Steadfast on Campus — Why Remain a Lutheran in College? A Few Answers from Our Students

ReligionsA couple years ago I began asking our college students to be featured in our church newsletter. This was to help the members of our congregation become acquainted with these fresh young faces. Admittedly, I was a little nervous about what they might write! What has ensued, however, has been a special reminder to me of the joy and importance of confessional Lutheran campus ministry.

In the article I ask each student:

Have you been a Lutheran your whole life? If so, what makes you so convinced to remain in the Lutheran faith, especially having been exposed to new worldviews on campus?  If not, when and why did you become a Lutheran?

As Luther explains the third article of the Creed, it is the work of the Spirit in keeping us in the “one true faith.” The questions above are helpful for the students to reflect upon this and to confess God’s work through His Word and sacraments.

Below are responses from sixteen of our students.  It is interesting to see that many of them understand Lutheranism to be Christ-centered, faithful to Holy Scripture, and as the first student notes “liturgical, sacramental, and confessional.”

#1 My father is an LCMS pastor, so I was baptized and raised in the Lutheran faith. I wrestled a lot with the different worldviews my first semester at UNI, and I found myself stumbling over my words when I tried to explain my own faith to others. So, I began studying Lutheranism more in depth. I’ve stayed in the Lutheran faith because we are liturgical, sacramental, and confessional. Everything we do in service, believe, and confess adheres to the Bible.

#2 From birth until 6th grade, I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene. My family came familiar with the Lutheran church, because my siblings and I attended Clemons Lutheran School. This school is connected with St. John Lutheran Church in the rural area of State Center, Iowa.  From attending the school, my parents became curious about Lutheran theology.  They recognized that chapel services at school spoke of grace and forgiveness of sins. The emphasis at the Church of the Nazarene was often focused on the importance of good works to prove a person is saved. We were taught we needed to make a personal decision for Christ. This was done by asking Jesus into our hearts at some point in your life. Through teaching we started to understand that it’s not about us, but what Christ has done for us on the cross.  Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Eventually, my family started attending Lenten services at St. John Lutheran Church and my parents and older brother started adult catechism classes. In August of 2003 my parents and older brother were confirmed, and my three younger siblings and I were baptized by Pastor David Steege.

#3 I have not been a Lutheran my whole life, in fact I have only been Lutheran for a little over a year. I was originally Roman Catholic, then Methodist, Baptist, Reformist, etc, etc, etc. My mother was a big fan of church jumping, as she was trying to find something that worked for her. Due to this, I have often been confused in my own relationship with God and was in a kind of limbo concerning what denomination I was. To use my own words, I was ‘non-denominational’. However, after attending College Hill Lutheran for almost a year I decided that this denomination was the one for me. I liked that it was very structured, Bible based, and conservative. Over the years I have been in a lot of churches that were not any of those things. The last few churches were all emotionally based experiences and it was nice to finally attend a service that could be traced back to the Word of God completely.

#4  Yes, I was baptized and raised in the Lutheran faith since birth.  I have always been proud of my Lutheran upbringing; however before I came to college I assumed every Christian basically had the same beliefs. Upon reaching college, I was overwhelmed when my new friends at UNI began teaching me about their own denominations of Christianity and even some of my friends’ atheistic worldviews.  This caused me to want to take a closer look at my own faith, so I began studying Lutheranism in greater detail.  What I found and continue to find in the Lutheran faith is a Christ-centered, Biblically accurate response to any other Christian denomination’s differing beliefs as well as a solid apology of the Christian faith for those of non-Christian beliefs.

#5  I was baptized and raised Lutheran, which is typical of someone whose father is a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor. As many worldviews are constantly thrust upon me by the university and world in general, I have found that only one holds true when inspected closely: Christianity. Not only is it logically sound, but it is also exactly what sinners like me need. All other worldviews I have encountered seek to explain life and solve the problems of humanity but fall short with unattainable rewards, false promises, and the like. Studying Lutheranism further at College Hill has been a joy as I see more and more how Lutheranism is firmly scriptural and Christ-centered. God’s gift of faith in Christ is far more important than any homework assignment or business arrangement. I am completely dependent on Christ and His death and resurrection. Thus it is important to me to be part of a church that treats the Sacraments properly and has solid doctrine in accordance with the Word of God. It is wonderful to be able to confess with fellow believers what God has made known to us in His Word and to continually receive God’s blessings.

