Update 2006-2016: Since this post was first posted at the JPN, RW, TG and related sites, it has been viewed/read over 3/4 million times. What does this say to you about the importance of this subject? Please read the update and comments below for Part II commentary….tolle lege…
The Five “C’s” Church, Cliques,
Coffee, Cookies & Crumbs
Part I “Church & Cliques”
Okay, I will say it…we have social cliques in our churches. We try to cover up, ignore, overlook or we are just plain blind to them, but we do have them. Any Christian, whatever gender, age, race, position, occupation has experienced at one time or another the position or experience of being inside or outside of a “clique” group in fellowship in the church. I’ve been in them, gender-specific, age-specific, child-specific, etc. etc. and so have you. We like to say that people will fit together socially in certain people groups within the church body because of their “specific” needs or situations or because it just “works that way.” But how does this play out in practice?
• You walk into a new church and no one greets you because everyone is busy with “friends” and catching up.
• You are a visitor or friend of the church and you attend a dinner, coffee hour, event and are faced with the awkward position of the “regulars” all sitting together, enjoying fellowship and you are alone, ignored and noticeably uncomfortable and want to hit the pavement running and decide there and then never to attend another event.
• You are a church member and are one of those members who is not in the “clique group” “officer group” or a “long-standing or “charter member” group.
• Or, perhaps you are in one of these categories: a single, divorced, or widowed adult, middle-aged or elderly, infirmed, or, childless and are totally “outside” the “qualifying norm” (i.e., family: father, mother, children) of your church and therefore “just don’t fit in.”
But what does the Bible say about this? Is it biblical? In short, the answer is yes and no. YES, in the formal preaching, teaching, and official administration of the church we have gender-specific positions and administration but NO these are never to be “cliques” but rather “office specific” by administration, not by relational attitude and behavior to other members and groups. In plain language this means in the fellowship of believers in the church body, there should not be a “leadership clique” or “officer-to-officer friendly group-only” “mommies-only clique” “married-only clique” “single-only clique” or any other type of “clique.” All members of the body of Christ, whether official, leadership, member or child should fellowship one with another as unto Christ. We are Christ’s body, which is one, and no part is without the other.
“But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body as it has pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where would be the body? But now indeed many are the members, yet only one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. But much rather the members of the body seeming to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we put more abundant honor around them. And our unpresentable members have more abundant propriety. For our presentable members have no need, but God tempered the body together, giving more abundant honor to the member having need; that there not be division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” 1Co 12:18-25
In this article, I want to speak specifically about those “social” events, church suppers, outings, coffee hours and other “fellowship” events in the life of the church body since this is the place where most of those occurrences of “cliquish” behavior occur. Should there be “cliques” here – the answer is unequivocally “No”! Absolutely not! Sadly, I believe this causes more folks to be offended, unhappy or leave a church than any other. We, as people, will tolerate bad teaching, preaching, uncomfortable seating, etc. but we will not tolerate alienation and rejection. If we look at statistics or do a survey of why folks leave a church, this is high on the list of reasons. [This would have been one category I would have added to Richard Gant’s “Twenty Controversies That Almost Killed the Church.”) It is no wonder that “fun-filled” erroneous doctrine is tolerated in many churches because the “people are friendly” and “I feel loved and appreciated there” or “I can be myself and accepted for who I am and I am no longer ‘on the outside looking in’ in the church family. These are sad statements are they not? A true indictment of our lack of love of the body in total and our ministry to them in the church family. We can have biblical, correct doctrine and yet completely miss the mark in our ministry to the body of Christ in the church. Christ has said, “Let love be without hypocrisy, shrinking from evil, cleaving to good; in brotherly love to one another, loving fervently, having led one another in honor.” We are all guilty and need to repent and beseech Christ for mercy to change and flee from our cliquishness to be an outgoing, outgiving, loving and ministering people. Only then will we no longer be “cliques” of peoples in the body but rather one body, in Christ, in heart and action, and can say we are reflecting the glory of Christ as the body of Christ. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper as one body and we celebrate our fellowship in the body as one. We eat and drink together as one. Let us live as brethren as one.
There is so much more to say on this and I will in my next article, Part II, “Coffee, Cookies and Crumbs.”1/ You know where I am going on this, don’t you? This Lord’s Day as you worship and fellowship with His people, consider these things you have read and examine yourself to see where change is needed. You will be the better for it to the glory of God and the good of your own soul.
Blessed Lord God, the Lover of our souls, have mercy upon us and lead us as Your people to love as You have loved us and given Yourself for us. Help us to flee from the sin of cliquishness, favoritism, discrimination and knock down our prideful hearts and behavior so that we will be reflections of Christ-likeness and truly love and serve one another as You have commanded. Open our eyes to see ourselves as others see us so that we can change. Help us to be pitiful to those that are different than us and to reach out to them. You have placed us in the body by Your providential sovereign decree for Your glory and our good. Help us to be a people of one heart and mind. Because of Jesus we ask, Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria
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1/ See post comment below.
[NOTE: This article was originally posted in 2006 but revived and reposted as a result of a question by one of our members. We hope it is helpful to our viewers. See also comments below. ]