Before we talk about Cliques and Thrones
Up until now, my posts have been an expression of my heart and my position on this blog. I aimed to keep it classy choosing my words wisely to reflect what would be an easier pill to swallow for the issues. Over the first two weeks, I have found myself editing and re-editing to make my pointed words as soft as possible. I have realized that in order for this blog to resonate, it MUST be a clear conveyance of the negative effects, the missed opportunities, and the stark reasons for immediate change for the church body, therefore the words may not be as soft as you’d like. I’d rather you be pricked to change than be lulled into further complacency.
I have come to realize that we are more intentionally oblivious to things than we think. In this, we have willfully allowed ourselves to no longer mimic heaven (deceiving ourselves into thinking that we do), and are blind to the fact that in more ways than we care to admit, we actually we mirror the world. Instead of doing what the Word says on a very practical level, we are like what James 1:23 says is “someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like“. It’s like, the Word shows us our flaw, and we immediately pretend that the Word doesn’t apply to us too. It obviously only applies to the sinner. <–This is sarcasm if you didn’t know.
It’s in the simple things that we say and do that tell the real story. It’s how we treat others in everyday actions that speak to who we are as Christians and good God-fearing people. It’s even how we treat other sisters and brothers that makes me convinced that we ignore willfully more than we acknowledge.
Enough about the prelude, let’s address today’s topic, or as someone might think of it “the weekly complaint”:
Are cliques STILL a thing in churches that teach unity and togetherness?
Does it matter more to you to have your arena of influence than to be a REAL example?
Do we still have Christians that choose their ministry agenda and personal kingdoms over humbly and fervently seeking the Kingdom of God?
How do these things really impact PEOPLE? How do they really help the church grow?
Today, let’s put these two things; Cliques and Thrones, on blast. Let’s call it out now, so we can save ourselves from having to answer for it on judgment day.
Clique Clack: The Sounds of Clanging Cymbals
A Clique is a small group of people with shared interests or other features in common, that spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them. In the church sense, this is Christians who choose to be “separate” by only associating with their chosen few. You know, the ones who turn their nose up at anyone they don’t know. Yes, the same cliques that discourage others from interacting with anyone they don’t like or feel don’t meet their standard; failing to comply with the perception of who they should be or ”need” to be. They do this all with a high brow glance, a snooty comment, and an easy brush off. Yes, every week in our “Christian” interactions with other believers, services, studies, rehearsals, meetings, and the like.
Here’s the thing, It’s more subtle than blatantly saying they don’t like someone, but, if they have inside information on how someone is or a struggle a person might have, they “inform” others of why they should be “cautious” around them, citing that “something in their spirit isn’t right about them”. This is probably just prejudice; a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience, or in the Christian case, not based on how we should operate in unconditional love. YET, they do this, under the guise of spirituality, to and with their chosen people in your local church, your church family; your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Leading the Charge, but Causing the Harm
Since we are here, Let’s talk about how some church leaders lead by example by creating these peer cliques in their own way by sticking and associating those within leadership so they can be “separate and set apart”, as if this group of leaders somehow are now more superior to the ”common folk” in the congregation, like the same grace didn’t save us all. You know those leaders that make mention of not associating with people on a personal level because they have to be “responsible to lead them” and have to make sure their witness is not “tainted” by associating with someone who doesn’t look or act like them.
It’s the “Don’t let your good be evil spoken of” statement, that allows this segregation of the saints to be justified. Especially if that person has a known track record of making mistakes, is outspoken and speaks up for themselves, or doesn’t go with the grain of ”personal kingdom” based ministry agenda.
Preferred Seatings and Entourages?
Heres the really ugly part, even PASTORS, the leaders of this supposed family unit, create special seating for their cliques, most of the time right in front where they can be distinguished from everyone else. Plus, they go and hide in their comfy offices with other pastor leaders after just a few minutes of greeting the people after service because their “virtue is gone” (they easily reference Luke 8:46, as if their teaching actually healed someone instantly).
What’s always amusing is that they have their assistants (armorbearers) and attendants ready to escort them away to their “safety”. Those same attendants and other leaders becoming their entourage; unknowingly becoming the Clique that they can’t seem to attend normal functions without. Listen beloved, the pastor does not need an assistant at the church picnic. He… Just… DOESNT. The church has become trained and comfortable with honoring religious hierarchy more than honoring what God says and God’s ways.
I’m pretty sure this was not the way the disciples followed Jesus. Sadly, the way we have produced cliques in the leadership team is often inaccurately referred to as how Jesus was with the Disciples. Jesus didn’t have cliques so don’t compare yourself and what you do from a high-school mentality with the works of Christ.
Lets also, flat out, disperse the crap idea of disguising this CLIQUE as a Small Group. A clique is not a small group or cell group; just stop! It is not fooling anyone. Stop justifying the alliances as something that was meant for the building of people together in unity. This masking is justifying the unwillingness to see that this “Christian” friend group isolates people and doesn’t edify the body of Christ. Let’s just call it what it is. It’s a CLIQUE.
