157. CLIQUES – AN ENEMY OF UNITY IN THE CHURCH

(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 3)

The Bible promotes separation on the one hand, between believers and on the other, the practices and partnership arrangements like marriage and business with those who do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (unbelievers). However, it promotes unity of Christians within the Church, fuelled by love, provided that they share the same fundamental doctrinal beliefs and are not walking disorderly.

For example:

  • Philippians 2:2 states: “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accordof one mind.”
  • 1 Peter 3:8 states: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”
  • 1 Corinthians 1:10 states: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
  • Acts 4:32 states: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”

Even where conflict situations may potentially arise, Ephesians 4:3 states that we must endeavor to “…keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Psalms 133:1-3 even declares:

  • Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

Having outlined the Bible’s clear position on unity in the body of Christ, people tend to think of conflict as the main challenge to such unity among believers within a Church Assembly. However, while this is certainly a challenge, in some Church Assemblies, it is clear that there is an additional undermining factor: The formation of cliques.

What is a clique?

Based on definitions I perused, a clique is defined as a small, close-knit, group of people, who mainly socialize with each other to the general exclusion of others because they believe that they belong to the same stereotypical group and that they are special, moreso than others. Due to the way they think, they conduct themselves in a manner that sends the message to those who are not in the clique, that they are not welcome because they are not as important.

Shockingly, it may be subtle but this exists in some Churches! Some professing Christians form themselves into a group of ‘specials’, while excluding the rest of the Church Assembly!

This is dangerous, ugly and goes against the Word of God, as it undermines the unity within Churches which God blesses. It creates division, where some Christians think that they are better than other Christians and in their pride, begin to operate in a close-knit circle with those they think are equally important.

This can be very damaging to a Church. For, it gives some professors of Christ the impression that they are the only ones accepted, well-pleasing to and favoured by God (when in fact their actions prove that they are not), while others are made to feel like outcasts, rejected and outside of his divine favour.

This is none other than a work of satan. For, even where it is practised subtly, it sows discord and division. It creates a hierarchical structure not endorsed by the scriptures, where people in their fleshly pride, place themselves at the top in terms of importance and other fellow believers below. They fool themselves into thinking that God accepts this structure that they have created in their puffed up minds, when certainly, this is not the unity and equality of which God desires.

In Romans 12:3, Paul warned:

  • “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

In fact, in the Church at Corinth, Paul had to intervene, as different factions were in the making. People had begun to align themselves into different groups, contrary to God’s will for unity, identifying themselves with certain people and not others.

Paul addressed the issue in 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, calling them carnal Christians. For, the very existence of such a cliquish mindset, revealed to him that those fostering and participating in it lacked spiritual maturity. In their pride (because this is what causes cliques to be created), they obviously thought much of themselves spiritually but in reality, Paul let them know the truth: They were still babies and immature in their thinking.

Paul told them:

  • “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that waterethbut God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”

What are the ugly characteristics of a clique?

Whenever a clique exists in a Church, its effects are felt by those excluded from the clique. Given how ugly cliques are whenever they exist, even if subtle, the following characteristics tend to be noted:

1. Superiority and Importance

Those in the clique operate as if they are better than and more spiritual than the rest of the Church Assembly, that God is very pleased with them, more so than everyone else and that they are very special in his eyes, more than the rest of the congregation.

They erroneously think that popularity with man is popularity with Christ.

2. Exclusivity and Ostracism

Those in the clique operate and socialize in their little bubble on most occasions, hardly ever mingling with others outside the established, non-tangible but yet very real circle.

They include and consult with only those in the circle on most matters pertaining to the Church, while excluding or ostracizing the rest of the Assembly, as if their opinions, input, contributions and say are not important or not equally as important as the clique’s and as if the rest of the Church have no value or right to be included and consulted in decisions affecting the entire Assembly.

3. Condemnation and Disapproval

Without saying a word, the actions of the clique convey to the rest of the congregation that they are not good enough and make them feel like bastards (outside children).

Although Jesus died to bring all of those who are his into the commonwealth, they make the rest of the congregation feel like they (the clique members) are the chosen few, while the rest of the congregation are just not good enough or have not worked enough to find as much favour as they are convinced they have with God and that the rest of the congregation (in the mind of the clique members), have missed that imaginary mark for approval and acceptance, set not by Christ but by the clique.

