God’s Communal Grace

Brooks Harwood is the RUF Campus Minister at the University of Houston

When I think of Summer Conference, I think of God’s communal grace—his gift of not only pulling students to himself but also to each other.

Let me share a story with you about one of our students. We’ll call him “Luke.” Luke just got involved in RUF this past year. He, like so many college students, come into a group and wonder, “Who will accept me? Who will be my friend? Who is here for me?”

Little by little, Luke got more involved. When mid fall rolled around, he considered coming to our Fall Conference trip. He thought to himself: “Why go to this conference when I don’t know anyone deeply? Won’t it be weird? Won’t it be awkward?” And so he chose not to come. Fast forward to mid Spring when we started promoting our Summer Conference trip the same questions rolled through his mind: “What’s the point? Do I really know these people well? What if I go there and I just sit by myself the whole time?”

But he decided to take a risk and signed up anyway. The Monday arrived for him to leave. He hopped into the car with some students that he didn’t know too well to spend 10 hours with on their drive to Florida. And to his pleasant surprise, the drive was a blast. The students were inviting. They shared stories. They shared music. They made stops. They made laughs. They made memories. God was already at work pulling him toward others.

When they made it Summer Conference, he still wondered how he would get close to anyone over the course of five days. But at every turn, God met him by pulling him toward others. At our nightly large group worship gatherings, he sat with other students and heard Brian Sorgenfrei preach about justification: how our right standing with God has nothing to do with what we do and has everything to do with what Jesus has done. This freed up Luke to be himself all week because if God already thinks highly of him in Jesus, then he had no reason to hold himself back with others.

Each morning he sat in on seminars taught by various campus ministers and staff which led to all kinds of good conversations between him and other students. He was surprised to have so much in common with others. And the surprises kept coming. At the beach, playing volleyball, sharing meals, hanging out in the dorms, dancing at the silent disco party—God kept showing up by pulling him closer and closer to others.

By the end of the trip, he made some real friends.

In a lonely world in which all of us struggle to be known and loved at the same time, God’s communal grace—his pulling people not only to himself but to each other—is one of the best gifts he gives. And that’s precisely what God does at Summer Conference year after year. And for this, I give him praise!