Heroes: The Clapham Sect.

The Justice League. The Avengers. The Rebel Alliance. The Fellowship of the Ring. The Mighty Ducks. Wu Tang Clan. 

Growing up I was always attracted to these stories of groups of people who come together to leverage their skills for the sake of a common mission and usually look cool while they did it. I was captivated by how they were all different but were passionate about saving the world together. 

As inspirational as the groups in movies and comic books have been, I have been most intrigued by the groups in real life who throughout history have made an impact on the world. There are groups that have actually come together and fought for justice in real and powerful ways. One of these groups who have become a personal inspiration is the Clapham Sect. This group of friends brought about drastic social and spiritual change to countries around the world not because they became a large institution with a big budget, but because they remained deeply committed followers of Jesus and deeply committed friends to one another. From that place of relationship, they observed the world and took action to meet the needs of those around them, including the abolishment of the slave trade in Great Britain. 


By far the most renown member of the group is William Wilberforce. You may have heard of his connection to the hymn Amazing Grace, and how he fought to end slavery in Great Britain. What you may not know is that was only one of the members of the Clapham Sect. The Clapham Sect  is a name that came about later on when describing this group of friends. In fact, they never wanted to call themselves anything, they were simply a group of friends who “believed that they were representatives of God’s kingdom on earth and the faithful stewards of all God had given them.” This group was comprised of members of various areas of society, some who held power and prestige in parliament or business as well as common citizens normally excluded from clubs of societies such as women and former slaves. 

They would meet regularly for times of prayer and study of the Scriptures, as well as discuss the issues facing people in their country and in the other nations where their country had a presence. They would then organize their financial, spiritual, and campaigning efforts towards these causes. Ultimately they are described as "a network of friends and families in England who were powerfully bound together by their shared moral and spiritual values, by their religious mission and social activism, by their love for each other…”


As mentioned, they are most known for their contribution to abolishing the slave trade in the British Empire (which is a freaking big deal). However their accomplishments as a group go beyond that. They were instrumental in many efforts to provide care for women and young girls who had been marginalized in Britain. They also advocated for more humane treatment of animals. In addition to this they advocated for the rights of French refugees and factory workers who had been mistreated. They also fueled missions efforts in nations all over the world. They did this all as a group of friends who shared a vision for the good they wanted to see and chose to bring it about, together. 


Whenever I start to get discouraged when I at the state of the world, I have to remind myself that we cannot change the world alone. This group reminds me that I am just one part of a larger community of people that want to see positive change.  They also teach me that  deep and diverse friendship is a powerful thing. They did not change the world despite their time of investing in each other’s lives and loving one another, but BECAUSE of it. 

Richard Gathro describes the qualities of this group that made them so special and so impactful. The beauty of this list is that we can all live this way right here and right now:

  • •They shared a common commitment to Jesus Christ and a clear sense of calling. 
  • • They were committed to lifelong friendship and mutual submission was the norm. 
  • • Their advocacy was marked by careful research, planning and strategy. 
  • They worshiped both privately and publicly, gathering twice weekly at the Clapham Church. 
  • Their friendships were inclusive and focused on the essentials. For example, Wilberforce was a Wesleyan and his closest friend, Henry Thornton, was a Calvinist.
  • They made family life a clear priority and delighted in each other’s marriages and children.
  • They kept the “long view” on completing projects. Abolition of the slave trade took 20 years!
  •  They made no dichotomy between evangelism and social action. Their magazine, The Christian Observer, exemplifies this. 
  •   Their faith was integral to all of life...family, career, friendship and more. It was a faith that the younger generation calls, “24/7.” They talked together of a faith that impacted every part of their lives. There were no “compartments.”
  • They enabled one another vs. trying to “have it all.” They recognized each other’s passions and supported one another in addressing them.


Grab some friends and go change the world. 


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Jonathon grew up in six different states across the Western United States. He made his way to Southern California to attend Vanguard University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication. Currently, he is pursuing a Master's of Divinity Degree at Azusa Pacific University where he also works doing campus ministry with college students. Jonathon is passionate about discipleship to Jesus and innovation, especially when those two spaces meet. He aspires to encourage people to live well-curated lives of purpose and passion. You can find Jonathon living in his beloved city of Costa Mesa, California with his amazing wife, Cyndi. Oh yeah, and he is a HUGE Raiders fan.