#6   No, I was baptized into the faith at a Catholic Church in Illinois within the first few months of my life. After moving to Norwalk, my mother, being raised Catholic, and my father, being raised Baptist, found a perfect mix of their confessional faith at the LCMS Church in Norwalk. I have been blessed to have remained a Lutheran in my upbringing, and continue to hold fast to this confessional church’s faith and practice. When I came to UNI, my faith had prepared me to hold fast to the true teaching of the Word regardless of my own logic or other human opinion I was about to receive from the “educated teachers of the world.”

#7  I have been a Lutheran since I was born so it is easy to stay in the faith. I have always been privileged enough to be surrounded by other Lutherans so there is always another person to lean on if I begin to question my faith. When surrounded by such a liberally biased campus it is easy to begin to question one’s faith, but with a church and a good surrounding one can just as easily stay grounded in the faith.

#8  I was baptized Lutheran as a baby but I did not grow up going to church every week. I had a friend invite me to her Methodist church camp one year and I went to her church/youth Wednesdays from 6th to 10th grade and was confirmed in that church. It wasn’t until Spring Break of freshman year in college that I decided to reconnect with my Lutheran roots. I was confirmed in the Lutheran faith – June 2010!!

#9  Yes, I have been a Lutheran my whole life which is one of the reasons I find it easy to remain in the Lutheran faith.  I have been fortunate to hear the truth of our Lord for my whole life, a truth that is the foundation I hold to.  The new worldviews I am exposed to on campus are certainly thought provoking but at the end of the day these ideas are like candy bars, they can feed you but they will not sustain and nurture your body or soul in the same way His word will.  Also, knowing that I am a poor miserable sinner who is still forgiven, despite my missteps, is a beautiful assurance that no other thought from campus that I am exposed to can even come close to.

#10  Yes, but I have not been in the LCMS my whole life. Growing up, my family went to the church that my father had gone to pretty much his whole life, which was at the time affiliated with the ELCA (now affiliated with the NALC). During the winter of 2010 (my senior year in high school) we switched churches to the church I currently go to now as a result of changes in the ELCA. The main reason I still remain a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is due to the fact that we have easily the purest and most well thought out doctrine and practices that do not stray at all from the main bastion of our faith, the fact that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.

# 11  I have been raised in the Lutheran faith my whole life.  I agree with the doctrine of the Lutheran faith, which is based on Scripture and one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.  As I participate in Bible Studies, I have compared and contrasted the other faiths with the Lutheran faith.  Our faith is the only faith that is completely based on Scripture.

#12  I have been Lutheran throughout my life, and one thing specifically enjoy about being and staying Lutheran is the fact that Lutheran sermons/teachings are more scripturally based in comparison to other surrounding church teachings. It is my joy to study the Bible every time I am at church, whether it is at Sunday service or Wednesday night youth group.

#13  I have been blessed to be raised in a strong Lutheran family my entire life. This has given me a solid support system to rely on whenever questions arise. However, I have not always been good at defending my faith. Being a part of CHLC’s Campus Ministry has equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to proclaim to others the one true faith, founded in Christ alone. The knowledge that what we believe and confess as Lutherans is based on nothing less than Christ is what gives me the confidence to continue in the faith.

#14  I was raised in an LCMS family and have always considered myself a Lutheran. However, I have not always known what that title meant until the past few years. During my freshmen year of college I started getting really involved in other campus ministries such as the Navigators and Prairie Lakes Church. Attending church services there led me in a different direction, encouraging you to do more to become a “better Christian” and really “feeling God in your heart”. I ended up working at Camp Io-Dis-E-Ca that summer, an LCMS camp in Solon, Iowa. There, I learned a lot more about Lutheran beliefs and started attending LCMS services again. While I was there I made some really strong connections with great friends who encouraged me to go back to College Hill. Ever since then I have remained grounded in the Word.

