Being Known: Transforming Our Campus Fellowships

Some time ago, I introduced you to author and psychiatrist Curt Thompson.  Today, I had the chance to sit down with him over lunch and talk about the ways his focus on “being known” by God and others can shape our campus ministries and patient interactions.

I’ll share more in the next post or two, but today I want to share his thoughts on the intersection between “being known” and our campus fellowships.

What, though, does it mean to “be known?”  Dr. Thompson explains it like this in one of his blog posts:

[To ‘be known’] “is to be open, to be vulnerable, and to intend to grow in your capacity for emotional resilience.  It does not mean that you subject yourself to being a doormat… [but] it requires that you allow this process to take place in the presence of another who is trustworthy with your deepest secrets.  But it is the only way to freedom… Knowing is often about keeping others at a far enough distance in order not to be wounded.  Being known is about healing the wounds we already carry.”

I love that last part about the contrast between “knowing” and “being known.”  Obviously, we need to know certain things to make it through our days, and to become effective healthcare providers.  At the same time, we (myself included) like to be what I call “friendly-distant”, friendly enough to be socially acceptable, but distant enough so that no one really understands the core of who we are.  That way, we think, we’ll be safe from getting hurt.

Healthcare training, with its emphasis on memorizing information, achievement, and titles, makes it hard to admit failure and weakness… in short, to “be known.”  Unfortunately, this culture often gets imported into our medical campus fellowships.  We can hold bible studies, worship together, and even talk after our gatherings, but do we let each other in on what’s ‘really’ going on?

As God works with me in this area, I’m understanding that, to do this with others, I have to do this with God.  The good news is that God sees all my junk, but still loves me because of what Christ did for me.  As I get that, then I’m free to let you know me, too, even if you don’t accept me fully like God.  Scary, yes, but Jesus ‘went first’ to set the example for us.

So let’s say you’re convinced your campus fellowship needs to go deeper, to become a community where people are really known.  What can you do about it?

In his book Anatomy of the Soul, Dr. Thompson recommends these possible steps:

  • start with just one (and up to 6-8) other people who share your desire.
  • find a place that allows for open, honest conversation, and simply begin talking about what you hope happens (i.e., “I want a better relationship with you, but don’t really know how to get there.”)
  • after that, you can share the things that might make your conversation difficult (“I’m not sure how you’ll react after I say what I’m about to say.”).  You should talk about what you feel, not just about what you think.
  • from there, you can affirm, as you can, what the other person is sharing and ask questions.
  • the conversation can go anywhere from there.  Ultimately, your relationships should form a tangible picture of God’s mercy, grace and hopeful expectation in real-time.  Ideally, these redemptive relationships can last a lifetime.

As our campus groups become more like this, they’ll become places we want to be, not just something we have to check off our list.  They’ll also be way more attractive to the outside world and become places where it, too, can experience God’s healing and grace.

There’s no script for this.  It will definitely be way more messy and annoying than we want it to be.  But, if we’ll follow Christ into the chaos and allow ourselves to be known, our fellowships will become the vehicles of God’s mercy and transformation that we’ve always longed for them to be.

Will you ‘go first’ where God has placed you?  And, who will you invite to join you?

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