Can we be Friends?

This week’s sermon is available HERE.

Last Sunday I talked about the need for all Christians to pursue spiritual maturity. In the process I presented some research results from the REVEAL study of spiritual growth. As the researchers collated their results, they grouped healthy spiritual practices into 4 groups:

  • Beliefs and Attitudes;
  • Organized Church Activities;
  • Personal Spiritual Practices; and
  • Spiritual Activities with Others.

It seems to me that those first three groups are the ones we emphasise the most. We do a lot of teaching to establish Biblical beliefs. We encourage participation in church activities, particularly Bible Classes and worship. We also encourage people to pray and read Scripture for themselves. But perhaps when we look at that list we’re not even sure what “Spiritual Activities with Others” means. So here’s another list for you.

Activities with Others

Of these four, I’ll focus today on the top two: Spiritual Friendships and Spiritual Mentors. It seems to me that we often value Christian friendships among teens as we pour many resources into ministries for teens. However, we don’t make the same emphasis among general church members.

We settle for people showing up on Sunday and don’t impose the expectation that they spend time with other Christians outside of Sunday worship service. We know that Christians need one another to experience the fullness of Christ, but perhaps we often think that Bible studies fulfill all the “one another” instructions in Scripture.

I expect that some of my readers will think the church already values spiritual friendships. You may be right. But let me pose a scenario and gauge your response…

board games group

You hear of a church down the road that cancels their Wednesday night Bible Class because they decide that they study the Bible as a group sufficiently on Sunday. Instead, they now meet in homes and play board games, and cards. Sometimes they watch movies together, while some of the groups bake together or discussing books they’re reading together.

What you may not have heard is that each of these groups close their time together with 20-30 minutes of prayer. But still, all that play time in place of Bible Study!

Perhaps we feel uncomfortable toward this church because while we acknowledge the theory regarding the importance of spiritual friendships, we don’t actually value them all that highly. We may not have thought of it in these terms, but we would prefer for people who aren’t friends to study the Bible together, than to not study the Bible and work on building friendships.

Perhaps we feel uncomfortable praising spiritual friendships, because we don’t have any ourselves.

  • Do your friends encourage your faith?
  • Do your friends pray for, and with, you?
  • Do you pray for, and with, your friends?
  • Can you ask your friends about Scriptures you’ve been reading?
  • Do your friends get excited about sharing God’s love with others?
  • Do your friends help you date, or parent, in a God-honor way?

I believe that many of Christians will acknowledge the importance of spiritual friendships to their walk with Christ. We’ll acknowledge that God has placed us in His church and made us part of his body which belongs and works together. But I suspect that many Christians fail to prioritize spiritual friendships or allow their personal spiritual practices to bleed over into our relationships with others.

It’s true, that many Christians can say that their best friends also attend church with them, but that by itself doesn’t make the friendship spiritual. Spiritual friendships intentionally include spiritual conversations, spiritual checkups, and spiritual practices.

 

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