#15  I’ve been a Lutheran my whole life. Growing up in a college town, I encountered many different faiths before I came to UNI. With a lot of great teachers (parents, friends, youth leaders), I learned a lot about what it means to be a Lutheran. Christianity is the only religion where I stand a chance, because I am judged by faith instead of works, and Lutheranism follows the bible in the most Christ-centered way.

#16  I was raised in the Lutheran faith, and I have been attending an LCMS church all of my life.  When I first came to college, I was attending services at College Hill, but I was also part of a Bible study in my residence hall that was affiliated with a non-denominational church in town. Although I enjoyed the social aspect, I started to realize that some of the things we talked about in this study were different from what I had been taught in my Sunday School and Catechism classes, which was pretty confusing.  Attending Pastor’s Wednesday night study and looking more closely at Scripture has shown me that everything the Lutheran faith confesses comes directly from the Word.

About Pastor John Wegener

Rev. John H. Wegener was born on September 22, 1974 in Ames IA a minute after the birth of his twin brother. He was baptized on October 6, 1974 at St. John Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Hubbard, IA where his father (The Rev. Thomas C. Wegener) served as pastor. He was confirmed in 1984 at Faith Lutheran Church of Waterloo, IA. He graduated from West High School in Waterloo and then attended the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA where he earned a B.A. in Graphic Design in 1997. In 2000, he began his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN. He served as vicar at Emmaus Lutheran Church, in Fort Wayne from the summer of 2002 to the summer of 2003. He received his Master of Divinity from CTS in 2004. He was called to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Readlyn, IA and Immanuel Lutheran Church of Klinger, IA where he was ordained and installed on June 13, 2004. He served there until July, 2007 when he accepted the call to serve the campus ministry at College Hill Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa near the University of Northern Iowa. He was installed there on July 1st, 2007. John met Ms. Heidi M. Johnson while in college at the church where he now serves as pastor. They were married on August 8, 1998 at Grace Lutheran Church in Waterloo, IA. John and Heidi have four children: AJ, Aleah, Javan, and Michael.


Steadfast on Campus — Why Remain a Lutheran in College? A Few Answers from Our Students — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this Rev. Wegener. These thoughtful student comments paint a clear picture to me.

    1) Initial catechesis is crucial as a foundation.
    2) Ongoing catechesis is vital for the care and feeding of the flock.
    3) When we fall prey to the “feel good / we don’t want to offend anyone” political correctness of our times, we often neglect to point out the important differences between faith based completely on Sola Scriptura and those that are not. This is especially important for those who are preparing to leave home for the first time. I applaud pastors (and parents) who spend extra time with those youth that are approaching HS graduation in an effort to help strengthen their faith in preparation for what they are about to face.

    If we don’t teach them to swim on their own they’ll grab on to anything that floats. Even if that “thing” is an alligator.

  2. How encouraging! Thanks for posting this, Pastor Wegener. May God keep up his good work through your faithful service in teaching and tending the young men and women of Iowa East.

  3. Remaining Lutheran on campus is a “DIY” project; districts are certainly not concerned! [See ULC-MN for most atrocious example.]
    OTOH, various Reformed and Pentecostal student groups are thick on campus, beginning with freshman orientation, when they offer cold water, and other treats plus Bible studies. Our local Roman Catholic Center was built on the edge of campus and is now surrounded by it, as were various ‘Christian’, Baptist, and Methodist churches, [BIG ones]. Even the Episcopal church, once several blocks away, finds university buildings at its doorstep.

    Lutherans? They’re busy selling the little toehold they do have adjacent to campus for a mess of pottage and a developer’s profiting by yet another dorm.

    And they wonder where the youth have gone? Especially when NYG has trained them not to know Lutheranism from all the sects out there!?

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