There is a scenario playing over and over again in a seemingly endless loop on college campuses nationwide. A professor drones on about the intimate details of Marxism when one young member of the campus bourgeoisie interrupts the class with a low fidelity rendition of that classic ‘80s song, “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors, which is set as her ring tone. A brief pause followed by a glance to make sure she has turned the ringer off, and class resumes while our student finds herself distracted, wondering why her roommate is calling her while she is in class. Now the dilemma: does she leave class for a moment to return the call? If she does, everyone in class will know why, especially the professor, who will sneeringly wonder why that phone call was more important than Karl Marx.
Scenario two is all too common as well. Imagine yourself perched above the exit doors of any academic building as classes let out for the morning. As countless students file out of the building into the crisp noon air, aided by an especially beautiful cloudless sky, the ritual begins – the hourly march from one building to another. Some are headed for the cafeteria or various other campus activities and some headed for bed; sorry they took that last shot the night before. As they trot away they reach into their pockets and purses in search of their lifeline, the cellular telephone. When flipped open it springs to life, and for a brief moment the student is subconsciously reminded of the many joyous and painful calls that have been made. A familiar LCD screen greets our students as they hurriedly dial the intended recipient. Off they go, to destinations unknown, conversation in progress.
The proliferation of cellular telephones on college campuses is astounding. Through focused advertising and an increase on-campus presence, the cellular telephone companies have been successful in marketing to this particular demographic. As a 26- year-old college senior, I have a unique perspective. I started college in 1995, when cellular telephones were still considered a status symbol of the elite members of society. It was almost unheard of for a student to have a cell phone, let alone bring it into the classroom. It was an unwritten rule that those students that owned wireless phones either kept them concealed, or they just left the bag phone connected in their vehicle. Now the situation has reversed, and the unwritten rule is that if you don’t have a cell phone, you are behind the times. Long gone are the days of the handwritten address book. Long gone are the days of writing that new girl’s phone number on your hand, hoping it doesn’t smear. Aided by easier text input and larger memory banks, many cellular users are using their phones as wireless phone books.
The problem lies in the nature of comfort. We humans are driven by a desire to avoid the uncomfortable. We shun suffering of any nature. It is simply easier to talk to those whom you are already acquainted with when class is over than to talk to the guy or girl that was sitting next to you. Connections that are made during a class – the common bond of a poor professor or difficult exam – now end as students part ways exiting the building. Those connections used to result in further discussion and potentially friendship. Now it just dissolves. We as Christians are called to fulfill the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:1-20) and we cannot effectively do that if we are continually ignoring those around us in favor of those already with us. We must be active in making new friends in a directed attempt to reach the lost for Christ. We cannot allow ourselves to be crippled by the fear of stepping out and taking a risk for Christ.
It is no secret that the twentysomething crowd is the least likely to attend church. No matter how “contemporary” we try to make our services and our buildings, there will still be a small number of college age attendees. I believe that this disparity is based on the fact that it is nearly impossible to discern Christians from believers of any other faith on any given college campus. Save for the “Jesus freak” that wears clothing clearly displaying his or her faith, I would posit that Christians tend to blend in on campus. We, too, flip open our phones and call our friends, engaging in the ancient ritual of fussing about how boring that class was and how fun last night was.
The only witness that is ever effective is the face-to-face interaction backed up by genuine joy. The whole issue boils down to the fact that college provides a unique set of circumstances, insofar as we, as Christian college students, already have something in common with every other student on campus. That common bond is our open door. We must take advantage of the ease of starting a conversation on campus. What begins with a simple “Man that test was hard!” can end with a “You’ve got to check out this campus church with me, it rocks!” A five-minute conversation intentionally executed and with pure intent, can have a lifetime of implications for the other person. You see, every student on campus is feeling what you are feeling. They know the desire to sin, the pressures of newfound freedom, and the uncertainty of the future. Can you imagine how they must feel to have to deal with it without the matchless grace of Jesus Christ?
Someone out there needs Jesus, and also needs you. The chances are good they are sitting right next to you in lecture. We must put down our cell phones in favor of real conversation with new people. That is the only way to effectively witness.
So my request to you is, hang up and talk.[Chris Craft is a 26-year-old college senior and budding seminary student. He owns a cell phone but doesn’t go over his plan minutes.]