Maximize Your Friendships
Pastor David covers 3 keys to Biblical friendship from the Book of Proverbs and gives 3 additional steps to improving your friendships!
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
How do people actually become friends?
The great writer, C.S. Lewis, says that friendship happens when one person can say to another, “What?! You too! I thought I was the only one!”
For example, I’ve mentioned many times here that I’m a fan of the MN Timberwolves.
And as you might have guessed, there are not many of us. J
So when I meet someone who’s a fan, I’m going to say, “What!?! You too?! No way!”
And we have a bond there.
This is one of the reasons I think our house groups at Renovation Church work so well.
House Groups begin next week, so you’re going to hear about it all throughout the service today.
You may not know this, but I’ve been asked and interviewed by a lot of pastors in our short 4-year history as to why our house groups have been so successful.
The average church has 22% of people involved in their small groups.
At Renovation, it’s nearly 80%.
It’s one of the most unique things about Renovation Church
One of the first answers I give people (and this is my answer for a lot of things)…is simply this: It’s math. Simple math.
If you sign up 40 people for a group, 25-30 people come on an average night…
That’s a significantly different dynamic compared to how almost 90% of churches do it.
Most churches sign-up maybe 8-10 people per group
What we’re doing…is (mathematically) increasing your chances to develop amazing friendships.
If there are 40 people that I might meet throughout the fall semester, the chances of me finding somebody who actually likes the Timberwolves…are actually pretty decent. J
And indeed, there are even 2 or 3 or us in the house group my wife and I attend!
House Groups are big enough that you can find friends, but small enough in small groups at the end of the night that you can be really be known too.
So we want to talk about friendship today.
We are in week 2 of our “Maximize” series…where we are looking to the Book of Proverbs in the Bible for wisdom on how to make the most of our lives.
Proverbs is a Book full of short sayings on how to live a wise life.
And you cannot live a wise life unless you are growing in your friendships and are choosing great friends.
In some sense, you can only be as wise as the people you surround yourself with.
So, we’re going to dive into the wisdom of Proverbs today.
We’re going to look at a bunch of really neat verses.
I encourage you to take notes. Write them down.
If you’re looking to get back into reading the Bible…
Maybe you even start at Proverbs?
And read 1 chapter a day?
WE NEED FRIENDS
I want to look this morning at 3 things we need in a friend.
And I think the first one is going to surprise you.
(Put up Friend Slide #1)
#1: We Need Friends
Yep. The first quality we need in a friend. Is friends. In general.
Every people group around the world has their strengths and weaknesses.
This is a message that if I gave it in Haiti or Rwanda…I’d skip this first point.
But not in America.
Our individualism and isolationism has created a friendship crisis for us.
But we say, “No wait! I have so many friends!”
But what really is a friend?
Let’s start looking to Proverbs
(Proverbs 18:24) – NIV - Leave up for an extra minute or so
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
What does “unreliable friends” mean?
It means simply…they’re not there for you…which means…they’re not really your friends.
Most of the older, traditional translations translate this verse this way: “A man of many COMPANIONS soon comes to ruin”
In other words, there’s a big difference between a companion (or an acquaintance) and a friend.
This is the big friendship illusion of our age, right?
And much has been written on this.
You can post a cute picture of your kids’ first day of school on social media, and it feels like so many “friends” know about it.
You go to work or church, and they all say, “Wow, your kid looked so cute on her first day of school!”
But the friendship is mostly illusionary.
Now, people over-react when they say, “Your facebook friends aren’t your friends”
Some of my friends do indeed have Facebook.
What they’re trying to say is that “Most of the people who’ve friended you on Facebook, or follow you on Instagram…are your acquaintances…not your friends.”
Most of us spend the majority of our nights at home…within our fences, sitting at home, hiding behind our computers and tablets.
Sure…we put up the pictures of the happy vacations and the smiling kids….
But does anyone actually know about it when your kids AREN’T smiley?
And you’re not sure what to do about it?
Does anyone actually know about it when your marriage is a wreck?
Or if you’re in a financial mess?
Who can help you?
The reality is…we need people around us. Friends that actually KNOW us. Not just acquaintances.
We need good people.
People of faith.
Many of you are new in your faith…and one of the best things you can do is to surround yourself with good, Godly people.
(Proverbs 13:20) – NIV
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Again, this is one of the great things about House Groups.
It gives you an opportunity to make friends with wise, Godly people.
It’s one of the reasons we have inter-generational groups too.
So, you can get around not only people in your age group, but also some people who’ve been doing this thing a little longer than you have.
And of course, bond with people…and you can say, “You like Jesus?!”
“You too?! Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one. This is awesome!”
And if you’re in middle school or high school…this same principle is true for you too.
This is why being a part of youth group is important.
Being a teenager is hard. Really hard sometimes.
And having Christian friends to help you navigate through it…is so important.
WE NEED COMMITTED FRIENDS
But of course, we don’t just need friends in general.
