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friendship: the other side

Now that I’ve expressed my concern about friendship within church I want to add a thread of tension to the mix. I believe that we need to treat one another better in our churches, we need to show more grace, more forgiveness, more authenticity (i.e. stop pretending that you’re ALWAYS just oh so happy because God has blessed you with just oh so many wonderful blessings and God is oh so good and thanks be to him from whom all blessings flow when you know full well much of the time that’s a crock). We need to be quicker to forgive and not so quick to become angry. We need to listen more and be more accepting of differences.

But here’s my thread of tension - we cannot attend to our church relationships at the expense of all others. We MUST HAVE MORE FRIENDS OUTSIDE OUR LOCAL CHURCH. Our relationships need to be more eccumenical across the spectrum. “Friendship evangelism” is an awful term IMO (it just feels manipulative to me because of the connotations of the term evangelism), but the truth is that we need to accept that no one wants to learn from a Christian who just appears in their life to spout of spiritual platitudes on occasion. And no one wants a Christian in their life who can’t learn from anyone else. The era of people turning to distant authorities to learn and grow is fast ending. People want to learn from friends who happen to have some knowledge and experience in a certain area, they want to turn to friends when they are in need, not just professionals with whom they have no intimate connection.

But perhaps even more importantly - we cannot be good Christ followers if we do not learn from the other, if we do not open ourselves up to the reality that “the other” has something to show us about God because *gasp* God is actually present outside our own Christian world. We cannot be good Christ followers holed up in our churches because I can GUARANTEE YOU that Christ is walking “out there” and if we’re not “out there” we’re being left behind.

There are a few key dysfunctional patterns of relationships with Christians that I have experienced personally and seen in others (typically).

1. We have ONLY Christian friends and preferably only Christian friends from our own church (after all, how is a person supposed to have the space for other friends when they spend 3 days a week in meetings or services at their church)
2. We have Christian and “non Christian” friends but they are kept in exclusive networks that don’t cross (part of this is often that our Christian friends act so weird and only talk about churchy things that our friends who aren’t Christians are understandably freaked out by them or that they have been hurt by Christians in the past and are gun shy)
3. We have friends in and outside of the church but our church friends are kept at a distance because we can’t be real around them without getting ourselves in trouble which means they are no closer than our “friends” at work.

Most people don’t do any of this intentionally, it’s just what they know. It’s what’s been modeled to them and the reality is that it’s usually easier/more comfortable sticking with those you know. I get it, I really do. But if we’re really going to be missional - to join with the missio dei, the God of mission - we HAVE GOT to get over this. Because missional is not just stepping outside of the church to do evangelism or acts of charity or service every once in awhile. It’s also not just about making a few atheist friends and having drinks every once in a while. Part of missional is dissolving that dividing line altogether.

So yes, I believe we need to attend to the superficial friendship problem in our churches but we need to maintain that tension of also developing friendships beyond just our local church body and then working to fade the dividing line between the two “worlds”.

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  1. Heather — January 23, 2008 #

    Very well put.

    I wish more people were in the business of being this intentional with their spheres of influence.

    A word of encouragement: I’ve regularly been mixing my friends up together for years. It’s interesting to say the least, but it’s created some really cool deep friendships among people who wouldn’t normally have met each other. :)


  2. Maria — January 23, 2008 #

    Amen. Again. I agree with your statement that “part of missional is dissolving that dividing line altogether.” Even the language we use to refer to our friends (believers or non, churched or un) needs some challenging. Should I really relate differently to someone because I know they believe more or less the same things I do? If that’s all we have in common, are we really friends? Just questions I’m wrestling through as I’m in a period of settling into a new town with all new people around me.

  3. Angela — January 24, 2008 #

    Good post. Well put. I have nothing to add or take away from it. I’ll be chewing on this one. It’s a lot of what was already going on in my brain. :)

  4. Tia Lynn — January 24, 2008 #

    WHat? Jesus outside in the world?!?! I think you are mistaken. He’s right here in my back pocket and I whip Him out whenever its convenient….duh! :)

    This is exactly what I have been dealing with lately. You’re reading my mind, or maybe reading my blog. :) I just finished a book review on “They Like Jesus But Not the Church” by dan kimball, which was just excellent. He deals with the bubble life and the result of only having church friends. And then I did a post about forgetting to wait for the rapture (your fav.) because christians have already raptured themselves right out of the world into their comfortable, safe, like-minded subcultures.

  5. Michael — January 26, 2008 #

    Yeah, this is easy to do in one form or another. Thankfully I’ve seen some Chrsitain couples I know do a good job of inviting all their freinds, secular, Christian, andthose in between together. After a while, it seems like all suss eachother out and the more secular friends tend to hang out with eachother aand vice versa although I see an intentional getting to know those outside one’s own sphere by somebeleivers too throughout an evening.

    I guess that’s one of the things I most like about work in particualr is that one is thrust with people one might not necessarily ever deal with in natural dealings. Everyone I work with (except for one Lutheran guy) are all self described non-christians, very agnostic on the whole, if not a few athiests among them. In many ways it’s actually easier with those most secular in that I know where they stand. It’s the silent believer who never says anything of conviction that I find hardest to relate to in such situations…if one even knows they’re a believer of any sort in the first place! It helps when others know one’s faith, and then they see you are still obviouly loving them anyway because you genuine do care. It’s great too to shatter shallow presuppositions many have from what I find often comes from popular media, not actually from people personally known, except for perhaps the rare person from their past, but that is usually so very far and in between to forge any such dominant judgements.

    It is though natural too to especially love those who are your family in Christ. Matter of a fact, the Word even expressly orders that!

    On the ‘crock’ matter. Yeah, many times it is farce, but I think we all know of times in our own lives too, or at least those of others, where seomone has generally often felt a euphoric love with God and happy with life (often by the mere fact of being redeemed from wheverever one was before). That zeal and thrill of being recently born again is very real and we want to be careful not to necessarily undermine it in what can come from our too aged crusty cynicism. We are even to be as we first know him in terms of that zeal and passion but of course we are to necessarily mature in the process too!

    …So, yes, I do know what you are saying: much of the church is putting on a face a lot of the time, and I find myself even doing that on occassion!– But, we’d do well to also remember that there is a genuine refreshing touch of the Spirit where one can genuinely feel like one is one is on cloud nine-”happy and joyous” almost all the time, andit can even happen to those wo have been Christians quite a long time. But, I would susect that is, unfortunately, the rare exception.

  6. Mak — January 27, 2008 #

    I don’t think it’s unfortunate that it’s the rare exception. I personally think we see “sad” or “doubtful” or even “angry” too often as blatantly and overtly negative. It is because Christians see emotions in this light that causes us to idolize the happy, to deify the “constantly thrilled about God” people and when we do that, we create an ideal that is almost impossible to reach and certainly to maintain.

    We all have high seasons, no doubt. And I certainly don’t want those people to hide it or something. But I also don’t want us to idolize the “high” and demonize the “low”.

    as for friendships - I should hope that we can love our brothers and sisters in Christ - of course! :)

  7. Pingback - all said and done » Blog Archive » Starred Posts: late Jan- early Feb — February 4, 2008 #

    [...] Friendship: The other side - Makeesha Fisher, Swinging From the Vine [...]

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