He was a person who was older than me. He shared from his heart with confidence and fervor. And he told the group point blank … never make friends there – never ever. Maybe he wasn’t so much older then me, but I know I act more childish, oops, I mean childlike. But his directness caught me off guard.
Let me give some context. I was at a recent forum with a group of pastors. They asked if pastors should have friendships in the church at which they serve. It was to this question he was adamant.
But I wonder if we create this culture of separation in so many places that prohibits us from truly reaching out and making relational connections to those right around us? It’s not a vilification, though that happens in many places (think Washington). It’s not a taking a light view of the call, though people do that as well. Could it be pride? Fear? Busyness? Or just the only way one knows?
Now I’m not a snuggly, huggly, make friends quick type of guy anyway. Growing up, I moved around a lot and did not make many long term friendships. I blame my family’s lifestyle. (Thanks dad, I guess I need therapy … jk, I’m fine. I hope I didn’t pass this on to my legacy … sorry Calvin). But I think we all need each other, we need to get along, and we need to make an effort to work together.
I once picked up a book, They Smell Like Sheep, and it was written for pastors. I thought it was going to be leadership tricks to direct, shape, and make the sheep (aka congregation) to do what you want. How to overcome the sheep’s laziness, smelliness , graziness, and messiness (and yes, I made those words up). But it was not about these things. I was ticked off. It was about me, the pastor … how I was supposed to spend so much time and abide in the lives of the sheep that … that, I begin to smell like the sheep.
Maybe we all need a Dale Carnegie class (win friends and influence people). Jim Dennison wrote a great article today. Worth the read if you want a bit more on getting along with people in today’s divided culture. (Go here). Whether this dilemma is to be seen as pastor-flock, or as any person to any person, these few points might help. So, what will it take?
– hang out with people. Not just those like you, but different beliefs, different cultures, different styles. The shepherds lived with the sheep. You don’t have to forsake friendships of like minded people, but don’t wall yourself off from those different.
– know about the people. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep. Parents, get to know your kids music, preferences, and ideology. This is not about compromise. It helps in communication so that you know where each other is coming from. It will also let them know you care. Such the next point …
– show you love and care for them. Most don’t care about what you know till they know that you care. Bless those who persecute you, treat those who might vilify you with congeniality. As one author stated, no one has ever been hated into agreement.
– think more of them, then you do of yourself. I’m getting all Biblical on ya now. A little Pauline all up in your biz. A ‘stepping on my toes preach’ moment. Philippians 2.3.
So with this I close. Let’s be better at connecting; and maybe, just maybe, others will see the message of the Gospel in the way we live and the way we make friends.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.