In my previous blog I talked about the fact that for many friendships have taken the place of family. However these friendships are not meeting everyone’s expectations. Before going on it is worth considering the nature of friendship.
There are 3 different types of friendship.
- Circumstantial Friends. The people we say hi to at work, the fellow jogger at the gym, the checkout person at the grocery store, the dry-cleaning guy—these are all very nice people. They’re friendly to us, and we’re friendly to them. But are they true friends? Or are they friends only because of the circumstances in our lives?
Don’t spread yourself too thin with circumstantial friendships. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of circumstantial frieds, they are unlikely to attend your funeral!
- True Friends—for a Season.
This is an area of even greater misunderstanding and confusion. I now see that in the past my vision was naive and perhaps caused unnecessary pain for those who moved out of the circle. The high bar of expectation I had set was not realistic for how long our friendships could last in the real world.
Many of our closest friends are only meant to last for a season; people move on, most friendships don’t survive a physical move. Many don’t survive a change in circumstances, e.g. a new marriage or a failed a marriage.
We need to recognise and value true friends for a season.
- Lifelong Friends.
For obvious reasons, we cannot force or manufacture lifelong friendships. They are forged in the trenches of everyday life—and, by definition; they take a lifetime to develop.
I’m not minimizing how deep and how loving seasonal friendships can be. They can be transforming. They can be life-giving and fun.
Now the important bit. When we say that church is family it can raise people’s expectations. People are longing for family, for friendship.
However it’s not your church’s job to provide you with a new set of really wise, cool friends who live near you, enjoy all the same interests, and have kids the same age as yours. The church may provide an environment where you can find these friends, but it’s your job to take the initiative.
WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON
Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton. He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.