February 11, 2013

The Importance of Friendship

There are plenty examples of friendship in the Bible. We have the example of David & Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18:1–3:

“As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”

Job, too, had his friends, although it is arguable how much of a comfort they were to him. Regardless, we read in Job 2:11:

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.”

Friendship is of fundamental importance in our type of ministry. Schemes can be a place where we glimpse light and life one day and unrelenting darkness and hardship the next. We can feel like we’re making great progress and then, like lightning, we can be sucked into the slough of despond. There’s lots of talk about accountability, mentorship, and coaching in Christian circles, but not so much on good, old-fashioned friendship. Here are some questions for reflection:

  1. Who are your closest friends and how often are you in contact with them?
  2. Do you take time to regularly hang out with your friends in a ‘non-ministry’ capacity? Scheme life is so all-encompassing that it can feel like you lose something of yourself to the work. Everybody I meet or who visits me just wants to talk church planting, training, or about scheme ministry. Sometimes it’s just nice to talk about the footie, a film, or have a bit of banter and let the old proverbial hair down.
  3. Do you have somebody to whom you can be personally accountable in these things? This is particularly important if you have not yet established an eldership and/or a leadership team in your context. You need somebody in your life to remind you to relax, unwind and have some fun.
  4. Do you have a friend who challenges you when you are being silly or over reacting? Stress is a killer in our game and often just being overly tired can lead to making mistakes and not responding in a calm and measured way to adversity.
  5. What about your spouse? Does she have these kinds of friends in her life? Do you encourage her to pursue them? You should. Immediately.
  6. How many local, community friendships have you built and are you building? I am talking about guys to hang out with because you like them and not for some sinister ‘friendship evangelism’ motive. Every conversation does not have to get twisted into a gospel presentation when you hang out with a local. Like people and they will like you.
  7. Do you have a friend who will just encourage you when you are feeling the strain of ministry? The person who will lift you out of the doldrums with the right word in season? We all need those types of people in our life.
  8. Are you a friend to somebody struggling in ministry (in life for that matter)? Are people coming to you for solace and counsel? If not, why not? It may be time to re-evaluate your life and friendships if the only time you meet with people is to offload on them.

In the words of CS Lewis:

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?”

Make friends, cement friendships, and be a friend. It could seriously improve your life and your ministry.