Here’s why; that same seemingly spiritual group, that is loosely called an small group family, looks at people funny when they walk in the room because the “group” has had conversations about them cloaked as prayer requests and “well-intentioned” information. More blatantly, the group has probably just talked about the person full on without any regard for their actual struggle, or the Christian responsibility to love them and cover them in spite of their shortcomings.
Pastors will even hold the same types of conversations with their leadership favorites to “keep them informed of how we can pray” but really, its root is not actually in prayer; the leadership has just become comfortable telling other people’s business. They’ve become okay with selling out to gossip because we frame our words differently and call it concern.
I’m tired of people using small group verbiage to justify their petty cliques and arrogant friendship groups. They hurt people, spread gossip, break down real relationship opportunities, and keep the church from advancing’s in it’s true expression of love.
Let’s change the pronoun; what WE have done has made a mockery of the God-breathed community by making it our personal preference affiliations, alliances, and associations. How then can we say this is a place for those desiring connection with God and community with like-minded believers when we make it about our alliances?
False Kingdom Building by building Thrones
In this discussion of Cliques and Thrones, let’s ask the tough questions. When did the church become more about alliances to leadership than leading people to the cross? While following Godly leaders in its purest form is not a bad thing, I personally don’t get how we confuse following God with following a man. How is it that when someone makes an unapproved decision or action, their loyalty to the pastor and the ministry is questioned? Even if God is speaking to the individual about their decision. I’ve experienced this myself. We’d rather treat people like they are a bastard child of God rather than actually embrace God speaking to someone other than our thoughts on them. If it is because of a conflict or issue, when do we call people into reconciliation by addressing the issues that caused the conflict, find out what’s behind their decision, or even just fully embrace someone in love regardless of their decision and how we feel about it?
How do we just change on people and go from loving them to completely disassociating with them because they decide to do things like, taking a break from a ministry area or decide that they need to move on to another ministry? When did the family of God become only applicable if they are a member of your church? Why is it okay for the church to mirror reality tv where one day you’re in, the next day you’re out?
Its high time we start discussing why it’s okay for us to toss people away and call it God’s work. We become dismissive, short, and show our disdain, not only with our body language but also with our heart. We stop calling, stop fellowshipping, and even encourage others to do the same! No one signs up to be a part of a church family only to be dismissed when they stop serving the way we think they should. How is this family, let alone the family of God that we speak of?
Family In the church includes Gods Family, not just your blood relatives
While I understand that God’s first example of ministry was shown through the family, this does not mean your child has to be a youth pastor or even has to be a leader in your church. This is not a fortune 500 corporation where the child inherits the business when you are gone. It’s terrible because we pigeon-hole our children into places they are not actually called to so that we can have more “yes men” doing what we want. We willfully choose legacy over Gods agenda. This is another example of building your kingdom instead of God’s Kingdom; when it becomes more about establishing our predecessor because of relation instead of asking God to reveal or giving way for someone else to be trained for what THEY have been called to.
We don’t put people into positions because they are family, we put them into position because God called them. It’s not up to us to decide if it’s really God’s ministry. So is it God’s ministry or is it your organization and hierarchy that you are slapping God’s name on? We cannot allow the neglect and ignoring of the called because we want to keep family in positions.
How this affects the brethren, affects us all.
Why hasn’t anyone said something sooner?. We have created an environment that the world looks at like a joke. I’ve said it before and I will say it again; a complete joke. We put out these campaigns and narratives about how the church is full of love and hope; that the broken can come and find family, friendship, but when it boils down to it, Cliques and Kingdoms are only part of what they truly encounter. They may find a handful of people who have genuine motives in a sea of people that are going after their own spiritual agenda, their next platform, and their next leadership position. Calling it Christianity and the work of the ministry; as if Jesus would cosign this behavior.
More than ever, what the world has needed is not another example of how quickly they can be tossed aside, shamed and ostracized because of their faults. They don’t need to see isolation and separation if you are not in the in-crowd, the first family, or the preferred member because they tithe more.
The World needs to see Christians who are willing to actually be the church, believers that will actually embrace one with all their issues and love them regardless. The church that grows people regardless of who they are, what their past or even CURRENT walk of life is. Period. That is the unconditional love that we talk about in church but rarely live; the unconditional love that is the framework of the true church.
Outside Our Peripheal
Do you know how many groups there are on Facebook alone for people that have been damaged by the church and now have nothing to do with God? Go search it out, you’d be surprised. Some of the comments I read were completely heartbreaking, some of the experiences were just disgusting. I was disgusted at Christians because of our own actions.
The new believer in Christ is soon pushed away when met with these things. They come looking for safety and community, but if they are not the member of a certain stature, they too can be easily shooed away and left to think that this is how God feels about them. That’s not a far reach.
The Bible says that we are living epistles read by all men (2 Corinthians 3:2-3) and if we can apply that to the glorious esteem of Gods favor, grace and mercy in the context of the scripture, then we need to recognize the flip side and its responsibility; the example that people see of God and the church.
