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Life Ministry

The One Thing That Grows Trust

Trusting people is hard for me. What about you? It’s not mainly because I believe people are so sinful they aren’t worthy of being trusted. That’s can be true sometimes. No, it has more to do with me. I don’t want to trust them. Trust means I need to be close, vulnerable, intimate. It’s easier to keep my distance.

What’s the solution?

Friendship.

As friendship increases, so does trust. I’ll represent this reality with a mind-blowing, universe-altering, life-trajectory-changing graphic.

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Revolutionary, right?

Actually, it is.

Have you ever heard someone talk—in any context—and, as you listen from afar, you sense a deep distrust of them arising inside of you? You can’t put your finger on it, but you just assume the worst about them. You’re sure that if the Human Fund were taking donations, this person would not be a recipient.

But if you’re honest, this distrust is cultivated by coddling the darkness within you.

Time goes on. You get to know them. Maybe you’re forced to at an awkward work event or social function. Or, perhaps, by the grace of God, you initiate a conversation with them. (Just to gather evidence on their horrible humanity.)

Almost as quickly as you distrusted them (for absolutely no reason) you begin thinking, Shoot, you’re actually a stinkin’ great human. I think I might be able to trust you. Heck, I want to be your friend.

Am I the only one? (I didn’t think so.)

What happened here? Our hearts are melted as we begin to see them differently as a unique creation, made in the image of God, full of dignity and worth, equipped with gifts, passions, and a calling. In this, we took the first step toward friendship. And as we move closer still, we begin to let our guard down and became vulnerable. A friendship blooms and with it, so does trust.

It’s easier to keep our distance. But distance makes all it’s too easy to believe the worst and build up straw-men when conflict and crisis come. Intangibles like vision, mission, values, or strategy—as important as they are—aren’t big enough to put the pieces back together.

But friendship can. And it will. I’m learning that.

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Disciple-Making

Discipleship is Friendship

It boggles my mind to think of Jesus going to a wedding. This means he was invited to a wedding. That means someone thought of Jesus to be enough of a friend to put him on the guest list.

Now, think about this. Jesus saw his fishermen friends struggling to catch fish. After telling them to give it one more shot, he started a fire and waited. He camped out with them at sunrise, took their fresh catch, and made it into breakfast. Who does that but a friend?

Jesus had friends. He was a friend.

Of course, Jesus isn’t just any old friend. He’s also Creator, Master, Savior, King. But he is still a friend. Perhaps being those things and a friend, the Friend, makes his friendship all the more wonderful.

Friendship was Jesus’ unique method for discipleship. He was a leader, of course. But Jesus was never the lord-it-over kind of leader. He was the come-alongside kind. The kind who eats dinner at your house. Takes long walks with you. Tells you stories about God. Encourages you when you mess up. Empowers you to do ministry. Prays for you.

In John 15, in case there was any doubt, he told his disciples explicitly, “You are my friends.” But he goes on, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give to you.”

Jesus is passing the baton of his model to his disciples. Calling his disciples “friends,” he tells them that their mission to is to bear fruit—that is, make disciples (remember the metaphor of vine > branches > fruit).

That’s not the most amazing thing, however. Jesus says all of this is “so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” Ask the Father for disciples and he will give them to us.

But what if we take the Jesus model of discipleship and turn it into something unrecognizable? All too often, we’ve made discipleship top-down (i.e. professionals to laymen), transactional, a one-hour meeting over coffee, a church service, or an eight week class.

These aren’t evil things. Not at all! But Jesus did none of them. And he is the Master.


Discipleship is friendship in a Christ-ward direction.


There are certainly many strategies for making disciples, but if transparency, authenticity, confessing, story telling, encouraging, living together in the mess of everyday life—the stuff of real friendship—is not at the core, then it subverts Jesus’ model. I don’t believe we can approach discipleship differently than Jesus, ask for whatever we wish, and still expect to receive what we ask for.

If we do not follow the Master’s model, we will make something. It just won’t be disciples.

I like to say, “Discipleship is friendship in a Christ-ward direction.” Hopefully, your gears are turning now. Mine are. In the next post, we’ll dig deeper into what discipleship as friendship really means (and doesn’t mean), and I’ll share some tips for how to make this a reality.

Categories
Life

Proverbs: Wisdom in Friendship

Part 5 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

Everyone knows someone who can’t pick a good friend to save his life.  Let’s be honest.

The married guy picks friends who go to the bar every night and play Xbox as he ignores his son who’s ready to play ball outside.  The married woman befriends divorced women who drink too much cheap wine and tell her it’s time for a younger man.  The kid in high school is only friends with the star quarterback because he knows the right answers to the test.   The junior high girl sits at lunch with the popular girls who gossip and slander every other girl because their jeans are “so last year.”

Now the point is not that we stay away from people like this.  The problem is not conversation or acquaintance or even the occasional hang-out.  Jesus hung out with “losers.”  These kinds of friends need the gospel just as much as we do.

The problem arises when bad friends replace our inner circle of godly, wise friends.  The real problem happens when they replace Scripture and Jesus-loving friends as they try to get us to worship idols.

Over 25 passages (not verses) in Proverbs talk about friendship.  In the first chapter, Solomon writes to his son, “If sinners entice you, do not consent.  If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason”…do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths” (v. 10-11, 15).  It might not be murder like this case, but it might be continual gossip, slander, hate-speech, complaining, quarreling, alcohol, drugs, sex, or entertainment.  All those things lead to bloodshed – both your own and someone else’s.

In 13:20, Solomon says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”  I know that somebody will argue, “But I share my faith with my friends!  You need to be around non-Christians more!”  I’m not arguing against that.  But remember that Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33).  We must minister to non-Christians.  But when they become our inner circle, our wise counsel, or our support during trial, we will be overcome by their foolishness and become fools ourselves.

Solomon also gives instruction for how to be a good friend.  In 25:17 he advises us, “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.”  This means don’t invite yourself to his house for every football game.  Later in 27:14 he writes, “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.”  That means don’t try to bless your neighbor by mowing his lawn at 7 am when it’s his only day off for the whole month.

Finally, Solomon tells us that a good friend can gently rebuke us for our good: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”  A true friend is one who can honestly call out sin and folly in your life.  Do your friends point you to Jesus when you need it most?  Or do they point you to every possible idol and encourage you to worship at the altar of demons?

Categories
Life

Jesus Wants the Rose

Here’s a good example of how and why one pastor should “rail” another.