Sunday, March 19, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Introduction and offering:
How many of you want to have friends? Everyone wants friends. My son Jeff, who had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism, struggled to make and keep friends. He didn’t read verbal and non-verbal clues well and suffered from social anxiety. A few weeks before he died when he was 22, he told me, “I just want some friends.” It was heart-breaking! Everyone wants friends!
This is week 2 of Befriend. The Big Idea for this series is that we want to move toward people whom we normally avoid, and be friends. We saw last Sunday that God has done this with us. God moved towards us and made us His friends. Whatever distance or difference might exist between you and another person is nothing compared to the distance and difference between you and God! But that didn’t stop Him! He moved toward you and made you His friend. God wants to be friends with you!
And God wants you to move towards others who are different. We all gravitate to people like us. In this series, I’m going to challenge you to move toward people who are different: different age, race, religion, politics. But first, I want to share some simple ideas about how to make friends. That’s what today is about. Friendship 101. Beafriend.
The Big Idea: If you want friends, beafriend! The most important vitamin in friendship is B1. Here are a few keys to being a good friend.
I’m going to give you 5 simple ideas about friendship that will help you be a friend. I could give 10 or 20—but we’re going to focus on these 5.
Offering: Last week I told you about our next “text your offering” option. You can text 84321, then type in the amount you want to give. Very cool.
Many of you use automated giving. You give weekly or monthly and it is automatic, like automatic bill pay, only this is not a bill, but a gift. This is a sure way to be regular in your giving. You can set up automated giving through your bank or on our website or app.
Some of you like to go old school and use a check or cash. Some of you are wondering, “What is a check?” However you want to give, we want you to know that we appreciate your generosity! Thank you!
Let’s dive in. First, let’s talk about expectations.
- Have realistic expectations: everyone has a friendship capacity.
Everyone has a friendship capacity. Everyone needs friends and has a limited capacity for friendship. Not everyone will be your best friend. Not everyone will be your friend.
There are different types of friends, or different levels of friendship:
- Acquaintances. Most of us will make between 500-2500 acquaintances a year! We make acquaintances naturally at work, school, church, shopping, at the gym or on the golf course, at our kids’ activities…basically, anywhere we go. We understand and accept that most of these people will never be close friends; these are transient relationships made in the normal course of daily living.
- Casual friends. Out of this huge fishing pool of acquaintances emerge casual friends. These are people that we see regularly, know them by their first names and occasionally initiate social contacts with them, something like getting together for coffee or to do something fun. You may have 20-100 or more casual friends, depending on your aggressiveness in getting to know people. These friendships may last for a few months or a life time. But casual friends rarely satisfy our hunger for friendship.
- Close friends. Who do you spend most of your free time with? When you have a free evening, who do invite over? Your close friends. Close friends are people with whom we share important common interests and values.
- They may be associates from work, where we share a common job.
- They may be family with whom we share a common heritage.
- They may be neighbors with whom we share the common goal of raising good kids, and share a common territory for our dogs.
- They may be friends from high school or college with whom we share common history and memories.
- They may be from church, where we share a common faith.
But whatever the arena, close friends are people with whom you share something important and valuable. You may have anywhere from 10-30 active close friendships—30, if you’re a social animal!
- Best friends. Finally, there are best friends, intimate friends, those few in the inner circle of our lives with whom we can bare our souls, share our deepest feelings and hopes. These are our soul-mates. We look forward to being with them above all others. And these friendships often last a lifetime, and have a profound influence on us.
Proverbs 18:24 “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Obviously, we can’t maintain many of these friendships. Some people have one, most people have a couple, a few have as many as six. (1-6)
I can see these different levels of friendship in the life of Jesus. Jesus didn’t have the same kind of friendships with everyone.
- Jesus had thousands of acquaintances, people in the crowds who came to listen to Him, or that He met in His travels and ministry.
- Jesus’ casual friends were his followers. Out of the crowds, some people emerged who wanted to follow Jesus; they were called “disciples”. At the end of Jesus’ life, there were about 120 of these disciples, casual friends.
- Jesus’ close friends were the Twelve. Luke 6:15 tells how Jesus chose them. After praying all night, Jesus “called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them whom he designated apostles.” In other words, out of the pool of casual friends who followed Him, Jesus chose these twelve. For the next three years, Jesus spent most of His time with the Twelve, often alone with them, teaching, training, confiding, and correcting. They were His close friends.
- But inside the Twelve, there were three men who were His best friends, Peter, James and John, with whom He shared His most intimate moments.
Why is it so important to understand this? I want to spare you the unnecessary pain caused by wrong expectations. Not everyone will be your best friend, or even a close friend.
