How the Worldview Initiative Has Redefined Christlike Community in My Life
As the end of the semester rolls around at Bryan College, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the past three or four months. Looking back, one of the most influential areas of my life this semester has been the Worldview Initiative. I shared with our assistant director Jack Saunders during a conversation around the office that with the Worldview Initiative I’ve found a place to belong. I’ve tried to think about what specifically makes me feel that way about the team, and my writing here expresses what I sincerely believe to be the most influential contribution to that sense of belonging—being known and being loved—which I will argue require an environment where our voice is heard and where we experience grace.
One of my favorite books this year, This is Awkward by Sammy Rhodes, has helped me put this feeling into words. In the opening section of his book, Rhodes addresses two needs he believes to be universal for all people—being known and being loved. However, to be truly known and loved by others requires vulnerability, and vulnerability often makes people awkward. The key to successfully forming relationships capable of this vulnerability and self-disclosure is grace.
Using passages from scripture (Romans 2:4; Genesis 3), Rhodes acknowledges the ultimate grace that Jesus extends, a grace that we are called to emulate. In fact, Paul explicitly instructs the church throughout his epistles to love one another, build one another up with encouragement, confess sins to one another, and restore brothers and sisters in Christ. These passages all point to a kind of community dedicated to vulnerability, honesty, and even awkwardness in the spirit of love, acceptance, and grace.
The Worldview Initiative has been shaped to create this kind of community. Members of the team are encouraged to share their burdens, struggles, and doubts with one another. In return, we also expect guidance, encouragement, love, acceptance, and ultimately grace.
As I’ve been a part of this community and seen the way people respond to it, I’ve been inspired to take it with me and create it wherever I go, which is easier said than done. But in that process, I’m discovering some key ideas for successfully accomplishing these kinds of relationships with people around me.
The most important and most foundational is practicing the art of listening. While it may sound simple at first glance, the kind of listening I’m referring to here rarely happens naturally in our culture. I’m talking about creating a space where people genuinely find that their voice is being heard. This king of listening is a discipline.
In our world of social media and entertainment, listening requires us to give over our own desire for control, deny our own selfishness, and overcome our short attention spans. Researchers like Sherry Turkle (author of Alone Together) spend their entire life studying how this has become increasingly difficult for our generation. Our cultural understanding of community, relationships, and self-disclosure has shaped our individual relational skills, and not for the better.
In some cases, we can even be our own worst enemy as we search for meaningful love and acceptance. The film adaption of Stephen Chbosky’s novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) reflects this inner struggle in the line: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” The truth in that statement is a perfect example of how desperately we need grace for ourselves.
Until you’ve experienced something deeper, it’s hard to understand just how inadequate the world’s concept of community and relationship is when it comes to meeting those desires we all have—to be known and to be loved. But, once we’re willing to consider factors like listening and accepting and extending grace, we have a place to start creating these deeper relationships.
I speak from experience when I say that committing to this will require much of you. It will not be easy. Even so, I encourage you to make it a priority. Reflect Christ’s love. Genuinely listen to others. Cultivate communities of grace. Embrace the awkward. It will be worth it. That’s the kind of community I’ve found with the Worldview Initiative, and it’s been so influential to my life that I hope to carry it with me everywhere I go.
Elise Barnes is a senior at Bryan College studying Christian Ministry. She is passionate about engaging with minorities and sharing the love of Jesus. After graduation, she hopes to continue her education in a graduate program to prepare for serving on the mission field.