Making disciples 3: making friends
Many important themes arose from our feedback on sharing Jesus with our friends, and one of the most basic was this: I hardly have any friends who aren’t Christian. Quite a few people had this response in one form or other.
There are a number of factors involved in this. For some, they have recently moved to Canberra, joined our church, and haven’t yet developed meaningful relationships with neighbours and workmates. Others suggested the busyness of being parents of small children made it difficult to carve out the space to cultivate relationships with others. Meaningful conversations with adults can be few and far between when the ankle-biters are competing for attention.
Some people’s work, church, family, social and friendship networks are all tied up with Christian relationships. Some people don’t have much in common with their friends, other than work. They’re not connecting socially outside of work. Others felt they had good opportunities to connect with parents and families at primary school, but have found it much harder to build connections with others in the high school environment. Some were very busy at work, leaving little time for social interaction.
One obvious outworking of these responses is to consider how we can build connections and relationships with others. Are there ways of creating more time and space? Can we take the work connection or the sporting connection to another level by inviting people to our homes or catching up for a coffee? Do we need to reshape some of our time commitments so we are more available to people? Are we too busy at church to get to know people outside the church? Could we do more with hospitality? We might find that others are lonely and feeling isolated, so that a small step from us has a major impact on them. One response suggested dropping our programs and focusing on helping people develop their relational skills. Can we be praying about these concerns?
I suspect there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue. Taking stock and reflecting on our relationships with others will be a good start. I’d suggest we pray that God will help us to build relationships and to make some changes so that this can happen. But please—don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone is different, has different gifts, and different circumstances. Some people seem to have so many friends who don’t know Jesus, but the relationships never seems to get to talking about Jesus. Others are deeply committed to the one or two people they keep up with, and have the best of opportunities to share the gospel. How people respond is not up to us. So neither should we beat ourselves up if our friends aren’t becoming Christians. God knows our struggles and God knows our hearts, so let’s ask God to work in us and to work in others.