Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 209: Social Circles

In every area of life there seems to be "social circles" that people are a part of. They are all over the place from church to work to city meetings. I never have been and probably never will be a "company man" because I tend to see those left out of groups rather than the pompousness of some in these social groups. I was on the board at our local Chamber of Commerce a couple of years ago. With being the newbie to the city and being a pastor it became very evident that I was on the outer circle. There appeared to be three levels of acceptance in this social circle. The outer core were those who were either new to the chamber or those new to the area and since nobody knew your name, on the outer circle you shall remain. The next circle were those who have been in the area for some time and made a name for themselves by getting involved or sponsoring community events. The inner circle consisted of the governing body for this chamber which meant employees of the chamber, big investors and some (not all) board members. If you were on the outer circle there was no way you will be a part of the inner circles get togethers unless A) you have a VERY successful business or B) you invest heavily in the doings of this organization.

Surely there are no social circles in church or denominations! Well, I hate to burst your bubble but there are even social circles in these as well. Now please understand that I am not saying social circles are bad, they can become bad however when either an elitist mentality sinks in or they just are not willing to accept anybody not like them (political, economic class, etc.). In denominational circles I see it over and over again that if you take the back door into getting your credentials, sure you will be welcome at events. You will even be treated as one of the gang on a light hearted matters. Rest assured though that if you did not attend a certain university and did not surround yourself with buddies now in ministry or people in places of leadership...you will not be buddy buddy with that social circle. I think I can make this assumption pretty safely after being in full-time vocational ministry for nearly 16 years and talking with hundreds of other pastors from varying denominations.

How does this look for the church? These social circles can happen and that is okay if they are willing to be open. Now let me clarify that a person wanting to be in the social circle needs to probably think/act like the group they want to be a part of. However, personally I think in the church it is more exciting to have people in a group who are ones you may not necessarily always hang out with. A person can really learn a lot about life and others if they are willing to friend those who may think a bit differently than them. I think this is where Radiant Fellowship (the church I pastor) gets it. If you attend an Assembly of God church one might automatically assume everyone is an NRA card carrying Republican. NOT THE CASE AT RADIANT FELLOWSHIP! We have people from both sides of the political party line and do you know what is so beautiful about that? WE ALL GET ALONG! If there is a time and a place to casually discuss differences, so be it. I guarantee you though that after that discussion we could all go out for ice cream as friends. There are cliques that form...that is fine. There are friendship circles that form...so be it! I sincerely believe all these things are fine. The problem begins when these groups, cliques, social circles look down at others and won't let anyone else in. It really is true, "it's not what you know...it's who you know."

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