ILL: I remember wanting to be close friends with my pastor in Eugene. I admired and respected him, and thought it would be wonderful to be close to him. It never happened, and I struggled when I saw others enjoying a relationship with him that I didn’t have. He had a few close friends he played golf with; I wasn’t one of them, even though I’m a golfer. He had a few close friends who he invited to hang out at his home; I wasn’t one of them, even though I’m a pretty good hanger-outer. We were casual friends, but not close; sometimes it bothered me.
I finally accepted that he had a friendship capacity—and it was full. It wasn’t that something was wrong with me—duh! Not everyone will be your best friend, or even a close friend, or even a casual friend. You need to approach each person with an open heart, and let the friendship develop as it will.You will have tons of acquaintances, many casual friends, some close friends, and a few best friends.
- Take the initiative: move toward the other.
This may be the most important thing I’ll say today—and it’s the big idea for this whole series. Move towards the other. Take the initiative—take the first step. One of the most common reasons people are lonely and friendless is that they are waiting for someone else to make the first move.
Watch people who are good at making friends: they reach out.They’re friendly. They’re not waiting for people to come to them; they are taking the initiative to begin a relationship. They’re willing to risk taking the first step, to smile, say hi, introduce themselves, ask a few questions. They move towards people rather than waiting for people to come to them.
This is what Jesus did, and He even told His friends that He’d done it.
John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”
Jesus told His friends, “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you.” It’s true! Jesus found Peter and Andrew, James and John down at the lake, fishing, and He called them, “Follow me.” Jesus found Matthew at a tax booth and called him, “Follow me.” Jesus initiated. Jesus took the first step. Jesus moved toward people, and invited people into friendship.
Here’s a cool thing: Jesus is moving toward you! Jesus is inviting you to be His friend. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine Jesus sitting beside you right now. He’s here, you know. Imagine that you can see and hear Him. He’s saying, “Follow me.” He’s inviting you to be His friend, taking the first step towards you. Will you respond? I know that most of you here already have. You’ve said, “yes” to Jesus, and become one of His friends. But if you never have, you can do it right now. Just say, “yes” to Him: “Yes, I believe in You, Jesus. Yes, I’ll follow. Yes, I’ll be your friend.”
Pray. If you said yes for the first time, we have a Bible for you…
Jesus has moved towards you—He’s taken the first step to make you His friend. Now go do the same for someone else!
ILL: Bill Kafflen is one of my best friends—has been for years. Do you know how we became friends? Bill’s work was kitty-corner from our church at that time, and one day, he walked across the street into our office, stuck out his hand and introduced himself. We sat and talked and before long became fast friends. It happened because he walked across the street. He took the first step and moved toward me.
You might be one step away from meeting a new close friend! Who have you always wished would reach out to you? You’ve dreamed of getting to know that person. Don’t wait for them—you take the first step!
What keeps us from taking that first step, from moving towards others?
- We don’t know what to say? (I’m going to fix that in a minute.)
- It’s awkward!
All those are true, and there is a bigger problem behind every one of them. We are too self-centered. The biggest thing that keeps us paralyzed and keeps us from moving towards others is that we’re self-centered. The key is to stop thinking about yourself, and start thinking about the other person. Be others-centered, not self-centered.
Philippians 2:3–4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Get rid of selfishness and vanity; stop worrying about what others think of you. Instead, value others above yourself; put their interests ahead of your own. So when you see that person across the room, stop thinking, “What will they think of me?” and instead think, “What can I do for them?” Others-centered people make lots of friends.
Take the initiative: move towards the other. But what do I say?
- Listen: “tell me your story.”
This is part of being others-centered: don’t worry about what you’ll say; instead, get them talking. And what is everyone’s favorite subject? Themselves! So I like to ask people, “tell me your story.” If I am meeting people in a setting where there’s not time for their whole story, I simply ask basic questions:
- What is your name?
- Where are you from?
- What do you do?
And then I follow those up with this brilliant question: “Tell me more.” Tell me more about that.
ILL: A shy woman hated parties. She would always tell herself, “Try hard, be lively, say bright things, talk!” But it was a front that was exhausting to keep up. Then she learned this secret of attracting friends. Now she tells herself, “Listen with affection to anyone who talks to me.” She shifted the focus from herself (what should I say) to others (tell me more). She says, “My attitude now is: Tell me more.” Tell me! This shy woman is a much sought after friend.
“Tell me”…try using those words draw people out in conversation.
James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Be quick to listen and slow to speak. You were given two ears and one mouth, and you should use them in that proportion. Listen!
If you want to make friends, listen to others. Someone said, “The secret of being interesting is being interested.” When you are interested in others, they will think you are fascinating! Voltaire said, “The way to the heart is the ear.” If you want to win the hearts of lots of friends, listen!