All The Credit, But None of the Responsibility
We are LITERALLY the Jesus and the God that people see. We don’t get to discredit that statement when they see us negatively and say of them that their eyes were on the wrong person. No, we are the example in flesh and blood. We are the walking talking living and breathing representations of Christ. We can’t just be the recipient of the good things without also being the acknowledger of the bad, we have to take them both.
It is sad that people have learned more about the character of God after they have experienced egregious acts by the people that bear his name. They have learned God’s redemptive power after He has intervened through the few that actually follow his precepts and live it. Some people are forever turned away in their hearts. Again, as I mentioned in my last post, a brother offended is harder won, he is like a fortified city. (paraphrasing Proverbs 18:19).
Woe unto you those that are the cause of someone falling! (Back to Matt 18) When you become aware of these things you cannot ignore it. Do our Cliques and Thrones matter more than the loss we will experience by ignoring their effects?
How Do We Stop the Hemmoraging?
When do we start to realize that change isn’t changed until we change? In a world that is on the verge of a complete meltdown, we have to step in and represent, in action, all that we say the church is. There are those out there that are trying, and I applaud the effort, but when will the real church stand up? Our hearts must be broken, our spirits contrite. We must be malleable and ready to be used to repair the damage that the world has experienced, even by us.
Love in Action is not a church phrase we use to campaign with our bi-annual food drives or our lackluster outreaches that are rooted in the motive of getting new church members. Love in action must be rooted in bringing those into the family of God. Yes, there is a difference. Your church roster, your clique, and your kingdom should not matter more than the actual lives saved and brought into the Kingdom of God.
People shouldn’t experience a love that falls off after someones joined a church and have been a member for 6 months, they should experience the love of God that is consistent, deliberate, and never-ending, THROUGH THE CHURCH. That love that reaches out when they don’t see someone, not because they missed “church”, but because you know that sometimes they struggle with depression, sometimes they battle loneliness.
We should be ready to be accountable to our brothers and sisters, not because they missed their volunteer obligation, but because we know they battle alcohol addiction and we don’t want to preach at them for their flaws but want them to know we are there, PRESENT, and ready to pull them out of the pit a thousand times if needed.
Let me put it bluntly accurate; your service doesn’t matter if your service doesn’t matter. Your church presentation on Sunday doesn’t mean a damn if you don’t care during the week.
Start a Fire in Me
What are we doing? Are we really missional? No seriously, has the things you have done in ministry for the past 5-10 years REALLY been about the lost, or have you been swept up in cliques and thrones, the religious practice of where we are building exclusive friend groups and personal kingdoms, Building ministry ”brands”, more than the kingdom of God.
We’ve had great conferences where hundreds if not thousands of CHRISTIANS have come to experience God, but broken people in the few seats available have left and later committed suicide! We’ve lived a fallacy of this Christian love and walk if we have missed it when it comes to the lives needed to be reached.
Our prayers should change from the things we have prayed to what will honor God. We see the state of the world we see that God has shifted our priority to settle us down from all of our activity and business to reevaluate. They reevaluation begins with us.
Start with a New Prayer
This starts with a heart position check, in that reality, our prayers must change. Those prayers should be a heartfelt plea even greater than Davids Psalms 51 “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God”. Stop praying this prayer if you don’t mean it! When you are serious about change, your Psalms 51 prayer will unlock the contents of the depths of your heart. That cleansing of your heart will unravel bondage and free you to pray things like:
“LORD, allow me to see where I am operating religiously and not authentically. Allow me to see how I operate with people in the church, and whether or not it aligns with your will and your Word. Show me the truth about where I am, what’s wrong, how I learned it, and how to unlearn it. Show me and I’ll listen this time, show me and I will follow you! I’ll make the adjustment even if it means I stop adhering to a religious way of doing things.“
”LORD! Don’t let me be swept up in my friend groups more than being open to someone who really needs me. Don’t let me miss the broken person in front of me because I am too busy focusing on what I think is kingdom work.”
”Tear down ANYTHING in me that exalts itself against the knowledge of You, tear down ANYTHING in me that keeps me from operating in YOUR truth. Show me if I am building my own kingdom versus building yours. Show me and teach me how to stop it. Help me dismantle the personal throne I have built in place of your throne”
“Teach me your ways, teach me to love from an authentic place. Let my actions, in practical reality, be more than my spiritual ego. Make the red flag a LOUD alarm on the inside so I never step into operating and engaging with cliques and thrones.“
Our actions should match what we pray, it should match what we say. We need to be willing to separate, disassociate, and dismantle the things that we see lining up with this false and destructive way of operating. We must understand that the revival of the lost that’s coming CANNOT experience a church that is bound by its own kingdoms and alliances.
Let’s take responsibility for the environments we have created and let’s be adamant about changing the culture of the church so that those that need to see Gods reflection, can see an untainted reflection through us.
We need to choose to no longer be complacent, no longer allow, and no longer be involved when we see wrong. Our comfort is not worth the sacrifice of someone’s soul. Our clique is not worth missing the need to serve and be light for others. Our own kingdom means nothing. This change of direction is not optional, it’s absolutely necessary.