Church Cliques (part 1 of 2) – The Circle of Trust

I recently completed a vigorous and meditative read of all four gospels. It took a few weeks (three I think) as I meditated and prayed over many verses spanning all four of the books. I couple of interesting items popped out to me:

1. Jesus relied heavily on His Circle of Trust – the 12 Disciples

2. The Disciples competed against each other on occasion for His attention and favor

3. The books reflected on the perspectives, experiences, and education of the four authors. One gospel by itself does not really do Jesus justice (in my opinion anyway). 

Then, over the last few days, the Lord brought James 2:1 to me (amongst others). Imagine if Jesus had shown favor to a select few of His disciples. Not-withstanding that He brought three with Him to pray, he did not favor any of them that would form disunity in His Circle of Trust, nor did He allow strife between His Disciples and the flock they were preaching to. What if He had allowed Cliques to form? It would have destroyed the church from the start. 

James 2:1 – “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism”.

If you’ve seen the movie Meet the Parents, you probably remember “the circle of trust.” Robert De Niro’s character, Jack, a former CIA agent and overly protective father, is obsessed with making sure his future son-in-law Greg is a trustworthy and honorable husband for Pam, his only daughter. From his point of view, a person is either in or out of his circle of trust; there’s nothing in between. 

As with a business, within the church, “Circles” are ok within department and leadership circles, they are normal (and generally required) both operationally and spiritually; these circles are a natural formation of people whom you trust and receive guidance and input from. The people who are closest to you and with whom you share unquestionable trust are the ones who are closest to you in your inner circle. You then have various ‘circles’ or bands of trust the expand out from the center of the circle based on the degree of closeness and trust you have with various people in your life.

Who do you allow in your “Circle” and why? Unquestionable trust; common traits and characteristics; to build your self-esteem (??). Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) spends the weekend at his girlfriend’s parents home and has to deal with her father, where poor Greg is stressed about being allowed into The Byrne Family Circle of Trust. The father reminds him that once he’s out of the circle, he’s out and can’t be let back in.  Thank God that He let’s us back into His circle.

The father did not initially allow Greg Focker into his circle of trust, the father was sizing him up – distrust was automatic and Greg had to earn his trust through many misadventures and actions. Greg had to work extra hard to earn the trust of someone who he knew was going to be an important person in his life. This caused Greg to be erratic, lose confidence, and grow bitter and disenfranchised; it caused him to stumble. His effort almost broke up his relationship with his girlfriend and his inclusion onto the Byrne family. Was this fair for Greg, his girlfriend, Jack Byrne? Should Greg have had to work so hard to feel included? What if trust were automatic, something you can only lose? Should the father have trusted Greg because his daughter trusted him? I believe the father excluded Greg because he felt threatened by him.  Thank God that He lets us in to His circle based on our desire and will. All we have to do is “want to be let in”.

A review of your Circle of Trust can help you understand where you need to address trust problems – whether it be with you or with others. Working out of your Circle of Trust and the circles within can help you to get an at-a-glance view of your own little world. Are you excluding people from your circle with disregard to their feelings? Are you excluding people because of their physical appearance or their education? Do you rely in your Circle of Trust to build your own self-esteem? More importantly, has your “Circle of Trust” transformed into a Clique? If so, you have entered the “danger zone”. 

Cliques are dominant and prevalent during teenage years, but unfortunately, they are also found in society, culture, and, within Churches. Members of a clique often isolate themselves as a group and tend to view the clique as superior to anyone outside the clique, even in churches. Circles of Trust are a necessity in churches, but when they have transformed into a clique, they have fallen outside of God. God abhors cliques because they leave too many people feeling isolated and alone.

After receiving the warm embrace of “greeters” and “meeter’s”, some churches are challenged in meeting the needs of newborns into the church body. “Therefore, many of them become vulnerable to the attack of the enemy of their souls”. People need each other, and God’s design is for our needs to be met within the context of a healthy church body; it is also God’s design for the gifts of the members of the church body to be used for His glory.

Ask Him to be let in and He will welcome you with open arms.