When community gets messy

messy community

Over the summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about the biblical concept of community. It’s a hard and amazing endeavor that God calls his people to participate in. I say this because community is such a messy thing — and our InterVarsity chapter is in a messy place right now.

As we ended the school year last spring, some people left our fellowship for different reasons. Some said they did not feel cared for or welcomed. Other core members did not like being held accountable in areas of sin and decided to leave, even though I thought we had done well in communicating restoration and repentance that honors God and others. Through all this, we were confronted with the reality of messy relationships.

As I read the Bible, it is glaringly apparent that God’s people have a hard time loving each other and doing life together well. The Scriptural stories give me both comfort and discomfort: Cain murdering Abel, the complaining Israelites, the disciples of Jesus arguing and the New Testament churches fighting. Many of Paul’s letters could be written to our chapter.

The Biblical stories give me comfort because they let me know that our messy experiences in our InterVarsity chapter are not out of the ordinary. And they give me discomfort because often, as a leader, I want to appear as if we have it all together — when it is clear from Scripture that God’s people do not. Yet, time and time again, God does not give up on them, and he will not give up on us.

Even more amazing is that God doesn’t invent some other way for his people to be transformed and held accountable. It’s in community that people grow and see how amazing God is. Through honest, caring relationships, we find the way to become more like Jesus.

Moving forward

Our leadership team has been meeting together this summer to discuss how we can improve our community by addressing specific issues. We evaluated what we did well and didn’t do well. We admitted that our group was not welcoming new people adequately. We confessed that people did not want to confront others when there was a problem.

We are moving forward. We’re studying God’s instructions for harmony and loving relationships found in Paul’s letters to messy churches (Romans 12:9-21 and Ephesians 4:25-32). It’s clear to us that if we don’t love each other, we don’t love the Lord. Our commitment to what God has said about how his followers treat each other is much stronger.

A new year is ahead of us and we know our chapter can be better. We’re praying for God to lead us in becoming a community that loves him. We’re asking God to protect us against the plans of the Enemy to cause division.

Most of all, we are praying for God to show us how we can love each other, and our surrounding community, on our campus.