Friday, October 7, 2016

Can a Pastor have true friendships?

It is a common adage that not enough people experience true, long-term friendships that are significantly meaningful. Yet God has designed us for intimate connection with others. C.S. Lewis states that “friendship must be about something” other than the other person. 

Pastors have friends who share certain superficial interests (travel, career, politics). 

But like others, pastors crave a deeper need for true friends with whom they can be transparent, with whom they can share a more intimate bond that deepens each other’s experience of God and offers discernment for important choices in life. Pastors need spiritual friendships.

Five Ideals of Spiritual Friendship
Here are 5 ideals of spiritual friendship from David Benner, Sacred Companions, about cultivating deeper, more meaningful spiritual friendships.
  1. Love. True spiritual friendships recognize the personal bonds that exist between them. They are kindred spirits who share passion about the same things in life. They focus “on the journey they share” (p. 67), especially the journey with Christ in the Kingdom. But they also share the desire for the other to be all he or she can be in Christ, whole and holy. Does love truly characterize your best friendships? Can you identify one or two friends with whom you share this close bond? If not, can you think of someone with whom you can cultivate a closer spiritual friendship?
  1. Honesty.  Spiritual friends tell the truth to each other, “daring to risk temporary discomfort by calling us to the truth” (p. 69). They help us avoid self-deception and blind spots in our lives. They speak the truth to each other, but always from a motive of love (Eph. 4:15).  How honest are you in your communication with your close friends? How receptive are you to their honest input into your life?
  1. Intimacy. Jesus offers us intimate friendship; spiritual friends do the same. They relate to and accompany each other through life’s more personal, critical experiences. They share their inner lives, often delving into “feelings, perceptions, values, ideas, and opinions” (p. 73). Their conversations go beneath the external surface to the internal life, sharing their deeper longings in life and for God. They willingly share their personal experiences with God, whether that experience is uplifting or frightening. To what extent or depth do you currently share with your close friends? Do they really know you, warts and all, or do you feel the need to present only the best image of yourself to them?
  1. Mutuality. “Friends offer each other what they receive from each other” (p. 76). Spiritual friendships are not one-sided, but offer balance over time, depending on one another’s season of life. There is no sense of one being superior to the other. Rather, there is a sense of equality where each can speak to and receive from the other, depending on what is happening in each other’s lives. How would you characterize the quality of mutuality in your best friendships? Do you experience give and take in your friendships?
  1. Accompaniment. “Friends accompany each other on the journey of life.” As in music, “accompaniment” means to stay in close, supportive contact with the other person (p. 77). Just as Jesus accompanied his friends on their journeys, so do spiritual friends accompany each other. They take a vested interest in the lives of each other. They do this, even at great distances, since the friendship connection is spiritual, not physical. Who are you accompanying? Who is accompanying you? Who around you needs accompaniment? 

These insights and other suggestions for creating healthy relationships can be found in the following resources:

Anderson, Keith R. & Reese, Randy D. (1999). Spiritual Mentoring: A Guide to Seeking and Giving Direction. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Benner, David G. (2002). Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Chapter three, “The Ideals of Spiritual Friendship,” is especially helpful.

Lewis, C.S. (1988). The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt Books. See especially chapter three, “Friendship.”

 Curator of content: Dave Higle
Copyright © 2016 The Wesleyan Church, All rights reserved.

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