I often hear around campus or from prospective students, “chapels are basically church,” or “since I am learning about God in my classes, I don’t need to go to church.” But Biola is not a church and it should not replace church. At Biola University, it is required of students to attend 20 chapels per semester and take 30 units of Bible credit for the duration of their college journey. These are not meant to “replace” church—because they are not church.
Biola is not an established church body. Although we may be part of the unified body of Christ,we are not the church body. In my years at Biola, my Bible professors have all stressed that Biola is not a church. Quoting from Dr. Kenneth Berding, “here are some of the things you are missing when you aren’t committed to a local church.
- “If you lead someone to Christ while a student at Biola, where are you going to take them to grow? To Biola? (Are you going to pay their tuition?) No, they need a local church.”
- “What if you start developing a hardened heart toward the Lord because of unconfessed sin? You need a church to confront you, discipline you if necessary, and restore you when you repent. You need the leadership of a local church to do this for you.”
- “Though there are occasional exceptions to the pattern, most baptisms take place in the context of a church, and most opportunities for sharing the Lord’s Supper are in the context of a church. You need to be regularly sharing the ordinances that Christ established in the community he appointed, that is, in the church.”
- “Body life will only occur on a limited level in a place like Biola. Unless you are regularly interacting with older people and children, your Christian development will be stunted. You will not be able to break out of the assumptions shared by people of your same age and stage in life; and you need to learn how to see beyond these presuppositions more than you realize. Being an integral part of a Bible-believing church will help you to see beyond your blind spots.”
- “Though a Biola student can be individually generous and involved in service, he or she cannot be part of the systematic member-care that takes place in churches. Churches collect benevolence funds to help people who are struggling, host cold-weather shelters for people on the streets, visit older members who are bedridden. This all takes place on quite a different level from a Biola student collecting money from his friends to help someone he knows who is in need (as God-honoring as that is).”
- “Short-term missions—though valuable in many ways—will not reach the remaining unreached peoples of the world. We need long-term cross-cultural missionaries who are sent and supported by their local churches to do that. Everyone needs to be part of reaching the least-reached peoples of the world; this means that everyone needs to be involved at some level with the outreach ministry of their local church.”
These are just some examples of how Biola does not serve as a church and you can read more about Dr. Berding's case.
Personally, I stress this point because it is so important to be plugged into a local church. In 1 and 2 Corinthians it shares the importance of walking in Christian community that is in the disciplines and regulations of a church. Bluntly stated, Biola is not enough. Biola is a wonderful and beautiful place where, yes, you can cultivate your growth in community and pursuit of God, BUT it is not church. It is vital that you stretch beyond just morning chapels and bible classes because that is not sustainable. Overall, Biola and church are not synonymous and I encourage you to get plugged in elsewhere to further your spiritual growth.