We need committed friends.
PUT UP (FRIEND SLIDE #2)
1. We need friends
2. We need committed friends
(Proverbs 17:17) – NIV
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Friends are always there.
Not just in fun times or easy times.
But in hard times…
In bad times, and sad times, and when you don’t feel like reaching out to anyone times.
And when life gets hard (which is does for all of us…if it hasn’t sucker-punched you in the face yet…it soon will), when life gets hard…when life feels like it’s about to come to “ruin” as the writer of Proverbs said earlier…
Most of our acquaintances will just think, “Bummer. Must be really hard for her right now.”
Some will even say, “Bro…let me know if you need anything.”
But a friend…a friend just shows up…without asking…because they KNOW what you need: A friend.
Yet, for a lot of us, if life were to frustratingly punch us in the face right now…many of us would have no one (besides maybe our family…who feels obligated to help) that would come to our aide.
In fact, this is a good exercise:
If you were to lose your job, have a miscarriage, get stuck in a really bad spot in your marriage, who (of your friends) would come right over…WITHOUT you asking?
For a lot of us…we struggle to think of names.
We think of maybe an old college friend…but no…they don’t even live nearby anymore.
Who in your life…right now…would just be there?
One of the more powerful displays of friendship I’ve seen happened in our church last year.
Just over a year ago, Jordan Hoff, who attends the Wednesday Night House Group, suddenly lost her father Pat who was a police officer in Newton, Iowa.
He died suddenly of a heart attack.
And her friends from her house group did an amazing job of supporting her during this time.
And a few months later, the police department of Newton held a 5K run in Pat’s honor.
Now…this is in Iowa. Newton.
It’s not close. It’s not a 30 min drive. It’s over 5 hours away.
But 6 women from her house group, drove down, stayed the night at a hotel, and ran the race in her father’s honor.
(SHOW PICTURE OF RACERS)
And I wonder…do you have people like that in your life?
That are committed to you?
That are willing to go the extra mile for you?
That are willing to be there for you in good and bad?
A friend loves at ALL times…the Bible says.
WE NEED FRIENDS WHO WILL CHALLENGE US
And I think we all want that…we desire that.
But to go back to our first problem…a lot of us never get there…because we (maybe even subconsciously) are afraid of the other aspects of friendships.
So let’s look to the last of the 3 things we need in a friend:
(Show Friendship Slide #3)
1. We need friends
2. We need committed friends
3. We need friends who will challenge us
See, a friend doesn’t just support you…they help you grow.
They help you in this Renovation process of life.
But a lot of us don’t want anything to do with that.
Or anything to do with the conflict that will surely come in having friends…
So we just simply avoid it.
And Proverbs has much to say on this.
(Proverbs 15:12) – NIV
Mockers resent correction, so they avoid the wise.
One of the reasons we are so isolated, is that we don’t want to be challenged. We don’t want to be corrected.
It’s easier to always be right!
Indeed it is easier…but it’s not better.
And it will stunt your growth both as a person and a Christian
Let’s look at some more wisdom from Proverbs regarding this:
(Proverbs 27:5-6) – NIV
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted.
When your friend challenges you on something in your life…
Maybe it’s the way you’re treating people…
Or the way they’ve seen you acting around your spouse
Maybe it’s regarding the lack of passion in your spiritual life…
When they challenge you…it’s painful.
That’s why it says… “The wounds of a friend.”
But it’s good. And it’s necessary if we want to grow.
Like real surgery, heart surgery is not pain free.
For example, recently, as part of a leadership program I’m in, I had to do an exercise where I had to solicit feedback from my friends and our leaders.
I had to send out an anonymous survey to my good friends, our staff, our elders (who are our house leaders), and ministry leaders.
People I care about…and people I know care about me.
And yet, they all had to answer questions like:
“What’s it like to experience David when he’s at his worst?”
“What would some of David’s most severe critics say about him, even if you don’t agree?”
Gee, that sounds like it would be fun to read.
Let me get in my recliner, get a blanket, and some hot chocolate, and enjoy reading that over J
And as my leader went over it with me, at times it was painful to look at.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted”
And I’m going to be a better person for it.
And a better leader for it.
And I thank God for the moments in my life where my friends or other leaders challenged me on things.
In my 32 years, there are a few “saving conversations” and “strong words” that have been said to me that I probably HATED at the time…and thank Jesus from the bottom of my heart for now.
For a lot of you… (and I just know this because many of you are typical conflict-averse Minnesotans) For a lot of you…this needs to be an area of improvement.
Your friends need you to challenge them.
You are NO friend…if you can watch your friend driving their life off of the road…and you say NOTHING.
You’re not choosing to say nothing because you “care about them” and “don’t want to hurt them..”
You’re choosing to say nothing because you care about yourself…and don’t want to make yourself uncomfortable.
