If she could go back to her college freshman year, Rachel Gibson would approach her sorority sisters who didn’t know Jesus in a completely different way.
“When I came to college, I had a relationship with Jesus and wanted to share my faith, but I didn’t know how,” Rachel shared. “I came into Greek life with this perspective: I have good news to bring to all these people. However, I initially alienated my non-believing sisters because they made choices I didn’t agree with. God reminded me, Rachel, you are no different than your non-believing sisters. The only thing that is different is that you have hope in Jesus and they do not. You’re looking for love, satisfaction, security, success, whatever it is, and so are they. God has put those desires in all of us that we might seek Him for fulfillment.”
Rachel describes her junior year in college as a transition in her relationship with those sorority sisters. It was then that she started to spend more time with them and built deeper friendships. God grew her heart for these sorority sisters and she began to step into discipleship opportunities. She saw upperclassmen in her Chi Omega sorority who also followed Jesus. Rachel wanted to be just like them.
“I had the opportunity to co-lead a Bible study with a woman from the Delta Gamma sorority. The only two people who came were two Phi Mu sorority freshmen. Nobody from my Chi Omega sorority came,” Rachel shared.
She was disappointed, but God encouraged her heart and reminded her that He had bigger things in mind.
“I had to realize that the future generations of Phi Mu sorority sisters coming to know Jesus aren’t going to know the name Rachel Gibson. But they may know the names of the women who were in their Bible study and even current Phi Mu sisters investing in them,” she shared. “I once heard a conference speaker give an illustration about an apple and relating it to discipleship. Instead of thinking about how many seeds are in an apple when it comes to bringing people to Christ, what if you think about how many apples are actually in a seed. Wow! It blew my mind. God could use my life for infinitely more than I imagined. Not just here and now with the people I directly impact, but those people could go and spiritually invest in others.”
This is what God had in mind.
What is Discipleship?
Liz wondered what discipleship was all about. She grew up in a home where going to church and prayer were definitely important, but she didn’t have a personal relationship with the Lord. The summer before Liz started college, her older sister asked her if she had a relationship with Jesus. Liz saw a difference in her sister each time she came home from Iowa State, where she was also involved in Navigators Collegiate. Liz knew she wanted what her sister had and soon accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior.
When her friend Sylvia Nock invited her to join a sorority at Iowa State her freshman year, she wasn’t sure. She wondered how she would handle the party-scene or stay on top of academics. She didn’t know what it would look like to follow Christ as a Pi Beta Phi sorority sister.
“Sylvia was someone I discipled and she had just joined a sorority. She was my connection to Liz and had invited her to consider joining Greek life and doing ministry there,” Rachel shared.
Through Sylvia, Rachel and Liz had coffee and talked about the sorority opportunity.
“I remember asking Rachel for advice and getting to see how the Lord used her experience in Greek life—even what she wishes she had done or the ways God provided and grew her,” Liz shared.
Rachel pointed out to Liz the ways a sorority mirrors spiritual generations. Each sorority sister has someone she calls a “Big” and a “Little.” A Big is someone already established in the sorority and potentially older or ahead academically. The “Little” is someone potentially younger and new to the sorority. The “Big” shows her “Little” the ropes and comes alongside her to teach her all she’s learned.
The same could be said for discipleship and the relationship built between Rachel and Sylvia, Sylvia and Liz, and then Liz and Hannah Nielson.
“Part of the reason why Hannah is in Pi Beta Phi is because of Liz,” Rachel shared. “One reason I love Greek life so much is that it aligns with the Navigators calling of living and discipling among the lost. Liz’s heart longed for others to join her in being a movement of the gospel in Greek life. So she pursued others to come with her.”
Liz wasn’t sure Hannah would be interested in joining her sorority, but took the chance. As a result of this invitation, Hannah decided to join and is a Christ-follower who spreads joy among her Pi Beta Phi sorority sisters.
“One time Rachel shared with me about a living stream. She mentioned how it is both poured into and it pours out. If it’s not being poured into, then it will dry up. And if it’s not being poured out, then it will overflow,” Liz shared. “This shows how we need to be discipled, but also need to disciple others—seeking this type of community. In Greek life, there are many opportunities to give an answer for the hope I have. My sorority sisters often ask me why I read my Bible, and I share with them how I’m being poured into—through God’s Word.”
Will My Friends Reject My Faith in Christ?
After committing her life to the Lord her sophomore year of college and a summer of intimately connecting with Jesus, Heidi Cooper felt nervous about heading back to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and to the sorority she had joined her freshman year. Now a junior, she knew her friends and Delta Gamma sorority sisters would notice the difference in her life. But she wasn’t sure they would approve.
More important, though, was Heidi’s desire to continue growing in her relationship with Jesus. She knew she needed someone to pour into her spiritually. A friend from summer camp connected her with Rachel and they soon met for coffee and even talked about The Wheel Illustration, one of The Navigators’ discipleship resources focused on how to live a Christ centered life. From that point on, Rachel and Heidi began meeting to study Ephesians and pray.
Heidi was excited for the semester and what was to come.
“The first time I read Ephesians 1 with Heidi with the long list of what God has done for us, I watched Heidi light up. This was really good news for her,” Rachel shared. “I turned the moment around and asked Heidi who she knew who would also think this was good news. One after another, she kept naming people.”
The wild thing Heidi experiences in sharing her faith with her sorority sisters is that the Holy Spirit will give her words to say that she hadn’t planned on saying.
“I’m a vessel for Him and He’s blessed me with the ability to share,” Heidi shared. “ Even the other night I was in the basement of our sorority house watching The Chosen and a few sisters walked through and even asked me about the show. I invited them to stay and watch it with me and they did. It has been incredible to see how open their hearts are to the Lord and learning about what He can do in their lives. I’m asking myself now, Why weren’t we trying this all along? We had too much fear of the repercussions. But why? God is capable of some pretty amazing things.”
Every once in a while, Heidi has sorority sisters come up to her and talk about how they notice a difference in her life. One sorority sister even said she wanted the same type of relationship with Jesus that Heidi has—after seeing her peace and joy.
“People will search for fulfillment in anything that they can and that is kind of where I was before Jesus. I knew I wanted to choose Him, but asked, So now what do I do now? I had fear of rejection for a long time,” Heidi shared. “The story is my friends actually haven’t left me, and God has used me as a vessel to bring them to Him. Our friendships were purposed by God, for me to bring them along on this journey I have with Him. If it weren’t for God and His work in me and also His work through me, then my friends and I may still be lost.”
What I Learned About Waiting on God
As Rachel talks about what God is doing in the lives of sorority sisters in both Iowa and Nebraska, she says it leaves her speechless. She notices the promises of Isaiah 61 being fulfilled on these college campuses—Jesus binding up broken hearts, healing, setting captives free.
She recognizes the Lord’s kindness in this season and how His kindness leads to repentance in Romans 2:4 (NIV).
“The Holy Spirit recently pointed out how it isn’t my righteous works that save me nor is it anyone else’s righteous works saving me. This is to be free of the expectation of the people I care for and am investing in,” Rachel shared. “It’s nothing that I do that is going to save them, it’s going to be God who does that. I want to speak and live from that gospel place of freedom. It is not on my shoulders to make this happen and I confidently trust in the One who will do it and said He wants to.”