© 2010 John Casimir O'Keefe

Who is my tribe?

Who is a member of my tribe?  This is a question I have been asking myself a great deal lately.  I have been asking this question because I have not found a “tribe” to belong too – that will accept me as me and not why they want me to be.  That is not to say I do not have friends, I have many good friends and people I value a great deal – but the question still keeps popping into my head – “WHO IS MY TRIBE?”

Over my walk I have heard a great many churches say to me, ‘We welcome all people in our church’ only to find out they really don’t.  I would visit one church and find that if you are not conservative, well the door is not really open.  I would go to another church and find that you are not liberal, the door is not open.  Each of those kinds of churches claims to have all the answers.  They know exactly what Jesus would do in any given situation.  They seem to be saying, “We know Jesus better than those other churches and we can tell you exactly what Jesus would say and do.”  It matters little what the issue is, they know the answer; Gay?  We know what Jesus would say.  Sex?  We have that one down also.  War?  Not a problem, here is the answer.  Loving your enemies?  Here is what that means.  What does it mean to be poor?  This is what that means.  No matter what the issue, they claim to know exactly what others should believe and they each can “prove” their point.  But I am not sure I am comfortable with a church that claims all the answers.

You see, in the tribe I know I would be comfortable in, I need people who wrestle with those issues and allow others to have different points of view.  For me, my tribe needs to be a place where people love each other, support each other, speak kindly of each other and in all that they can have different points of view and sometimes radically different points of view.  There are no lines drawn where one side claims to be right and the other claims to be wrong.  But in that, they can come together in the love of the resurrected Christ, God’s gift to us all for salvation.

I have not met that tribe, but I have met some that are very close and that is exciting.  As I pray over the issue of planting a community of faith in my area of the world I am driven to this reality.  I am driven by the desire to see that tribe form and grow based on people with different points of view.  Now, I will admit that for those who desire a tribe that “has all the answers” this kind of tribe would never be a place where they would find comfort.  You see, many in the church desire to have a tribe where all people think like they do, and there is no perceived tension.  For some reason, they believe that if everyone thinks alike tension does not exist.  But it does, and in such was that are destructive to the live of the tribe.  You see, when there is tension between like minded people that tension is usually based on personalities and not ideas.  When tension is formed between people based on personalities that tension is very destructive at its core.  Tensions based on the difference of ideas can be creative and allow for discussions based on what we think and how we are seeing the world.

How do we deal with the issue or war, we have an answer for that.  This reality got me thinking, how many others are asking, “Who is my tribe?”  Think about that for a few – if every church that claimed they welcomed everyone truly did, why is the church losing people each and every Sunday.


  1. tom wallek
    Posted 2010/10/11 at 10:23 pm | #

    John- 19 years ago, I heard the Lord tell me to seek a relationship with another christian man that I didn’t even like. And he felt the same way about me. He invited me to an independent mens group that met at his house every Monday at noon for 2 hours. I have been meeting with them every Monday since. We all have very different backgrounds and they all attend different churchs. I stopped attending the institution 10 years ago. We share our lives and struggles, pray and encourage, exhort and love. We have very divergent beliefs on a great number of things, yet we truly do love and care about each other. And after all the pain and intimacy we have, we know that every one at this table sincerely loves the lord, inspite of all our differences. These men are an accountability group for me, a source of spiritual support, and the greatest source of spiritual identity I have ever experienced. It’s genuine and authentic. They are my tribe !!! But I sense that there are many others like you that I am a part of also. My other brothers in the Monday group would freak but they are still locked into the left brain. But they are moving from that kind of thinking. Most I trying to enter the mystical but that is very hard from the left brain.They are all over 60 except 2. Intimacy is the product of relationship. To develope what we have takes time. There is no program other then living close and sharing the pain. I have never felt closer to God then now. They let me be me and I have stopped trying to make them like me. THat’s God’s job. Mine is love. How much more righht brain could we be ? That’s it my friend. I have found the rest !!!

  2. john o'keefe
    Posted 2010/10/11 at 11:34 pm | #

    tom, that is what i am talking about 🙂 that is a great story and one i can see as powerful.

  3. Brandon
    Posted 2010/10/25 at 7:54 pm | #

    The type of fellowship you are describing is something I felt during my undergraduate philosophy program at an evangelical school. While we agreed on the fundamentals of the faith, many of us came from very different backgrounds. Mine was (at the time) charismatic/pentecostal. Others were fundamentalist, cessationist Baptists. Some were Catholic. Others were Eastern Orthodox. Some were Lutheran. Some were Methodist. But we all loved God, even if we worshiped Him in different ways.

    I think it’s trickier once you leave the college campus. The average college graduate isn’t an intellectual (in the philosophy major sort of way). The average person isn’t college educated. There is a certain pressure to conform theologically to a pastor’s views, even in the more laid back, non-denominational churches. While most ministers encourage interest in the theology, they frown upon people asking too many difficult questions in a row. But in college, my professors thrived in those types of discussions.

    It is human nature for spots to group with spots, and stripes to group with stripes. I suppose the more eclectic a person you are, the more difficult it is to find your “tribe.” But it is certainly possible. I think the key is to walk into a church expecting imperfect people. That way, when imperfections crop up, you won’t be surprised.

    Though I am only 27, I am in a community group where the average age (if we stay home) is about 55. I have little in common with these older folks, other than my love of God and a desire to study His word. But there are also younger people at my church too. When I want to discuss theology, I find that group. When I want to go out to a pub for some hot wings, I’ve got a crowd for that. I’ve got my barbecue crowd, and my concert crowd. My reading circle crowd, and my home maintenance crowd. Many of these crowd overlap, but they are all within my tribe.

    On a side note, I am somewhat amused by the emergent church’s focus on the “mystical.” Having grown up in the Pentecostal church, but under a pastor who studied Greek and Hebrew and wrote thick books, I experienced both the mystical and the intellectual sides of the faith from an early age. I feel sad for my brothers and sisters in the faith who feel like they must choose one or the other.

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