This morning as I was on a Skype counseling call towards the end of my conversation I was asked a simple question “do you have many friends in the church? If so...how?” I thought that was a great question and I will do my best to spell out in this blog my response.
Being a pastor of a church can have some very interesting dynamics in the realm of friendships. Like you, I can say many people are my friends. Even if we only see each other once a week, I can still say they are my friends. There are those however that seem to be closer than others. It is no mystery they are the ones who are in the same phase of life that I am. You know...pre-schoolers, etc. This held true during the years as a single youth pastor. I simply did not want to be close friends with those who had children. There are my friends that have similar interests which for me happen to be fishing, motorcycling, biking, etc. I think this is only natural for anyone in any walk of life. I would be the first to admit that I wish I could hang out with everyone. This is why we have some great fellowship events throughout the week. Truth be told, I so enjoy being friends to everyone but fact is some are closer than others. I guess this is what we call life.
As with any friendship....you take a risk. I have always said that when a person becomes a friend it would be wise to apologize right away. You may be asking “for what?” For the times that you will offend and hurt that person. It is a guarantee that at some point along the way you will make a poor decision, say something dumb or simply do/say something offensive that you had no idea. In any case a true friend will stick with you through those times. For the ones that leave the first time they are offended or let down; It is probably best they go anyway...apparently they are perfect. It is even more difficult as a pastor and being in the spotlight when people sabotage your friendships. This happens when “well meaning” people put words into your mouth causing a riff in a friendship. With over 17+ years in full time ministry this has happened a handful of times. Want to know the crazy part? I and many pastors know exactly who these people are. The church is a small world and word travels quick. What’s even more crazy (and many pastors could easily do this) is that we as pastors have so much on these people who destroy friendships that should one of us ever snap and air out their laundry...things truly could be devastating for them as well. I along with many others choose to take the highroad however and try to find something in that person they still like. However, these people that destroy friendships ought to read 1 Samuel 24 specifically verse 4 where it states “The men said, "This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, 'I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.'" Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe.” In other words...David gave Saul a warning that he could take him out whenever he wanted. He didn’t but it certainly was a real possibility. Those who sabotage friendships really ought to apologize because more than likely...pastors already know who did it.
You know...we all need friends. Nothing makes me happier than hanging out with people. It doesn’t matter who because people are people. When we have church events or cookouts...the more the merrier! Do I have close friends in the church? Yes. Do I have casual friends in the church? Yes. The fact is a church should be a place where you can find a good friend whether you are a pastor or not...it really is the beauty of the church.