We have so many people living in what I’ve been calling for years “American Idol syndrome”
How is that they have had so many people on that show (for over a decade now) who can’t sing…but THINK they can?!
Because their friends aren’t telling them the truth.
We have friends who can’t stop drinking (they’re having a drink every day now)…and yet, no one says anything.
Or they’re drifting dangerously towards someone who is not their spouse…and we see it, yet, no one says anything.
Or their pride is just oozing out…or they never stop gossiping…or their hatred and resent for their family just gushes out of them….and…no one says anything.
And the deeper reality is…we need EACH OTHER!
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Now some of you that are more on the challenging side than the committed/caring side, have been thinking, “Let’s go! Let’s do some sharpening!”
But don’t get out of control here.
The Bible is not giving you a license to confront on everything or to critique without caring.
We need our friends to BOTH committed and challenging.
What the Bible is teaching is, “BECAUSE we care so much for our friends…we will help give them words of advice”
And it’s for people we care for.
Our internet age has wrongly convinced all of us that we have a right to confront just about anyone (anonymously…and hiding behind a keyboard of course)
But the people who challenge us…should be the people who know us…and are committed to us.
And, before you get too excited about sharpening a friend, notice that it’s a mutual sharpening.
For us to get better at challenging our close friends, we need to also get better at receiving a challenge.
That way we’ll be better at this whole “mutual sharpening” thing.
I just recently finished reading through the book of Proverbs, and sometimes I felt like every 5 verses said something like, “The fool is the one who does not receive correction”
Here’s one of my favorites:
(Proverbs 12:1) – NIV
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.
YOU aren’t going to grow unless you’re willing to receive this kind of character and moral counsel from your friends.
I think when a lot of us hear this wisdom from Proverbs concerning friendships…when we hear what a true friend is…
My guess is that you feel a longing today.
To grow in this area.
To deepen your friendships.
So I just want to give you 3 examples of applications you can take from this message.
3 ways that you can “maximize” your friendships from this advice in Proverbs.
If you’re taking notes…maybe write these down, and pick one that applies to you.
#1: TURN THE TABLES
For most of us, we hear a message like this, and in our consumer-oriented mind, we think:
“Man, I wish my friends were better at that!
“I could really use a friend like that!”
“If only my friends challenged and supported me like that!”
Yet, when we look at this picture of what a great friend is, let us humbly admit that one of the reasons we don’t have a lot of great friends is because we aren’t the friends we should be.
It’s hard. It’s really hard.
But the whole idea works in our direction too. We need to TURN THE TABLES.
(SHOW FRIENDSHIP SLIDE #4)
#1: We need to be friends
#2: We need to be committed friends
#3: We need to challenge our friends
Even when it comes to right here…at Renovation...let me tell you that one of the reasons for signing up for house groups that people almost never think of:
It’s not just about YOU needing people…we need you to be in a house group…because the people need you!
If you’re attending this church right now…and you’ve been a believer for more than 3-5 years, we NEED you!
We need you to provide spiritual wisdom…and maturity.
We need you to be a friend.
#2: TAKE THE FRIENDSHIP CONTINUUM TEST.
See, we all need friends who both are committed to us and challenge us.
That’s a balanced deep friendship.
In fact, this is a good way to audit your friendships.
Think of your 1 or 2 closest friendships. (go ahead…think of it)
If your friendship was a continuum…
And this idea of being committed, caring for each other, and being there no matter what…. is on one side.
And being willing to challenge each other about the hard things…is on the other side
Where are you guys?
Which way do you need to move to be more centered?
And how can you take steps to better center it?
#3: TURN YOUR ACQUAINTANCES INTO FRIENDS
For some of you today…I’m merely presenting you an incredible opportunity.
The world out there can provide a lot of techy, glitzy, and glamory things that the church can not, but here’s one thing we’ve totally got on the world: COMMUNITY. FRIENDSHIP.
You can sign-up for one of our house groups today…and just like that…have an opportunity to not only grow in your faith…but meet some people who are going to become life long friends.
And I can say that because I’ve seen that happening with hundreds of people for 4 years now.
Take a step today to put some people in your life that can help you grow…and that will be there for you in rough times.
And be patient.
It takes time.
Friendships take time.
But be committed to it.
And it will happen.
My guess is that there are very few people in this room that can say, “yep…my friendship list is full”
Your acquaintance list is probably VERY, VERY full.
But your friendship list is a different story.
Go and meet a ton of acquaintances…and over time, let God turn them into friends.
And for some of you that were in a house group last year…or maybe even for a few years now…you probably have a ton of great acquaintances here…
But are there some people that you need to take some steps forward so you can move more towards friendship?
And my challenge to you…is don’t just wait for that to magically happen.
Take the first step.
What can you do to start diving deeper with some of those friends?
What can YOU do?
What can you do to show them you care? That you’re committed? That you’re willing to help THEM grow?
And I believe God will give you one of the greatest gifts that He gives us:
The gift of amazing, Godly friendships.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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