christian living

The Sin of Church Cliques

Heart of Grace Ministries

I must admit when the word clique was mentioned to me I really wasn’t for sure its exact meaning. Apparently they didn’t have cliques in the days of Noah Webster because it was not included in his 1828 dictionary so I had to rely on Merriam-Webster. They define a clique as a small group of people who spend time together and are not friendly to other people. Most other definitions also give hint to an exclusivity mindset. From the first definition we can easily determine that church cliques should be an oxymoron and not found among a body of believers but unfortunately they are a part of almost every church congregation.

I remember when I so wanted to be a part of this group at church. As I look back on it now I have no idea why. But somehow over time my husband and I got that seal of approval. On the first group outing we realized it wasn’t a very edifying group to be a part of. We would have much rather spent time with those who steer us toward Christ-likeness instead of worldliness.

There are family cliques, mommy cliques, bible study and Sunday school cliques. That is one of the reasons I am opposed to age-based Sunday school classes. The same group of people travel from class to class until as one of my older women friends put it: “You get to the last class and you know that is where you are going to die.” The younger never have opportunity to glean from the older because you are always around your same age group. My husband and I are rebels. We are a part of a younger couples’ class and hopefully at times they gain some wisdom from us.

We like people that look like us, act like us, like what we like, and are similar to us; however, the Christian life is just not that neat. The point of the gospel is not to unite people according to the flesh, but rather to unite people in Jesus Christ. If I am a cliquey person then I am enjoying exclusive relationships with folks while also excluding others whom Christ has brought together. I have just unwittingly undermined a major aspect of what Christ has bought in and through his gospel! -from a blog post by Erik Raymond of The Gospel Coalition

Some may think I am part of a clique so I will digress here just a moment to hopefully squelch that type of talk. When I have opportunity to teach a women’s bible study, it is always open to all women. I can’t make people that I would love to see there come. It can be a beautiful thing when women of diverse backgrounds and ages at different seasons of life gather around God’s word. I have made open invitations on our women’s Facebook group page to do different things together but yet it is usually the same people that respond. Maybe it’s me, or time restraints or fear of being with other women one isn’t usually around.

Whatever the reason the fact is-we ALL need each other. We are to be brothers and sisters in Christ not cliques in Christ. I’ve been a church newbie. I know what it is like to faithfully go to a new church where you just have to tell yourself week after week after week: “I’m here for the gospel…I’m here for the gospel…” because no one but the pastor makes an effort to talk with you. After church the little groups of people formed who might nod a “hi” but not much else. Some say that one should just go up and start talking to people. Really? Do we not remember the first day at a different school or a new workplace? The first day or even weeks of church can be just as intimidating. My heart aches when I hear of people who have experienced this at a church. Believers, it should not be.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. -Romans 15:5-7

Yes, there are always going to be like-minded people who enjoy hanging out with each other. That is part of building friendships but let us not ever become so group-focused or friend-exclusive that we forget we are part of a church body where each member needs the other. And most importantly let us not forget the visiting single mom with the unruly child, the former prisoner or the newbie family who are on the outside looking in and longing for community.


1 thought on “The Sin of Church Cliques”

  1. I’ve written about this too – cliques, and how hard it can be to break into the life of a church. Thanks for speaking out about this unfortunately common problem. “Some say that one should just go up and start talking to people. Really?” -Yeah, I’ve heard this too. What?!?! Ugh. I could get snarky, but will refrain. I wonder if people who say this type of thing have literally never been the new person? That could be it. But regardless we should be on the lookout for others, as Jesus so often did – taking notice of that person off to the side, and reaching out in care.

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