Church Tribes vs. Jesus’ Tribe

This post about church tribes is written by Sam Riviera, a frequent contributor to this blog.

church tribe Jesus tribe

Yesterday’s post  introduced to the concept of church tribes. This post looks at the pros and cons of church tribes, and how to be part of Jesus’ Tribe.

Benefits of Belonging to a Church Tribe

There are benefits to belong to a tribe… especially a church tribe.

One of the primary benefits of having a tribe is that it gives us a sense of belonging, a place where we can call home, and feel protected.

We all want safe havens where we are listened to, accepted, and loved. Most of us can handle aggressive, angry, hostile people much better when we know we have a loving, supportive family waiting for us at home, and a loving, supportive group, be it a church or a social club, with whom we will gather to escape a hostile world and support one another.

Together we can accomplish what we could never do alone. We can work on common goals, trade ideas and “have each others backs.” It’s nice to be part of a group where together we can form a united front that tells people, “Don’t mess with us or we’ll stomp on you.”

Even if others think us strange, weird, or crazy, that’s OK. We have each other to tell us that we’re normal and everyone else is crazy.

Disadvantages of Belonging to a Tribe

Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages to belonging to a tribe, and to church tribes in particular.

Most tribes expect those who belong to conform to the rules of the tribe. This is especially true of church tribes. If we want to belong, we must first learn who’s the chief, who are his right-hand people and what we are expected to do to show proper respect to them. We may be expected to show not only respect, but to give gifts of time, money and other items to the “tribal leaders”.

We will be expected to know our status within the tribe. We may be expected to wear the tribe-approved dress, learn the tribal rituals and music, and learn what behaviors are considered acceptable by the tribe.

If we intentionally or unintentionally break the rules, we will almost certainly discover that something is amiss. How? Someone else in the tribe is certain to point our mistake out to us. Perhaps other members of the tribe will ignore us. We will find out that we’re no longer being invited to “insider” parties. No one tells us tribal gossip as they did in the past. Everyone is suddenly too busy to have time to talk to us.

If we cannot manage to restore ourselves to the good graces of the tribe, we may discover that the tribe no longer considers us one of them. Although we probably won’t literally be murdered, we may find that we are the victims of “character assassination.” Unless we’re total idiots, we’ll get the message. “Get out. Go Away. We don’t want you. And don’t you dare post your grievances on a blog, or we’ll sue you.” (All of these things have happened.)

Jesus’ Tribe

Who belongs to Jesus’ tribe? – Everyone. Jesus came for all of us. Jesus came for rich and poor, young and old, fat and thin, fit and disabled, Jews and Samaritans, the clean and the unclean, those like us and those unlike us, those of our ethnicity and those of other ethnicities, those who believe the “correct” theology and those who have all kinds of strange ideas, Republicans, Democrats and people with no political affiliation, straights and gays, people in suits and people in bathing suits, people like us who “have it all together” and people who don’t, Baptists and atheists and you-name-it.

Whose tribe should we choose? The Baptists? The Democrats? The Samaritans? Weight watchers?

How about Jesus’ Tribe?

Don’t confuse the Church Tribe with Jesus’ Tribe. The two are not always the same. Whenever church people create rules that exclude others, they are creating a religious tribe that did not originate with Jesus.

Tribes are not necessarily bad. We all need our safe havens. We all need people who accept, love and support us. We all need people who want to hear what we have to say.

We just need to make sure that we allow Jesus, our Tribal leader, to make the rules for our tribe.

Instead of excluding others from our tribe, or even inviting them to be a part of our tribe, do you think it is possible to realize that we are all part of the human tribe, the tribe Jesus honored by becoming part of the tribe? Is it really possible to learn to love, honor and accept all of our neighbors, just as Jesus did? When we join Jesus’ Tribe, we find that we can have all the benefits of belonging to a tribe, while not having to deal with any of the disadvantages.

Jesus’ Tribe is so broad, it invites all people from all backgrounds among all ethnicities and from every socio-economic level. Jesus’ tribe has no official language, no preferred music style, no political persuasion, no dress code, no rules about tattoos or hair-length or food choices.

Jesus just loves all, invites all, and accepts all. If we are part of His Tribe, we will do the same.

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  1. says

    Excellent post.

    Don’t confuse the Church Tribe with Jesus’ Tribe. The two are not always the same. Whenever church people create rules that exclude others, they are creating a religious tribe that did not originate with Jesus.

    Well said. And when church people define their tribe as Jesus’ tribe, some on the outside will assume that definition is correct and that if they aren’t welcome in the church people’s tribe, then they aren’t welcome in Jesus’ tribe.

  2. Sam says

    Thank you, Bill. I am regularly surprised by how many members of Jesus’ tribe we find in unexpected places – especially on the street among the street people. Oh that there were some way to make the church look like Jesus rather than like so many of the things it often resembles – A club, a political organization, a group with an agenda that often seems to not include loving people.

    Where do you attend seminary?

  3. says

    I have been trying to say, though not as well, the same or similar things over on my blog PADAG. Too often, the “church tribe” seems to forget that “all” does not just include them and their Sunday morning friends.

    I think the most important thing you said is that Jesus “…invites all people …” to His tribe. The door is open to anyone that wants to come in not a select few or even a predetermined “chosen” group.

    • Sam says

      I bookmarked your blog and will head back there later to read more of your posts.

      Jesus invites all of us, including those who do not look, think or behave like us. Some of the members of our tribe are of many races, young, old, rich, poor, homeless, homemakers, people dressed in suits and people dressed in rags. We can learn to look beyond those things and more and see the person, the person God created in his image, the person God sees and loves.

      • says

        Very true. One of the things I have to do is remind myself that – even when I don’t like someone – Jesus created them in HIS image and died for their sins just like he did mine.

        When you stop by PADAG I’d love to know your thoughts. Thanks

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