The Christian Clique is a paradox

The reason why I have been inspired to post on this topic is because of two reasons.

  1. I was told at church last Sunday by a guest who came to the my church that he loved how welcoming and friendly and homely he felt our church was. I was particularly glad about this comment as that’s what church should be. Amazing times.
  2. Recently at Cardiff University Christian Union, the problem of cliques has been identified. This is definitely not good, and a lot more serious than people seem to think it is.

With this in mind, I have decided to do a blog post on it. Those of us who are a Christian will know of at least one example of a Christian Clique/ Holy Huddle / Gospel Groupie / Kingdom Kollective if we think about it. If you can’t, then I’m going to be as bold as to say that you’re probably in one of the aforementioned groups.

The fact of the matter is that in all honesty, it’s an absolute disgrace. The Bible condemns it. And if per se, you were perfect in all your ways but still belonged to a clique of some kind, it would keep you out of relationship with God and out of heaven if you hadn’t trusted in Christ for your salvation. Don’t you believe me? I’ll show you:

James 2:1-13…

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.”So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

Yes, that’s right. Verse 9 sums it up. If we are in a clique, (the Bible calls it favouring someone/ a group over another person/group) then you are sinning, and breaking the law.

Now, if there is one thing I try my uttermost to do, it is to make sure that I’m not in one particular group of friends. I will, at this point, admit that I don’t always stick to this principle which is bad of me and I guess requires the forgiveness of God and my neighbour who I sin against at these times. Most of the time I break this principle, however, it is done in the subconscious. But on the whole, I tend to drift between different groups to make sure I speak to as many people as possible. Sometimes, it isn’t that easy as someone in particular wants to have a conversation with me. That’s cool – I’m all for getting to know people better!

The thing is, I find that my way with dealing with cliques often alienates me! I don’t fit into one particular group, and therefore I don’t get invited out or kept in the loop with any particular group of people. And sometimes it does get upsetting. But ultimately, I know I’m doing the right thing by not getting into the rut of staying in one particular Christian group.

If I can feel upset about it, knowing that it’s best to not get into that sort of Christian living, how much more upset and unwanted can one feel if they aren’t Christian or who often feels as if they’re on the fringes of society, yet comes to a Christian gathering of some sort expecting to be welcomed and to find some identity, friendship and fellowship?

It’s a scary thought.

One thing that attracted me to my current church was the fact that it was all inclusive, all embracing, friendly and welcoming. And it still is. At my church, I still feel the same. There aren’t millions of small Christian Cliques, just one big family. That’s how Christ intended his Church to be. One body. And I genuinely feel that if our church grows, we won’t lose that quality that we have now. I’m not saying my church is perfect! Far from it… and we always need to keep on top of being welcoming; it’s so easy to forget and slip into the Kingdom Kollective mentality again.

But my point of this blog post which will have got some people’s backs up is… why aren’t all churches and Christian organisations welcoming? Why aren’t they all churches and organisations where cliques are banned?

Did you know that in a recent survey, 93% of people said they’d come back to church if they were just welcomed back in by someone?

You see, Christianity is all about relationship. Relationship with Christ, and relationship with eachother, and relationship with those who don’t know Jesus yet.

If we can’t get relationships right, what hope do we have of getting anything else right in the Christian life?

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • Lisa

    Hi Dean – as the person at church with notional responsibility for welcome, it’s really good to hear feedback on how welcoming we are managing to be – although I always worry about any church being complacent about that. I run training courses for the diocese on improving the quality of welcome in churches (in fact I have just emailed all the clergy in the diocese to remind them about the training that’s available, as we have just had a presentation from the people who run Back to Church Sunday, so it seems like good timing). Welcome is crucial – an it’s also the reason that I’m at that particular church – on my first visit, I was so impressed by how welcoming people were – not jut the ‘official’ welcomers, but people in general! OK, we all have particular friends we like to catchup with at church – but Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester, suggested that regular churchgoers should spend the first three minutes after a service seeking out and speaking to someone new, or someone they don’t normally speak to, before heading for their friends. Which sounds like good advice to me…See you on Sunday, hopefully!

    • Lisa!

      The Bishop of Manchester is a wise man! 3 minutes could equal a life changing experience for someone within that context.

      Glad you’re reminding our diocese of what it means to be and do church.

      Keep at it – I do know how much hard work you put in; truly amazing.

      See you Sunday hopefully!

