By: Bethany Pitt.
SEX, DRUGS, ROCK and ROLL …
Oh yeah baby, I think I just got your attention.
This is the life of a student. Right?
Well more and more of these are the expressions of a student culture into which the message of Christ is extremely hard to penetrate. A student culture of hardness and independence settles itself in the secular confines of campus walls and lawns. The term ‘Christianity’ has been watered down and warped into a flexible doctrine that can be adapted at will to identify oneself with some kind of religious practice.
One of the main influences of this culture is our student newspapers, student magazines and other journalistic material. The powerful impact these have on our students can be seen in the demand alone. At the university I attend, the student newspaper is printed as often as once a week. It is then placed in every corner of campus possibly imaginable. The contents are read far and wide. The message is clear: ‘You are only a student once, make it count and make sure you do everything for your own benefit and pleasure.’ This may seem relatively harmless, but the theory behind it creates a very warped mindset of what we live for as young adults.
As a Christian student, you find yourself fighting an uphill battle against the norms of what students are expected to do – beside study of course. Having multiple sexual partners, using and abusing alcohol and soft drugs while living a life purely dedicated to yourself, is the expected routine. Looking outward becomes a challenge as anything that doesn’t seem fun or pleasurable gets mocked or degraded.
Recently, I sat down to write an email to Jonothan Just, a friend of mine at UCT who had a vision to start a Christian magazine, now named The Good News Magazine. He saw through the lies and deception being fed to so many students. He saw the limiting picture they were being fed of the world and most importantly, he was convicted to speak truth by bringing in a Christian focused message through a Christian magazine. I asked him how he had come about starting this project. His Godliness and insightfulness gave me so much encouragement as a Christian student.
When I asked what his motivation for starting this magazine was, he told me this:
‘The motivation behind this publication is really to present an accurate, Bible-based, relevant worldview on what it truly means to live as a Christian on campus by reaching and engaging all students with the good news of Jesus Christ.’ His shock at there being nothing like this on campus’ across South Africa moved him into action to change the situation around.
I went on to ask him how he sold the idea of a Christian magazine in a secular environment where many are opposed to the Christian message. He agreed with the difficulty of marketing such a magazine in such an environment as university, saying that many students have had past bad experiences involving Christianity and others simply had not had huge questions answered and have turned away from a gospel they did not understand or didn’t agree with. The Good News aims to raise the important issues that we face in society today and to answer the heavy questions which many publications shy away from and in so doing be a voice which relays the truths of the Bible for our modern day society.’
Jono, then went on to describe the process of how the magazine was created and how a team from a Christian organisation known as the Y, have come together to tackle the project head on. Once again, I was humbled by his attitude of gratefulness to the Lord for His guidance regarding this magazine: ‘As the editor of this brand new mag, there have been some very challenging times, but I can’t describe to you the joy it has been to be a part of this great tool that God wants to use for the extension of His kingdom on campus.’
When asked what the aim behind this project was, his words were these: ‘The core Scripture of the mag is Romans 10:15 which says: “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” It’s a beautiful thing for me to see the gospel actively going out to a predominantly non-Christian readership and all I can do is pray that the Holy Spirit will transform many- make them a new creation- and open their eyes to see the beauty of Christ and the glory there is in living boldly for Him.’
The future plans of the magazine are inspiring and exciting. I look forward to seeing so many more ventures like this across South Africa. Jono’s words reflect the bigger picture of what this magazine could achieve. ‘… my heart and vision is to see Christian students across South Africa united through this magazine and many non-Christians coming to know the Lord through the very relevant and practical stuff that they read. At the moment though, due to finances, it’s predominantly just distributed to UCT, but I hope to slowly establish good connections with other varsities across SA (like TUKS) and get financial support from the Christian societies on those campuses and the local churches in those areas then only will this become a reality.’
I asked for his opinion on the issues many students’ face in universities today, especially spiritual struggles in a secular environment. ‘Going to any university in South Africa, it’s part and parcel that you’ll definitely be in the minority if you are a Christian. It’s a tough decision to make to carry on living for Christ and standing up for Him when you’ll be mocked and ridiculed for that, but what I can say is that He is worthy of every insult and went through far worse for you so that you’ll stick your neck out for Him. Don’t try and do it on your own though, because you’ll soon fizzle out and start blending in with what the world is doing! It’s about being a shining light to those who are very comfortable living in the darkness, unaware of their sinfulness. By taking a stand for what God stands for, despite what other people say, we will be that generation that God wants for His renown. And even though we should live different lives and keep wearing the full armour of God against the Devil, who has done a lot of prowling and devouring on university campus, we must be living out our Christian identity in front of our non-Christian friends and show them the joy and freedom that He brings, and how cool it is to be one of God’s children.’
Finally his words of encouragement: ‘… the fact that you are a Christian shows that God wants to be on mission with you at your university. Don’t miss out on this very exciting prospect! Keep your spiritual eyes open to grab the opportunities that He presents to you to share the gospel verbally with your friends, but also more powerfully through the lifestyle of grace that you lead, which they’ll be examining! Expect rejection, but also always be prayerful that there will be some who accept the love of Christ as a result of your life. There is no greater joy and honour than being about your Father’s business, who is all about saving lives for His kingdom and He wants to use YOU. Are you willing?
And that is what I wish to leave you with, Are You Willing? Are you willing to be that change in student circles where there is so much opportunity? Are you willing to stand up for the Christ you serve?
The magazine is available on the internet: www.student-y.org.