It’s a funny balance this one. When does a strong social group, a bunch of brilliant friends, a solid core of students in a church community, become a clique? When do the get-togethers become exclusive, inward-focused, uninviting? And what do you do if the balance tips too far?
Student mission is a lot about living in real, honest, accepting community with each other. If the family isn’t authentic and loving, then what on earth can we invite our friends into? How can we reflect the love of God unless we actually love each other? Jesus was pretty clear that our unity as his followers would display God’s love to the world (John 17).
Up and down the country as I travel on the #fusionroadtrip, the churches I hang out with all want to see students bonding with each other, looking out for each other and encouraging each other in their faith. There’s not a student leader I’ve met who doesn’t want a stronger sense of community, of family, in their church.
But what happens when as students, we connect and get along so well with our mates at church, that we start hanging out way more as a group, we start filling our diary with the same brilliant people? What happens when all our best friends are in this family and we don’t really have any spare evenings to create the same deep connections and shared memories with our mates outside the church? And are we in too deep to even notice that we’ve drifted away from the shore-line of the world and our housemates and course mates?
Someone has to be brave. Someone has to be the bold one in the group, who pipes up with the suggestion that we should invite some of our mates to join us for dinner, a friend or two who have nothing to do with the church. One of us has got to be the one who says no to yet another “important meeting” in favour of just hanging out at home with the house watching rubbish telly and playing ‘who’s in the bag?’ and models a guilt-free approach to not having a diary full of “Christian activity”. One of us has to do something, one of us has to break free, one of us has to prove that community is actually strengthened in diversity, in change, and in openness as it exists for something beyond itself.
Could you be that someone? Could you be the person who suggests a social to your mid-week group with an “invite-one-more” aim in whatever you choose to do? Could you be the person to change the subject when private jokes start happening around friends who aren’t "in" on it? Could you be the one to steer the group prayer towards praying for our mates who aren’t there, who don’t yet know Jesus?
The church is the family of God. We are all siblings. But the Father is calling all those he made home, he is looking for the lost children and he is using us as his appeal to them (2 Corinthians 5). Stay alert to the tipping of the balance towards a clique, and be the person to turn outwards again, with arms wide open to the world.