In the book, In the Beginning: Life Lessons from Genesis, by Justin Rogers there is a section in chapter 7 called, “Lest We Be Scattered:” Breaking up Cliques’ (pp. 54-55). In the years that I have studied the book of Genesis and the incident of the tower of Babel in particular somehow this aspect of the passage in Genesis 11:1-9 has eluded me. Some of the points that brother Rogers made are these: “Everybody is aware of cliques…Small groups of people with similar interests band together and exclude all who do not belong in their group. Schools, businesses and even churches can develop dangerous cliques…Cliques keep us from branching out” (pg. 54).
A clique is defined as, “a narrow exclusive circle or group of persons, especially one held together by common interests, views or purposes.” The group at Babel was, in some ways, a big clique. They were interested in self-promotion and building themselves up in order to enhance their presence in the world at that time. You could say that the people at Babel had all the earmarks of a clique.
Do cliques ever develop in otherwise friendly congregations? We would answer yes. Why does cliquishness exist in some congregations? Does cliquishness exist in all congregations? It is impossible for anyone to speak for all congregations since we are not there to have a first-hand knowledge of them. I can say that it is human nature to divide up into groups. We naturally have more in common with some people than with others, and we tend to gravitate to those groups. There is not anything wrong with that human tendency. For example, we form and divide up into Bible classes based on that very premise – Teen classes, young adults, young marrieds, singles, retired, etc. In general, “birds of a feather flock together,” and it is only natural that we seek out and spend time with those persons for whom we share a personal affinity.
Problems result when and if groups become snobbish and exclusive. The problem is that new members, quiet members or visitors can feel largely ignored. That feeling on the part of such persons may be reality, or it may be perception. And if you want to say that perception is reality, then that adds another dimension to this matter. The perception that a congregation is not friendly if often nothing more than one’s perception, or opinion; a highly subjective conclusion.
Let’s posit a hypothetical, but at the same time, a very real situation. Someone will visit us and say, “You are a very friendly church.” Someone else will visit us and decide that we are one of the coldest congregations they ever saw. Both are subjective conclusions. Both may have projected their own personalities into their conclusions. Some people visit a congregation and complain, “Nobody spoke to me.” Could it be because that person might only come on Sunday mornings, sit in the back, not speak to anyone themselves, be among the first to leave and then complain that this church is unfriendly and cliquish?
All that being said I hope that we will not be cliquish, and that visitors will not find us to be so. The love that the Bible teaches us is broad enough to welcome everyone.