They are the words the father of any college age freshman son dreads to hear:
“Dad, I joined a fraternity.”
Yes, I have to admit I was a bit stunned. I immediately had visions of all night parties on par with Animal House. After all, fraternities are not known for their wisdom, character or stability. But over the past several months I have had to come to the reality that fraternities, good or bad, have taught me a lesson about, of all things, the church.
Better yet how the church should be.
“Those guys will do anything for me.” That’s a statement that would quickly prove true. Many a night, my son gets a call from a frat brother with a broken-down car. Other times it is from a brother who was depressed and needed someone to talk to…all night. Another time, it came from 275 miles away; a fraternal brother who needed help coping with a problem. The group jumped into the car and drove five hours to talk it out. No questions asked. No complaining….just a group of guys there for each other. And it does not matter if they are not close friends. They are brothers.
I hate to admit it, but in all of my years as a preacher, church leader and pastor, I have found it extremely rare to find that kind of loyalty among church members. Yes, there were people who would help out in situations and problems. But to find the level of closeness and loyalty that I find in my son’s fraternity? Well, I still have not found it. Does it exist? Absolutely. However, I believe it is not the norm.
The church of Jesus Christ is, in reality, a fraternal brotherhood who surrender to each other. It is a sorority of sisters bound to the common good of the other person. Why does it seem to be so rare? Perhaps it is because we have not learned that the church is not an institution. It is a brotherhood, a gathering of the called out ones from God. My son and his fraternity are not bound to each other because of a rulebook or organizational structure. No, they are bound to each other because of their love for each other: they may at times despise each other, but they will sacrifice all because they are all in this together.
I am sadly watching people leave the church altogether. Why? Many times it is simply because they are lured away by the world. Most other times, at least in our culture, I believe it is because we are no longer committed to each other in body, mind and spirit. People are looking for a sense of belonging. If the church does not deliver on this one crucial aspect of humanity, people will find it from other sources.
It is all about relationships. No need for fancy church gimmicks, more awesome worship bands or any other type of activity. All that is needed are people who sacrifice all for each other.
May your “church” be a fraternity, a gathering of those entrusted to each other for all of eternity.