(I’m taking a brief break from my “Mark of the Church” series to write about something that has been on my mind lately…)
Don’t worry, what follows is not a scathing diatribe about the evils of Christian sororities. Christian sororities are just fine. Instead, the title of this post is an analogy for what, I believe, our fellowships and churches have often become.
The other day I was thinking about the way in which campus ministries are often distinguished from one another–you’ve got the fellowship with all the good-looking social people, the fellowship with the students who like to party a little harder than the other Christians, the fellowship with the athletes, the fellowship with the nerdy kids in it (and don’t think I’m hatin–I was/am a nerd!), and then there are the fellowships distinguished by race or ethnicity. You have the fellowships that are largely composed of Black students, Asian students, etc. Every person has her niche, so she attends the fellowship of people who are most like her.
What concerns me about this trend is that the same pattern is observable in sororities. You have the sorority with the pretty girls, the party girls, the more down-to-earth girls. You have historically black sororities and you have sororities that are largely hispanic. You also have sororities for the less social girls, the girls who like to study, or the girls who simply couldn’t get into any of the sororities.
Christians fellowships are strikingly similar to the sorority system in this way, and to some extent this is normal. We obviously can’t be best friends with everyone, so it’s normal to gravitate towards those people who share similar interests. However, the distinctions between these fellowships do not always come about in a healthy way.
In particular, there are some fellowships that draw the people who simply weren’t accepted by the other ministries…a trend that makes since in the darwinistic Greek system, but shouldn’t necessarily be taking place in the Christian world. Surely there shouldn’t be such a category as “Christian rejects,” should there?
Yet listening to some students recount their search for a fellowship sounds just like the story of a freshman in the sorority bid process. It usually goes something like this: “I went to the fellowship a lot my first semester, but no one really seemed interested in talking to me. I would try to engage people in conversation, or find friends to hang out with, but no one ever called. It felt like a clique that I couldn’t get into, so I finally just left.”
In hearing these stories, I can usually tell right away why each student had so much trouble engaging those ministries–it was because they weren’t wearing Rainbow flip-flops, or they were a little overweight, or they had acne, or they didn’t shop at the right stores. There was something about them that didn’t fit the mold, so they weren’t allowed to fit in at all.
So over the past week I have been pondering why Christian fellowships mirror sororities so closely in this way, and I think it’s because they ultimately serve the same purpose: they’re both a social outlet. A lot of Christians join particular fellowships based upon the social life it can provide them. Where are you most likely to meet cute guys? Who has the coolest parties each semester?
And while it’s ok to have these thoughts from time to time (after all, there’s nothing inherently evil about attractive men or fun social events) but your motives become distorted when your thinking ends there. Is your social life the MAIN reason you’re there? Are you using Christ to mask your real reasons for involvement?
The answer to this question can usually be revealed by the mindset you’re in at your large group meetings. Are you mostly there to socialize, or are you there to serve, to keep your eyes peeled for new people and make sure they feel welcome? Contrary to popular belief, serving and welcoming is not the job of the ministry leaders alone–that is your job as a *Christian.*
The primary reason you should be involved in a fellowship or church is not because it’s a great social outlet, but because it is a means for serving God’s Kingdom more effectively. You need to be active and intentional about using your fellowship as a vehicle for pursuing God harder and better than you were before. This doesn’t mean that you should only be friends with people who are different than you, but at the very least, it means that no one should EVER come to your ministry and feel unwelcome. Regardless of the natural distinctions that cause sororities to be so different, all Christians have one thing in common that surpasses any superficial differences, and that is Christ. If for no other reason than that, the make-up of our communities should look somewhat different from secular groups.
So if you think it over and realize that you are in a “Christian sorority” (figuratively speaking), then you have two options: One, change it. Take responsibility for the problem–just because you’re not a leader doesn’t mean you don’t have a call as a Christian to welcome people and serve. A church or fellowship should be God-focused and others-focused before being self-focused, so set an example to others by living your life that way. Hopefully the people around you will be encouraged to do the same.
Your second option is to get out. Any fellowship or church that is that exclusive does more harm than good, because it’s basically using Christ’s name for an agenda that is not Christ. So if you think there’s no chance of it ever changing, then there’s no reason to stick around that kind of temptation. It will likely suck you in to thinking it’s ok, and you’ll end up justifying the behavior rather than seeing it for the exclusivity that it is.
Christ’s death and resurrection was a radical act of love that we are now free to share with others. It has freed us from the rat race that is popularity contests and cliques. So while it’s ok to have fun with people who have similar personalities and interests, building a community based on those commonalities alone will not reflect the whole truth that’s been earned for us at the cross. We are free from superficial distinctions, and the world needs to see that. It will never see Christ in us if we look more like the Greek system than God’s Church.