The fifth theme we are exploring for #MoreThanSunday is Friendship.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
Podcast episode five: Friendship
Friendship may seem a slightly odd topic for #MoreThanSunday. It doesn’t seem very 'spiritual', and yet friendship is in a way at the heart of the gospel. We are offered friendship by God in Christ, who came among us as one of us. Jesus gathered around him a group of friends and spent time with them. We human beings are created in the image of God and we are social animals - we need people around us. God is at work in our human interactions and perhaps especially in our friendships.
I want to encourage people to build up friendship, both within the Church and outside it. Within the Church we ought to be supportive of each other. As our readings say, we have a duty to encourage and build each other up. This is what being a friend is. As I go around churches I am often told by people that “this is a lovely friendly church”. Sometimes it’s true, but not always! In some churches friendship is only offered to those we know, and newcomers can feel excluded. It is a challenge to ensure that we welcome new people by offering friendship. Any church should be a place of healing, where people can find acceptance, love and, yes, friendship.
It is extremely likely that we will have non-Christian friends and indeed I would argue that it is healthy to have such friends. Many years ago I read a short book by Joseph Bayly called The Gospel Blimp. This was a parable about a Christian couple who were concerned about their non-Christian neighbours and wanted to share the gospel with them. They decided that they could share the gospel message with them and the whole of the town if they had a blimp carrying a message in the sky. The “Gospel Blimp” became an all-consuming project, not only displaying Christian messages but also dropping leaflets and allowing preaching through a sound system from above!
Eventually the original couple dropped out of the project and found themselves befriending their neighbours by visiting them when on one of them was ill and inviting them around. It was simple friendship that in the end conveyed the Christian message, not preaching from on high.
Friendship is about spending time with people, listening to them, caring about them, receiving from them as well as supporting them. We should never underestimate the power of simple friendship to convey the love of God both within the church and outside.
Canon Andy Salmon
Try to genuinely listen to someone who isn’t in your close circle of friends and offer them encouragement.
Is there someone in your church who is on the edge of things and might welcome being drawn in more? Make an effort to include them.
Think about the people around you in the week. Is there someone you could make the effort get to know a bit better?
Is there someone you could invite to church?
Questions for a discussion group
Think of a time when someone has been a really good friend to you and describe this.
Are you a good friend?
How would you “stir up” people to “love and good works”? Give some practical examples of what this might mean.
Who are the people around you that you could be more friendly to?
Is there anyone that you might invite to church?
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