Chapel is a foundational piece of the identity of Northwestern College. It is one of the few integral shared experiences every single student on campus is a part of week in and week out. Often, jokes about the different types of people who attend chapel (those sitting in the balcony doing homework/on their phones/etc.) are talked about, but how frequently is chapel the center of campus conversation? For something to be so essential to the common experience of students but almost never the topic of conversation seems like a strange contradiction: a Christian community that doesn’t frequently reference one of its main pieces of Christian formation.
NW requires chapel so every student is shaped by the preaching of the Word and in worship. These goals are attained, but to what extent and what end? It often seems as though chapel is this box that even many spiritual, devout Christians are attempting to check off so they no longer have to go anymore. These same people who attend D-Groups, have other Bible studies and are a part of the local church often do not desire to be a part of the chapel program.
I am not advocating for ending required chapel. I fully believe the core of the NW identity is rooted in the Christian formation program and desire for that to continue. The chapel program, however, must become more and more challenging in its engagement of ideas in culture, individual and corporate sin,and introducing controversial ideas in the Christian community.
Posited here is the idea that not very many people are talking about chapel because it does not require any sort of processing to engage with. I must admit, there are rarely times when I walk out of chapel convicted about sin in my life or needing to process a new way of understanding how God is calling me to live in the world. I’ve heard many in our student body relate to this idea. So, the question is: how do we further engage with chapel?
To our student body: be willing to listen and slow to critique when you hear a new or different idea brought up in chapel. The times where difficult topics have been addressed in chapel, many students were quick to make accusations of “conservative” or “liberal” bias. If our dedication is to these labels first, we have betrayed our Christ crucified and His Word to us for a specific set of theological beliefs that we adhere to. These biases exist, but far less frequently than we accuse and are willing to accept for ourselves. If chapel is going to be a place where Christians are truly challenged, we must be willing to interact with the ideas presented: agree or disagree.
To those in charge: challenge us. One frequently discussed theme in chapel is revival. If we truly want to be revived of the Spirit of God on this campus, then it begins with these challenges. This chapel space is the one place in which all students share. If campus is supplied with lukewarm chapel time, then we shouldn’t be surprised when many recognize how lukewarm our campus might be.
This is not an attempt to undermine the efforts of our Christian formation program. They do extremely difficult work and look to the Spirit for guidance. God is active and working at NW. As with any good thing, I pray that God moves in new and deeper ways amongst us.