4. Self-righteousness and Blindness

The superior view of the clique, breeds self-righteousness and piousness, where those within this circle are predisposed to have an exalted view of self, to be blinded to their own sins (including the sin of cliquishness) and to see themselves as maybe not perfect but close to perfection or at least much better than the rest of the congregation.

They exude a mentality similar to the Pharisee who was ‘praying’, telling the Lord that he was thankful that he was not like the sinner next to him, the sinner of who was also praying but repentantly asking God for mercy.

5. Suppression and Silence

Whether they are aware of it or not, the clique suppresses and silences the rest of the congregation, some within the clique even doing so deliberately.

For, the rest of the congregation whom Christ has gifted for the purpose of edifying and helping the Church in one way or another are not considered as having any real contribution to make or any worthwhile ideas or words of wisdom and edification, at least none as valuable as the clique members can make.

Opposing views to the clique are unwelcomed, disapproved of and any person that insists on holding to such an ‘untenable’ view is considered by the clique to be divisive, although the view does not go against the Church’s view or the Word of God but only the clique’s view.

Like Diotrephes in the Bible, the clique loves to have the preeminence in the Church and even if this means ignoring, belittling, looking down contemptuously at, badmouthing and even shutting other precious believers out, it will do so, to secure its place at the ‘top’.

In 3 John 1:9-10, John wrote:

  • “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.”

What a contrast was Moses’ response when he heard in Numbers 11:27, that two men, Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp. Joshua told him, “My lord Moses, forbid them.”

Yet, “…Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that ALL the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”

In the body of Christ today, this is how it is supposed to be. Christians are to celebrate the spiritual gifts of each other (whatever they may be) and to allow them to operate, within the boundaries and order set by God in his Word. They are to do this, knowing that ALL Christians have some kind of contribution to make to the edifying of the saints and the work of God’s Kingdom.

Yet, in its lust for preeminence, the clique regards some Christians as having no worthwhile gift or contribution to make, seeks to dismiss or ignore the gifts that God chose in his wisdom to give them, as unimportant or to otherwise suppress or stifle the operation of the giftings in those believers who do not belong to the clique.

By contrast, Moses was in a position of authority, as given by God, but he understood that authority was not lordship. He truly demonstrated the admonition in 1 Peter 5:2-3, where Peter instructed certain elders (leaders) in the Churches to: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.”

Moses realized that despite his position of God-given authority, the people that he was called to lead were “…the Lord’s people…” and not his own. He understood therefore, that the Lord was free to use them as he saw fit and to gift them as he willed and that he was not supposed to love having the preeminence over them so much, as to try to stifle or suppress them from operating in these gifts.

6. Prejudice and Partiality

Inequality in treatment becomes evident with the clique notably affording those within it, preferential treatment. After all, each clique member is very special in the eyes of the clique, moreso than the rest of the Church attendants, who, the clique may very well feel are not even Christians. For, in the clique members’ minds, those outside the clique have failed to reach the bar, the bar being the standard set (not by Christ but) by the clique for acceptability.

7. Controlling and Close-minded

The clique wants its own way, if not all the time, most of the time and will use the influence it has in the group, to exert pressure on the Church. It is the clique’s way or the highway and the clique expects all other less than honourable Church members to understand this unwritten rule and obey without asking questions.

IN CLOSING

If you observe a clique as existing in your Church or its ugly roots beginning to rise up, while you cannot change people’s prideful and flawed mindsets, you should do two (2) things:

  1. Cling to God’s Word so that no man makes you feel as if you are not accepted by God and special to God and capable of being used mightily by him for his Kingdom agenda; and
  2. Be watchful, vigilant and pray, that God stamp out this evil formation, by leading those involved in it to humble themselves under his mighty hand and repent.

(Written on 12th June, 2019, added to thereafter)

Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, edifying or beneficial, you may also be interested in reading the following:

  • Note 106 – ‘They Can Think Whatever They Like – God Will Do Whatever He Pleases’
  • Note 108 – ‘Favouritism Comes From Man But Favour Comes From God
  • Note 233 – ‘Popularity vs Peculiarity’

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.