Would Jesus Join a Fraternity?

by Brian Manngreek ivp

Which part of the university is least likely to be receptive to God?  If we were playing Family Feud, a few different answers would be offered, but it is likely that one of the highest scoring answers would be “fraternities and sororities.”

It’s hard to miss the brokenness highlighted in the news about fraternities and sororities, and this attention only reinforces the view that Greeks aren’t receptive to God.  Which raises a question for me…

Would Jesus join a fraternity?

When I arrived at the University of Illinois for my freshman year of college and considered the fraternity option, I sought God’s leading, because I had grown up in a family and church that loved God and encouraged me to pursue God’s will for my life.

I was surprised to find that I felt led to join a particular fraternity. I really enjoyed the members I met there, but no one had any overt expression of a faith.  I felt the tension of being drawn to this group of men while at the same time sensing an environment that was incompatible with faith.  I joined that fraternity my freshman year, and sure enough, over time I ceased to have a relationship with God.

But as God would have it, my university was one of eight in the country that had a Greek InterVarsity chapter specifically focused on reaching students in fraternities and sororities. This group believed it was possible to be both Greek and Christian and sought to bring both of those primary identities into alignment. It was in that community, with other students who understood the Greek and Christian tension, that I encountered Jesus in a transformative way.

As God continued to work in me over the next couple years, I naturally started to engage my friends around questions of faith. One day I took the scariest risk of my life: I stood up in my fraternity chapter meeting and invited 100+ guys to come to the investigative Bible discussion I would be leading.

Over that year, more than 30 men either came to the Bible discussion, came to faith-focused events with me, or engaged me in spiritual conversations one on one. Many a Saturday night I would be out at a bar at midnight and have a brother put his arm around my shoulder and begin to ask spiritual questions.  I became the resident “God person” and saw what could happen when people were one friend away from Jesus. I lived with them. I ate with them.  My friends saw my life up close so there was no hiding any aspects of who I was or how I lived. I had the opportunity to incarnate Jesus among them in a way they may never experience again. The relationships built over my first years at college took on new meaning when deep questions of life and faith became normal topics of discussion.

The interest my friends showed in Jesus and the activity of God I saw in their lives changed the entire trajectory of my life. I became hooked on having a front row seat to God’s transformation work in another’s life.

Jesus is present and active in the Greek system.

Since that time God has been capturing thousands of students’ hearts in the same way.  Now there are close to 100 campuses where incoming students can encounter a witnessing community of students who embody being both Greek and Christian. Campuses where students are living out the gospel and actively seeking to be salt and light in a place that sorely needs it. Campuses where a new normal is being formed within a fraternity or sorority where members have a choice in how they orient their life and whether God will be a part of it. Jesus is present and active in the Greek system.

While no student’s life is more important than another’s, reaching Greeks has a strategic impact because of who they tend to become.  Greek alumni hold a significant percentage of key leadership roles.

  • 70% of US presidents since 1870 were in a fraternity.
  • 42% of the Senate, 24% of House representatives were in a fraternity or sorority.
  • 31% of Supreme Court Justices were in a fraternity or sorority.
  • 50% of the top 10 Fortune 500 CEOs were in a fraternity or sorority.
  • A disproportionate percentage of doctors, lawyers, and other powerful professionals were in a fraternity or sorority.

This is true of leadership on campus as well. Some campuses recently reported that Greek students fill 80% of the leadership positions on campus.

If God’s love can shape these future influencers to lead and love from a divine perspective, it could have a significant impact on our world.

One former student for whom this has been true is Will Haughey.  After a life-changing encounter Christ in his fraternity, he and his brother started a company that came out of wrestling with God over the following question: “Could we create a for-profit company based in Honduras that would foster a positive social impact through its business?” Will’s story as told in this video is the kind of change God is initiating and that we see the potential to occur in even more students in fraternities and sororities across the country.

Sharing God’s heart for the Greek system is what takes our team to one of the most broken places on a college campus. There we seek out the Spirit’s work, partnering with God to bring about healing and justice in both the university and far beyond its borders.

Brian Mann is National Director of Greek Ministry for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship /USA. He is a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity from the University of Illinois.

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