Thursday, March 8, 2012

Friends (Organic, Part 3)

I have friends.  Chances are you do too.

Most of my friendships are long-term.  I have been hanging out with these people and enjoying their company for more than fourteen years.  Looking back over that many years I can say that we have been truly “doing life” together.  I'm not just saying that because it sound good.  It’s real.  Authentic.  Proven.  We’ve done it over time.  Through thick and through.  Through all sorts of seasons too.  There was no sign up sheet for us to get connected.  We simply met at church, liked each other, started hanging out, and the friendships grew.

Our church is full of friendship networks like this across the board.  They formed the same way as mine:  spontaneously and naturally. Organically, not organizationally.  Friendships like these are one of the ways that God meets some of our deepest needs, not to mention spur us on to spiritual growth. 

Some people might object, “Yea, but you need to join an accountability group and have people who can keep you on the straight-and-narrow.  Keep you honest.  You need people who you can talk Bible stuff with and be transparent with.  And you need people who can support you in time of crisis.”

That’s what my friends do.  And so much more.

Do you remember the popular television show Cheers?  The theme song echoed the desire of so many people:  “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…. and they’re always glad you came…  America was drawn to that little tavern in East Boston, not because of anything flashy about it, but because of how well the people who frequented the place knew each other.  There was Sam, the irreverent one; Norm, the fountain of witting one-liners; Cliff, the postman; Woody, the naïve farm boy; and Diane, the sophisticated socialite, all hanging out together every evening.  It was a warm place.  It was a safe place.  It was a group of ordinary people living ordinary life…. together.

Most of us love the idea of having an inner circle of friends like that who know us and accept us for who we are and aren’t.  Strength and vitality can be found in such relationships!  When left alone, most of us are quite capable of forming these kinds of friendships on our own.

But what does the church do?  We arbitrarily gather a group of people together – who often have little in common – and tell them to bond with one another!  No wonder it doesn’t work as well has we hoped. 

Yes, I have friends.  Real friends.  They call me on the phone.  We go into each others homes.  We recreate together.  Have fun together.  Talk Bible stuff together.  And they look me in the eye when they talk to me.

I really believe that if more people would simply establish long-term friendships themselves, they would experience greater community, deeper discipleship,  warmer fellowship, a broader ministry, and truly feel connected to their church family. 

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