I think back to life in college and I ask myself what do I wish I had known back then that I know now. It’s not an easy question, or at least it’s not as easy as it sounds. I came to college a fairly stubborn young man. I didn’t want anything to do with Christian fellowship. I had my life or at least some thoughts mapped out. I would use my time in college to get more involved in politics, to master Russian, and perhaps learn foreign policy. I was set. Sure faith was important, but I lived so close to home, so my church at home would still be my primary community.
What I wish someone had done back then was to sit me down and challenge me. Challenge my mind, my life, my heart, and my young ideas and lay out some thoughts, some check in points for growth, development, and maturity. To be honest I wish there had been more structure and forethought put in to my development as a Christian adult. I wish that the tools I acquired later had been available sooner and in a manner which would have them easier to digest.
If I were to layout a prescription for the life of the Christian by college year it would look something like this (this is by no means an exhaustive list).
- Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis
- The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
- Bob Pierce: This One Thing I do by Franklin Graham & Jeanette Lockerbie
- Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- The Letters of John Newton by John Newton
- The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
- The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
- The Story of Christianity by Michael Collins & Matthew Price
- Knowing God by J.I. Packer
- Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright
- The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Leslie Newbigin
- Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity by Mark Noll
- The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission by Chris Wright
- How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels by N.T. Wright
- Confessions by Saint Augustine
- Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis
These books expose you to living the Christian life, church history, some basic theology, and the tools needed as Eugene Peterson puts it for “a long obedience in the same direction.” Books aren’t the only thing central to the Christian life. Fellowship, spiritual disciplines, a heart for worship, and a passion for the Kingdom don’t come from books alone, but the life of the mind has to be developed and engaged. College is the perfect time for developing a vibrant life of faith. You can develop it later or more gradually as I did, but I think having these tools sooner would have given me more tools for the journey.
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