.”
Sutherlin said he sees church as a way to be surrounded by people who are Christ-like.
“By ourselves, it’s hard enough,” he said. “The best way to find fellowship is in the church.”
Society has played a significant role in the way church is perceived, as well.
“We largely want to be entertained as listeners,” Montgomery said. “We give (sermons) a rating and that’s what we’ve been trained to do. But when we are standing before God, we aren’t going to be giving him any score.”
Montgomery’s desire is for students to notice unhealthy church leaders who do not preach biblical truths.
“It’s good that they’re shining light on the bad, because we’re not perfect,” said Justin Woulms, junior marketing major. Woulms said he sees church as something that has the potential to be important to him in the future.
Growing up, Woulms’ parents gave him the choice of whether to go to church and believe. “I always see people that were forced to go to church and now they hate it,” Woulms said.
Woulms also said that, if he did go to church, it would be important, and that it is important to be knowledgeable about faith and the Bible when you do choose to believe.
“If you say that you just don’t want to, that’s not a good enough reason,” Woulms said. “You have to make some sacrifices. If you don’t have time then at least meet up with somebody or continue to read the Bible.”
Some Christians at CBU are completely uninterested in attending church and that part of the reason is because chapel seems to fill the place of church.
“Chapel isn’t church,” Montgomery said. “Church is a body that is together by covenant, while CBU chapel is a tradition. I don’t want to offend any students, but I would have to say that if this is their church, it shows that they are either not a follower of Jesus or they are very immature, because mature or maturing believers understand that it isn’t church.”
Montgomery said it is his hope that students will think about church from a biblical perspective and consider the importance of actively particpiating in a local church.
“If the church is doing what it should, I don’t think we would have such a high biblical illiteracy,” Montgomery said. “I hope this series encourages students to grow so that they can change the church into what God intended it to be.”