Thursday, November 6, 2014

Church...and Cliques?

Don't pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 
{romans 12:9-10}

I am so tired of cliques. And you know where I am the most tired of cliques?


I belong to a very popular, hip church with a hip pastor and hip-pastor wannabes. This church was the original hipster church, and even though we now have several other hipster churches in the area, this one stays relevant and prominent in my area.

I was relieved to graduate from high school and all it's petty nonsense, with it's favorite hip teachers to the too-cool-for-school in-crowd, and the people who couldn't possibly be friends with someone outside (double gasp!) their circle, only to find out that the same kids who formed cliques in high school form them as adults, too. I was dismayed when I joined the PTA when my daughter was in kinder, only to find that there was a distinct, yet unspoken, division among the moms and dads.

My mama told me to a) be nice and smile, b) try to learn everyone's name, c) don't follow the crowd or conform to one certain clique, and d) don't leave anyone out. Especially on purpose.

I know what you're saying. A clique is simply a group of people who have common interests who have become friends. Like "Hey, you have a nose and I have a nose. We have something in common. Let's be friends!"

I'm here to call bull manure on that.

When a group of people who have noses because their noses are what they have in common ignore or exclude other people who have noses, simply because they are already full up on noses in their group, or they don't like the other noses, you have a clique.

And I'm so stinking tired of walking around my own church on Sunday morning and Sunday night and seeing people I know and have at least communicated with on a superficial level pretend like they don't 1) see me (I mean really?) or 2) know me. Listen, I know that some of the onus lies with me. I didn't take my mom's advice in high school because I was afraid of being rejected, and I haven't totally taken it as an adult. And I'm a borderline introvert, which means I love to be around people, but sometimes I need to recharge on my own. I'm just a little bit shy, and a little bit afraid of being rejected by someone who has purposefully forgotten my name.

I always had this false hope that everybody would somehow like me. But, as a fellow bible study partner once pointed out, I don't like everybody, and I can't expect everybody to like me.

BUT WE CAN STILL BE NICE. And kind. And all the other synonyms that go along with those words.

I went to a church function not too long ago. Lots of people were invited, and I knew many of those invited, but not very well. It was a dinner, with rounders set up all over the room. This sort of situation makes me slightly uncomfortable, as I don't want to be the last one left in a game of musical chairs. So I sat down at a table. By myself. And I hoped and prayed that some of the people that I a) know and b) have communicated with, at least on a superficial level, would come sit down with me. Because this is not the time or the place to reenact your high school drama and only sit at your lunch table with your clique.

Which is exactly what happened.

People want to sit together, and I get that. If I had known some of the people a little better, I would have sat down with them, too. And honestly, I probably wouldn't have noticed the girl in the jean jacket and awesome striped skirt sitting down by herself. Waiting and hoping that someone would break away from their group long enough to sit down with her for dinner. Or (what?) invite her over to their table to sit with them. Several people came up and asked if the seats at my table were taken. Uh, no. But when I invited them to sit down, they all informed me that sitting with their friends, or their life group, or their whoever, was what they really wanted to do but did I mind if they borrowed one or two of my chairs, because look, the table they were joining was full up on people with noses, and they needed to squeeze in.

Now if I were just a little more outgoing or a little less afraid, maybe I would have gone up to any one of those tables and bravely asked if I could join them. But to someone like me, that's like asking me to sing and dance a Beyonce medley out loud in the middle of church while the pastor is preaching.

And you know how us church-going folk would react to that.

Maybe you think I'm being overly sensitive. Maybe you're right, in a way. I already admitted that I may not have noticed me sitting all by myself. But not noticing does not excuse those who exclude others. The love of Christ encompasses all, not just a select few, and as the body of Christ, it is our job to make those who walk through the doors of our church feel loved and accepted. Church should be a safe haven, not a place people dread, yet one of the biggest issues I've heard discussed ad nauseam is the lack of response from those who are already members, who are already comfortable and included. I'm not saying not to have a group of friends, because this is one of the things that makes life more tolerable. Just make sure that's not all there is.

In light of all this, I've included a few pointers to remember when you're at church (but of course, this could always apply to any part of life, should you choose to make the application):

1) you do not have to be the pastor's best friend, or part of his inner circle, to be accepted or popular or well-liked.
2) even when you can't remember someone's name, smile and show that you recognize their existence. Then maybe (!) ask how they're doing. At least say hey. You don't have to like them. You just have to notice them.
3) when you attend a function or walk into a room, take a second to look around and notice other people. Continue to have fun and chat with friends. Noticing only takes a few seconds.
4) Make an effort to talk to someone you don't know. It doesn't have to be a deep, philosophical conversation on how to right all the wrongs in the world. It could simply be "Good Morning."
5) if you seriously don't know who I'm talking to, or think I'm not talking to you, then go look in the mirror introduce yourself to yourself. Because we all do it.
6) love, love, love others

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