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And Then It Cliqued...A Dream
Copyright 1993, 2002 - All rights retained by author
A Short Story Written by: C. W. Booth

Yes, I know it was only a dream, but I can't help shivering. It was so real. I'll be OK in a minute. Would you mind listening for awhile, I think it would help for me to talk about it:

We seemed to be miles above Earth, somewhere on a set of mountains. No trees, just rock. Off to my left a very handsome creature was flitting from one precipice to another, laughing harder than any creature I'd ever seen in the throws of hilarity.

To my right was another being. Not truly corporeal, but definitely there. He was crying, incredible grief, though I saw no tears and heard no sobbing.

Unquestionably a dream. And most assuredly, all make believe. Eventually I would awaken. This is the point at which dreams become fun, when you know it's only a dream, you know you will wake up, and you still get to play along. So I waited and watched.

It was not long before the laughing fellow flitted up to my mountain. He settled on the rock ledge I was standing on, miles above the Earth, with clouds wafting by just over my head.

The laughing fellow had tears streaming down his face from laughing so hard. He put an arm around my shoulders and slapped his knee with his other hand. His laughing was quite contagious, but I politely refrained. I wanted to know what he was laughing at, so I asked.

"Down there," he said as he pointed toward a rather large town off in the distance. "See it?"

I acknowledged that I saw the town. And, as I stared down at the town, I saw much more. I saw everything close up, and in perfect detail. Quite a vantage point you obtain from these mountains, and from dreaming.

As I watched, I saw a young Christian couple arrive in the large town. They unloaded their moving van and settled into a comfortable looking house. The calendar on the wall indicated that the next day was Sunday. All of a sudden it WAS Sunday. Instead of sleeping in, the young couple jumped in a car and drove to a church.

Now, this being a dream, one should not expect to take what is seen very seriously, so I did not. There was no formal church service going on. Only orderly circles of people standing in small groups fellowshipping. The love each ring of people had for the others in the circle was inspiring. People were gently laughing, praying, studying, and talking together. This was truly Christian brotherhood.

My attention was captured by the new couple that had just moved to town as they entered this church. Tentatively they moved toward the first grouping of people. Slowly the man and wife walked around the outside perimeter of the circle that this group made. Unfortunately, all eyes were focused inward, and no-one saw the couple.

All of sudden the handsome young man beside me on the cliff erupted into a new round of laughter.

After some time the meetings were over and all the rings dissolved, very quickly, all the Christians returning to their homes. The young couple blended into the departing crowd and returned to their home. As dreams go, it was Sunday morning again.

Undaunted by their last experience, the couple returned to church again. This time, they targeted a different group of people, a different circle. Having learned from their first try, the couple held their breath and tapped another young couple on the shoulder. At the same time I held my breath too.

The couple that was a part of the circle turned and greeted the new couple in a most friendly fashion. At last, I thought, a break through. To the obvious surprise of the new couple, however, instead of enlarging the circle, they were handed a note. From my perch on the mountainside I could easily read the note. It said, "We are the Blue Jeans Small Group. We enjoy fellowship and in-depth study of God's Word. To enter this Small Group you must be invited by one of us, and, most importantly, you must only wear Heaven's Gift brand blue jeans that are between 2 and 4 years old."

Sadly the new young couple turned away and dissolved into the departing crowd. I could tell that this couple had never been given a pair of Heaven's Gift brand blue jeans (all they had were Heaven's Perfect Fit) and could not join the group. That annoying laughter erupted to my left again.

Sunday after Sunday the same thing happened time and again. Each group had a different criteria for entrance, almost, it seemed, as if they were designed to ensure people did not feel welcome to join. Each week the young couple tried again. Once they even tried standing on their heads and juggling balls while reciting Bible verses as was required by one group, but they were not talented at this and soon failed. The group never did let them attend even one session for they had very specific attendance requirements.

Over time, I noticed that the husband stopped going to church. The wife kept going, and kept trying. After about a year, she stopped going. Some time during that year, the upper half of the husband's body simply fell asleep and never re-awoke; his legs worked well enough but now they just took him in aimless directions.

All the while, the church kept growing. I noticed that new people could get into these circles of small groups if they met the very restrictive criteria, which some actually did. For the few that made it in to these small group studies, friendship and fellowship soon followed. Mostly though, those that did not gain acceptance in these exclusive groups eventually did the same as the first young couple, and in time gave up.

At first I was quite sad. But the longer I watched the more I became enraged. Finally, I began shouting from the side of the mountain. I mean to say that I really began screaming, "Why don't you just let in anyone who wants in?" No-one seemed to hear me, so I climbed down. It took hours. Finally I reached the doors of the church and entered. Immediately I grabbed the leader of the Blue Jeans Small Group and whirled him around, hard, too hard really. But I did not speak or yell. The face looking back at me was my own. That darn laughter was louder than ever. I awoke.

Sitting at my study desk, no longer dreaming, I began asking myself what the difference was between a small group and a clique. My unabridged Random House dictionary defines a clique as "a small exclusive group of people". The word "exclusive" is the only difference then between a small group and a clique.

Using the same dictionary, I discovered that "exclusive" means "disposed to resist the admission of outsiders to association, intimacy, etc.; admitting only members of a socially restricted or very carefully selected group". In other words, the only difference between a clique and a small group is that a clique purposely creates a set of requirements which are designed to exclude people.

Then I began wondering. What if the 12 apostles had never broken up from their small group status? What if Barnabas had not allowed Paul into his fellowship circle? What if Paul decided that Timothy should not leave their small missionary group to go pastor churches? Is there any difference between the factions that the church at Corinth formed amongst themselves and "exclusive" Bible studies, or demographically constrained Sunday School classes?

Now consider what might happen if almost all the small groups in a church opened up their membership requirements to allow anyone in that wanted to attend? The potential impact for encouragement and revitalization of the church is staggering to think about.

I am sorry, I seem to have rambled on a while. Well, thank you for listening to me talk about my dream. It certainly has helped me quite a bit. Now, if you will please leave, I have a small group of people coming over for a group study, and, well, you're a bit older than those who normally attend...and why do I still hear that annoying laughter?

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