My Friend Lanes

The Pastor and His Wife Get to Pick Their Own Friends | Part 1
by Mark Driscoll 
As church planters, Grace and I learned the hard way what a friendship is and is not. Somehow, I got the silly notion that everyone who picked me to be their friend was, in fact, my friend.
Subsequently, I ate lots of meals with people I did not enjoy, had people on my family vacations that drove me so nutty I could not wait to get back to work, and spent countless hours answering the phone, replying to emails, and responding to the demands of pushy, rude, selfish people who smiled while saying words like “buddy” and “friend.” What they meant by “friend” was something more akin to “bullied victim.”
The truth is, as a pastor, you and your wife have many kinds of relationships. What has been helpful for me is considering the kinds of relationships I have like lanes on a highway. I am then better able to clearly determine and articulate who is in which lane without allowing everyone to drive in my friend lane.
Also, I get to decide who drives in which lane. I consider the amount of time, energy, and effort I can pour into each person and relationship on a scale from 0 to +10. I am a finite being. My time and emotional energy are limited and I need to be a good steward of them despite what critics, religious types, and guilt manipulators may say. Here is how I see it:
Relationship Lanes
  0       Enemies
+1       Old Acquaintances | Not in regular, meaningful contact
– Past relationships such as classmates, teammates, coworkers, neighbors, etc.
+2       Distant Relatives | Little regular contact other than when obligated
– Family event (funeral, wedding, reunion, holidays)
+3       Neighbors | Not in community; see often but not close
– Not in one another’s homes and only surface chats
+4       Connections | Same social circles bring together
– Kids in same school, on same team, or in same activity
– Work out at same gym, etc.
+5       Coworkers
+6       Activity Group | Doing something organized with others
– Sports team, community organization, club cause, hobby
+7       Close Family | See and speak to frequently
– The family you enjoy and pursue
+8       Fellowship | “Church Family”
– Bible study group, ministry partners
+9       Close Friends | Friends you frequently see and speak to
– People you enjoy and pursue, mutually
+10     Spouse

The doctrine of the Trinity (that there is one God in three persons) reveals that God has community and companionship within himself. Or, to say it another way, God is a friend and has friends. Furthermore, God wants us to have friends. This explains why, although sin had not yet entered the world, the first thing God said was not good was to be alone (Gen. 2:18). The book of Proverbs has a great deal to say about friendships. Before looking at those verses, though, there is much that needs to be said about this important subject.
Read Part 2 here.

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