There are two parts of ministry to people: (1) winning them to faith in Christ and (2) building a connected ‘society’ (the church) in which the faith and love for others is lived out.  This second objective requires meaningful interaction and connection between people, and on a practical level there is no way you can meaningfully interact and connect with all the 300+ or so people in our church. Meaningful connections must come on smaller levels, in smaller circles that exist within the larger church.  (That’s what I hope we can develop in our Neighborhood Plan.)

But nearly every time I mention “smaller groups”, someone protests: “But you don’t want cliques!”  Ah yes, we are all concerned about the evil of cliques, a negative term for “closed groups not accepting new members”.

So, were the apostles a clique?  Jesus chose twelve -- period.  No one else got into that circle.  But it gets better.  Within the clique of the Twelve was a smaller clique of three (Peter, James, and John).  Only Peter, James, and John were permitted to accompany Jesus to see a dead girl raised to life (Mark 5.37), to see Jesus transfigured (Mark 9.2), to ask questions on the Mount of Olives (Mark 13.3), and to pray with Jesus in Gethsemane (Mark 14.33).  Can’t you see Matthew rolling his eyes in Gethsemane and whispering to Thomas: “Psssh. Those three guys get to do everything.  Why does Jesus always leave us out?”?

Was Jesus unloving and heartless for organizing his circle this way?  Or did Jesus understand something about human nature – that there are limits to how many people can connect and interact meaningfully in any given social circle?

Before we get huffy about ‘cliques’, let’s recognize that we all naturally have social limitations.  Once a group exceeds 12-20 people, dynamics of interaction tend to change.  We develop better connections with just a few in the group, leaving others ‘outside’.  This isn’t evil in and of itself; it’s the way we’re made.  Rather than fight this framework we ought to joyfully work within it.

Furthermore, we naturally connect with people who share our interests.  We all share the same faith, but we find that we more easily connect with those who possess a similar background, career, hobbies, or interests.  This isn’t evil either.  It’s just the way we’re made to work.

The negativity of the label clique arises, not from within the group, but from outside – from those who want to get in but, for one reason or other, find that they are unable to do so.  So, the blame is placed on the group.  And there may indeed be a problem in the group.  But it’s also possible that it may just be nature at work.  And although we don’t even like to consider it, it may be that the problem lies with the person on the outside.

But I’m out of space…until next week.




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