Does your church have a clique problem?

24 Jan

[This post first appeared on the Youthworks website written by Michael Hyam on 25th September 2012]

Have you ever had an experience like this?

You’re new at church, and the gathering has finished for another week. The lights go off, and you’re “strongly encouraged” to head over to the hall for supper. When you get there, music is playing, food is served and most people are standing around talking. This seems like a nice place. As your eyes adjust to the light, you feel your heart racing … “Where do I go? Who do I talk to?”

You try the first group of people. Deep breath … you introduce yourself and they are friendly enough. They tell you their names, ask about you, but quickly return to talking about their weekends or some sport called “football”. You try again with a different group. Same thing, different topic. “That’s it! I am out of here.”

If you’ve ever experienced this, then you know what it is to encounter an exclusive group, or “clique”. 

What is a clique?

A clique can be defined as ‘a small close‐knit group of people who do not readily allow others to join them’.

There is nothing wrong with having a close‐knit group of friends, even Jesus himself had three close friends amongst the twelve disciples (Mark 9:2). However, when a clique forms they are generally, by their nature, closed to others joining them. This is where the problem begins at chuches, schools and youth groups.

God and Cliques

As Christians we believe in one God (Dueteronomy. 6:4) who has revealed himself in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Each person of the Trinity is a genuine person who relates to the other. Significantly, this means the God who creates, is also a God who is personal and relational. The essential pattern of personal relationships established within the Trinity, is best described and understood then as a ‘mutual love relationship’. 

Why we often fail at loving others

We are made in God’s image yet affected by sin. As human beings made in the image of God, we are personal and relational beings. As we see in the garden of Eden, before the fall in Genesis 3, God’s creatures delight in Him, delight in their fellow human beings and delight in the created order. This is a model for us of a “community of mutual love”. To love our neighbour as God intended then, is to be committed to their good and to strive to satisfy their needs and desires. However, when sin enters the world through Adam it affects all our relationships. As Paul reminds us in Romans 1, by our sin we reject God’s rule over us (ungodliness) and also His order within creation. Humans will not graciously commit themselves utterly and totally to the good of others. They may be willing to do good at points, but not in the total way required by God. 

Only God can fix the situation

In the Old Testament we see God working for redemption through His establishment of a covenant with Abraham and through the Law of Moses. Ultimately though, we see the affects of sin and the fall reversed in the new covenant through our Lord and Saviour Jesus. Jesus’ love transforms. Through his life and death on the cross, Jesus restores sinners to a relationship with God the Father (Rom. 3:21-26, 1 Peter 3:18) and teaches us again what true love is (1 John 3:16). This eternal and steadfast love is ultimately the basis for our justfication and righteousness. Additionally, our new identity and salvation “in Christ” affects our relationship with our neighbour. Through our baptism in Christ (Rom. 6), and our putting off the old self (Col. 3), we put on the new self and ultimately “the love of Christ” (Col. 3:14).

What we need to do next

As Christians then, our love is to imitate God’s love in Christ. We are to do good to all people, especially to other Christians (Gal. 6:10). Moreover, we are to be patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4) as well as humble (Matt. 18:1-4). Within the Christian community, where all have been transformed, love is to be mutual (Rom. 12:10).

Does your church have a problem with cliques? What strategies do you try and employ to reduce cliques and encourage ‘mutual love relationships’?

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