Cliques are everywhere! They can be found in businesses, volunteer organizations, charity groups and even in church congregations. This is nothing new. The Apostle Paul had to deal with cliques in the first century. You can find evidence of this in the letter he wrote to the new church in the city of Corinth.
“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, that no man should say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. (1st Corinthians 1:10-13)
Similar to organizations and congregations today the first century church that was established in Corinth was suffering from “cliques”. There were divisions in the early church that were at odds with one another. This is nothing new and it certainly has not gone away.
Carl George says that many New Testament churches today have cliques. He says these “cliques” have what he calls the “Sand Dollar Syndrome.” This is how George defines this syndrome-
“Like the sand dollar’s star embossing, a series of overlapping cliques of people are found within a church durably bound together by past experiences, common interests, and family ties. The rest of the church occupies the space outside of the close clannish structure of friendships and alliances. These peripheral, marginal people are participants in the sub-congregation, or sand dollar, but they’re not insiders.”1
Barna also notes that newcomers who attempt to assert themselves find that they have to fight for acceptance. The sad result when this type of behavior is part of church life is that newcomers cannot forcibly break into the group. These new people will either force themselves in or withdraw after a period of frustration. This is one of the big reasons that many churches are closing or are in decline.
Cliques are destroying the mission work and growth possibilities of the modern day church. This is taking place across all denominational lines in the United States.
What exactly does a clique look like?
A clique is-
- an exclusive circle of people
- a group of people with a common purpose
- an internalized organization
- a small group of friends or associates
- a narrow circle of friends
- a group of people who are friendly with everyone in the group but exclude others
A clique will typically exclude all who don’t fit into their stereotypical image of perfection. There is a demand in a clique to conform to all the rules of the organization. Many cliques think that they are the “Chosen Ones!” These types of attitudes work strongly against teamwork and the idea of team ministry.
The dissolving of cliques is a challenge for any organization but especially the church that is trying to reach others with the Gospel. Just remember, the opposite of “clique” is “inclusion.”
Who is Dale Roach?
1 Carl George, Prepare Your Church for the Future, p. 64.