Friday, January 28, 2005

Cliques in the Family

Dear Friends,

I've been thinking about how, in our every day lives, we divide ourselves into small groups. We are very prone to this in our churches, as well. In my experience, full-gospel type churches have a corner on this market. The people who speak in tongues don't associate intimately with those who do not. The prophets don't talk to the non-prophets unless they have some "word" for the others. It's like the parable about who gets to sit at the head of the table. (Lk 14:7-11)

But, God does not show favoritism. Therefore, He does not want us to show favoritism either. What do you think cliques really do to a church family? Let's consider this.

Cliques create an insider versus outsider mentality. If you have what a particular group deems important or special, well then you are an insider. If you do not, you are an outsider. This very simple thing grows into a huge monster if not confronted. First, a spirit of offense begins to brew among those who don't fit in. Next, you'll hear grumbling and complaining. By now, the special group of insiders is so unimpressed by the behavior of the outsiders, a large rift occurs...division among the brethren, dissension in the family. The lack of acceptance and inclusion divides the church in pieces and the purpose of God is completely stymied. Don't think so? Find what we would consider a "dead" church and you can trace the origin of that death right back to cliques and a spirit of offense.

God is very clear about His feelings on this. I Corinthians 1:10 says, "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." God wants us united. Romans 14:10 says, "You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat." James 5:9, "Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door."

Moving on, read James 2:1-4 and James 2:9. God doesn't play favorites and He expects His children to do the same. "My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism...But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers."

By creating cliques in our church families and allowing them to continue, we show favoritism and create an atmosphere of offense, division and dissension. Period. Let's commit today to a serious life review. We must get before God and ask Him to show us those areas in which we fail. For if we don't, our churches will die and our ministries be unfruitful. Like the withered fig tree, we will cursed to bear fruit no more.

So, what do we need in place of those cliques and small groups? Love. If we show love to all, we are fulfilling the New Testament commandment of Jesus. Acceptance. We need to be aware of our tendency to marginalize others, especially newcomers, and extend our full acceptance of all who cross our path. Equality. Everyone has the same position in Christ. Everyone. We must not place someone above or below us on this journey. We walk equally through this life. Unity. This is the strength of our faith communities. We must have unity in the church. We must be willing to submit out of respect to another even though we may disagree for the sake of the unity of the brethren. Common. We must share all things in common. It doesn't matter if it is wealth, spiritual vision, earthly ministry, etc. We must have all things in common just as in the Book of Acts. These believers prospered and thousands of Christians added to the Church because they simply shared all things. In that spirit of love, acceptance, equality, unity and common sharing, God was able to grow His church.

So, today I would encourage you to do an inventory of who you are and how you act. Are you one who creates and participates in the clique mentality? If so, repent and purpose in your heart to return to the model that Jesus has set forth for us. In so doing, you will open the flood gates of heaven bring blessing to your life and to the lives of others around you.

May God richly bless you this day.


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