I love a huddle.
It’s a lasting memory I have from playing rugby at university - huddling together, usually that little bit tighter in the winter! The final advice from the coach would come, the captain would deliver a passionate speech to get us ready, hands would go in the middle and we’d hear the captain shout “stags on me, stags on 3.”
We see a sort of huddle mentality throughout the Bible. The word huddle isn’t used, but you can trace the blessing of being together throughout the whole Bible. In the Old Testament God makes significant promises to Abraham, and one of them is that he will gather his people together in one place. It’s a blessing that they’ll all be together.
We also see the opposite of the blessing of being gathered together – being scattered – throughout the Bible too. When the people tried to make a name for themselves, and essentially be their own gods, by building the tower of Babel (Genesis 11) God’s response is to scatter the people all over the earth.
And yet, as with so many things, when Jesus comes he turns this upside down. Jesus gives the command in Matthew 28 that his followers should be scattered around the world telling people about Him. Peter, in his first letter even calls Christians ‘scattered’ people.
Because God has also made a way that we can also experience the joy of huddling together - on a Sunday at church. The word ‘church’ literally translates as ‘gathering’. That is what church is, it’s a gathering of God’s scattered people. And it's in local churches, whether the number meeting are 15 or 1,500, that we experience the fulfillment of the blessing that God promises Abraham.
If you want a taste of what heaven (a huddle of Christians so big there will be more of us than there are stars in the sky) will be like, church is the place to be. It’s the ultimate gathering until Jesus comes back.
When you leave home and get to university it’s more than likely that you’ll feel homesick at some point. Mostly as you miss being around family and friends from home, but you may also find yourself missing your home church. Don’t panic, that’s completely normal.
I remember I felt overcome by sadness at the first Christian Union meeting I attended just because we sang a song that we often would sing at my home church. And so, the obvious answer is to find a new local church that gathers in your university town or city. It’s there that you’ll experience that concentrated blessing of seeing God at work – as he speaks and as you see other Christians around you living for Jesus.
Whilst the local church is the primary place for you to find community and to be fed, the Christian Union or the Christian in Sport group are also great places where you can huddle with others like you and be equipped to live in the culture of university sport. They’re easy to find at your freshers' fairs or online but what about finding a church?
The book of Acts is essentially the story of the beginning of church. In the book we see the first church gathering and what they prioritized. The first is Bible teaching:
“they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”
What were the apostles teaching? You guessed it – the Bible, as they had it at that time.
It’s the teaching of the Bible that will be the marker of a healthy church. It's not about the length of time that Bible is taught, or how funny the preacher is. A healthy church will have Bible teaching that exposes to you what the text says, even the hard parts. The teaching will seek to apply the Bible to your life and context so that you can grow to be more like Jesus. Even more basic, healthy Bible teaching will be all about Jesus!
Acts continues by telling us:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship…all the believers were together and had everything in common”
Fellowship isn’t too common a word now but picture those people gathering arm in arm with you in the huddle – these are your church teammates. A healthy church will be a picture of the eternal gathering that’s going on in heaven. One of people from all sorts of different backgrounds, different ages and stages, different ethnicities.
The sport that you play will attract others who also share a love for that particular sport, for me and my teammates we all had a love of rugby in common. At church, Jesus is who we all have in common, and amazingly he attracts all sorts of different people. That can be both hard and wonderful all at the same time! But let me encourage you – you are a blessing to the church you choose, you come with gifts and abilities that God has given you to serve your new teammates.
As sportspeople, there will be lots of demands on your time and energy at university, and it’ll be hard at times to manage all these things. So let me encourage you with why God is so for you finding a church:
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."
God wants you in one of his local, holy huddles, showing his glory to the world! Try to set a sensible deadline to settle in a church by, but you don’t need to rush. Make use of things like ‘Church Searches’ and talking to Christian friends you know both back home and at university to get advice. Pray that the Lord would lead you to the right church family huddle to settle in while you’re away from home.
Lois is the Children & Youth Worker at Grace Church Guilford and coaches rugby at the University of Surrey.
Lois's recent book 'Students & Church' brilliantly captures the opportunities and pitfalls that present themselves to every prospective Christian student. You can purchase the book now via Grace Publications or 10ofthose
Fill in this short form and we can help connect you up with your Christians in Sport university group.
Get the perfect start every
A weekly devotional for sports people