  • An interesting blog post Dean. I stepped off committee over two years ago now and know that cliques were something that even my committee were trying to root out and stop. It is a huge problem and one that people can really only solve by having the correct view of God, the Gospel, their neighbours and themselves.

    One thing I would note though.. You talk about lack of cliques and hold your church up as one that is amazing and without such cliques. I fear that in the grown up Christian, non-CU world, churches are the cliques. Yes, there still can be cliques within churches but overall I feel these pose less of a risk than this whole mentality of “my church is better than your church” etc. Coming from a country as divided as NI is it absolutely breaks my heart when people object to Christ because “well, you Christians can’t even agree” – in my home village (it is not that big!) the Presbyterian churches (one of which I go to) and Anglican church will not worship together. That is not the Gospel.

    Rach

    • Rach,

      You’re completely right. Something I didn’t mention in the post was how churches themselves can be cliques. At St Paul’s we have good relationships with the other churches in Newport, which is amazing. God has been really gracious to us, and it’s our prayer that we make new friendships with churches we haven’t met yet, and that our current friendships would be strengthened.

      The whole clique culture within Christian circles has to be stopped; and quickly.

      NI just proves this. In a country/province where faith is already been divided, it’s crucial that we recognise what you have said above.

      Thanks for spending time to comment on my post – And I pray and hope that the Anglican church will come to your church to worship at some point!

      • Martin

        I’m not sure all the relationships with other churches are so positive. I have spoken with a number of clergy and laity who have found St. Paul’s a bit set in their ‘New Wine’ ways and less than open to other patterns of worship or biblical interpretations, especially more traditional forms. It is easy to be friendly with people who think like you, but much harder to be loving and open to people who disagree with some of your theological interpretations and who worship in ways that you find irritating. I believe that is what God wants us to do.
        I would go a bit further, and feel that Christians should be less tied to their ‘own’ congregations and consider themselves more as part of the whole church. Paul accused the Corinthians of quarrelling (1 Cor. 1:10-17) about who they follow (Paul, Cephas, Apollos) which sounds rather like denominations, but can apply equally to individual churches (St. Pauls, St Julians, Kings, St Marks).
        Let’s embrace diversity. Let’s use Beth Croft and Graham Kendrick and Isaac Watts. Let’s welcome students and pensioners, baby boomers and teenagers. The church is the one place where all of these divisions are meaningless, where an alternative society of acceptance and co-operation can be seen in action (ideally).
        We need to admit that we are nowhere near there, but at least we can aim for that!

        • Martin

          Oops, the bold was not meant to stay on after ‘that’.

        • Martin,

          I understand what you’re saying. Yes, let’s be all embracing, and yes let’s be one Church. I said that in my post I believe, and in the comments on this post.

          However, if by ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’ you mean Anglicans, then they should know that the Anglican church is very diverse. A bit too diverse sometimes (just on a personal note). Just because we are ‘Set in New Wine ways’ and not ‘as open to other Biblical interpretation’, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t welcoming. They may equally be set in their worship tradition or theological approach.

          I wouldn’t say that St Paul’s as a church has a problem with people in other churches at all. We don’t have a problem with their style of worship; indeed we went to Deanery Evensong not so long ago. It wasn’t what a lot of us particularly liked, but we went to be friends with Newport Deanery. Theological differences are another matter. Some differences will divide, and that’s not a bad thing. I, personally, could worship in the same church as clergy who believed in something like annihilationism. But I could not worship in a church where the clergy believed that one didn’t need Jesus necessarily to be right with God.

          What I’m saying is, is that different styles of worship don’t matter… Neither do CERTAIN theologies. But the thing that Christians unite on and/or SHOULD unite on and come together as ONE Church, is, as UCCF puts it “Gospel truths and doctrines”. If we don’t agree on orthodox Christian beliefs on and about the gospel, then we won’t be united, and styles of worship and categorisations like “New Wine Ways” will be the driving force of division.

  • M

    On the link from your facebook it said something along the lines of “if you’re a Christian please read”.
    Personally I do not consider myself to belong to any faith, but agnostic. As a theology student I obviously have a great interest in such topics, but found it a bit ‘cliquey’ that you assumed only Christians would have interest in reading it.

    • Glad you read the blog, which is very encouraging, M 🙂

      However, I would disagree in saying my Facebook Status was ‘cliquey’, due to the fact that the particular post was addressed specifically at Christian church communities.

      However, that didn’t mean that other people weren’t allowed or shouldn’t have read it 🙂

      Happy Easter to you!