Studying with Faithful Obedience at another Denomination’s School - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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College Preparation
June 16, 2017

Studying with Faithful Obedience at another Denomination’s School

Let’s say you’ve made the decision to go to a Christian school. It’s a near-perfect fit. It has the right degree program … a picturesque campus … and an excellent career services department – everything you need for the life and career you want. Even better, you’re a Christian and it’s a Christian school just not one affiliated with your denomination.

What do you do? Can you grow in your faith in a school that doesn’t see things exactly like you do? How do you reconcile denominational differences and make it through a four-year degree program?

First – Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into

You’ve investigated the program, the school and the campus. Now, investigate the foundation that school was built upon. That means you need take a good hard look at the tenets of the denomination that founded the school.  

Does it hold to the essentials of Christianity? The deity of Christ? The Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Salvation by grace alone? The resurrection? The Good News (Christ lived, Christ died, Christ rose and will come again)?

If the denomination is on track with the essentials, does the college follow suit? A good place to start checking is with the college’s mission statement, like this one from Geneva College:

“Geneva College is a Christ-centered academic community that provides a comprehensive education to equip student for faithful and fruitful service to God and neighbor.”

The school was founded and is governed by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), a denomination that believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, adheres to the Westminster Confession of Faith and worships through singing the Psalms a cappella. There’s much more to the beliefs and practices of the RPCNA, and by extension, Geneva College; but that’s why you do the research ahead of time. One important factor to note is that Geneva College does not require a statement of faith for students, meaning you don’t have to be in lockstep with the RPCNA on everything.

Research any school you’re thinking about attending – Baptist, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Catholic, Nazarene … you name it.

Second – Find the Common Ground

Not to be indelicate, but now is the time to compare your beliefs with what the practices of the denomination are. This can be a good thing in many ways. For example, it can give you an opportunity to re-examine your own spiritual state in light of similar systems of belief. For another, it can be quite the revelation to discover how much common ground there really is between denominations. At the heart of it all, there is a loving Savior who died for your sins. He knows how to help you with this aspect of your life, too. If you find that the belief of a denomination is simply incompatible with your own – perhaps a “Christian” school in name only (it happens) or a school that requires daily prayer service attendance (that also happens) – then you’ve been forewarned. Don’t be shocked when, if you decide to attend, you’re required to go to chapel five times weekly. Or you’re forbidden to work a part-time job on Sundays. Or that dancing is frowned upon… to the point of expulsion.

Third – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

There’s a light-hearted observation that’s been around since the dawn of modern flooring: The local congregation split over the color of the carpet in the common room. It’s the original denominational meme. And yet in a letter to the Galatians (3:28 NIV), Paul tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The uncomfortable truth is that the people in Christ’s church have often let non-essentials divide us. They don’t always seem to be as trivial as the color of the carpet. That’s why, if the school has a policy (following a denominational standard) of no dancing or no dating – something that doesn’t conflict with the essentials of Christianity – does it really hurt you to not dance? To not date?

Recognize our unity. Don’t dwell on our differences. We are all one in Christ.

Christian schools recognize this. They want to prepare you for life … and a life of service. In addition to questions and comments on their programs, they welcome conversations about their beliefs. After all, they are institutions of learning. Schools like Geneva College spell it out in statements of faith: “We also welcome all people to our campus – just as Jesus Christ welcomed all people to His table. We don’t have a litmus test to determine if incoming students believe as we believe, and so people of many denominations and doctrines come to study at Geneva. Our conversations are honest, frank and often eye-opening.”

If you’d like to learn more about the biblically based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to explore the possibilities with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your career goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email web@geneva.edu.