Ok, but what if the other person doesn’t like to talk? Awkward! How many of you are over-talkers? How many of you are under-talkers? You’d prefer someone else talks. When I am talking with an under-talker, with someone who is reluctant to open up, I do two things. First, I ask more questions—give them more chances to talk. Then if that doesn’t work, I start by telling them something about me. Sometimes with an under-talker, you need to initiate story telling. This is another form of moving toward the other person. A shy person, an under-talker may need you to take the lead in the conversation. If so, take the risk of being the first to open up.
ILL: A famous psychiatrist was leading a symposium on methods of getting patients to open themselves. The psychiatrist challenged his colleagues with a blatant boast: “I’ll wager that my technique will enable me to get a new patient to talk about the most private things during the first session without me having to ask a question.” What was his magic formula? Simply this: He began the session by revealing to the patient something personal about himself—a secret with which the patient might damage the doctor by breaking the confidence. The doctor’s manipulation was questionable, but the principle is true: if you will dare to take the initiative in self-revelation, the other person is much more likely to reveal himself to you. Openness elicits openness. Transparency invites transparency.
The goal is to get the other person talking. If they won’t respond to questions, sometimes they will respond to you taking the lead conversationally. After you talk, then circle back and say, “What about you?” Tell me.
Listen! If you want to make friends, use the magic words, “Tell me.” Tell me your story. Tell me about you. Tell me more! Then listen. You’ll be a friend-magnet!
- Facetime: friends hang out.
I love FaceTime—or Skype, if you use a PC. I’ve used it when I travel to have face-to-face conversations with Laina each day. My kids FaceTime me and I talk face-to-face with the grandkids. We use it to stay in touch with our missionaries or international ministry partners: I FaceTime with Frank and Paty Ardon in El Salvador, or with Alex and Larisa Skachkov in Russia. I love it! It’s great technology.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about real face time—being face-to-face with your friends. Hanging out. Doing stuff. Being together. Friendships grow when we’re together, and they fade when we’re apart. They say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Usually, absence makes the heart grow fainter, more distant. Friendships grow when we spend time together. There is no substitute for being together. Do you want to build a friendship with someone? Move toward them, listen, and hang out. Make time to be together.
Exodus 33:11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
This is repeated several times in the Old Testament: Moses and God were friends and they did face time. They talked face to face. They spent time together and became friends. In the New Testament, the apostle John wrote a couple short letters to friends—we know them as 2 John and 3 John. Each of these letters ends with a wish to get together soon.
2 John 12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
3 John 13–14 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.
Both times, John says that there is so much more to talk about, but he doesn’t want to do it via letter, or email, or text, or Instagram or Facebook or Snapchat. He wants to be face to face. He wants to be together in person.
If you want to move a friendship from casual to close, there is no shortcut to face time. You must make an intentional investment of time together. You must hang out.
ILL: One time a friend of mine was leaving our staff to go pastor another church. He asked me, “What are we going to do to stay close?” He knew that we’d each be busy in our separate roles, and it would be easy to lose touch. “What are we going to do to stay close?” We decided to meet for lunch once a month—and we did that until he eventually moved out of town.
I appreciated him asking that question. Perhaps that’s the question you need to ask your friend. “What are we going to do? Let’s get intentional about getting together and being friends.”
And have some fun together! Close friends have fun together. They laugh a lot. And that’s part of what makes the companionship so comfortable.
Here’s the deal: I deal with serious stuff all day long, and I’ll bet you do too. When I’m with my friends, I’d like some relief! I want to laugh and have fun. When I get together with friends, I don’t want to be their counselor, or therapist…I want to be their friend! I’m not saying that we don’t talk about or deal with serious stuff—of course we do. But it’s not all we do. Let me illustrate what I mean with a true story, A Tale of Two Friendships, by Joe Wittwer. (It’s kind of a classic.)
ILL: It was the best of times and the worst of times…
In the early years of our church, Laina and I befriended a couple, a wonderful couple. Our friendship started normally enough: getting together for fun and getting acquainted. But this couple was very needy emotionally, and as time went on, more and more of our time together became consumed with counseling them, and solving their problems, and listening to their fears and anxieties, and praying for them. Laina and I noticed that our feelings began to change. We didn’t look forward to getting together with them like we had before. In fact, we began to look for reasons why we couldn’t make it. “Oh darn. We’re booked this Friday. Next Friday? Gosh, it looks like we’re booked then too. In fact, I think Laina has made plans for every Friday until the Lord returns.” What had started with the promise of close friendship ground to a halt. Why? Because we stopped having fun together, and our friendship turned into an ordeal for us.
Shortly after that, another couple began attending Life Center and asked us over on a Friday night. We watched a movie, played some games, ate, talked and laughed. We had so much fun that we said, “We ought to do this every Friday!” And we did. We called it Friday Night Movie Madness. For several years, we spent most Friday nights together just having fun. We grew very comfortable with each other, and very close. That couple is among our closest friends. Yes, we talk about deep and important stuff, we’re there to help each other in trouble. But it all started because we had fun together…and we still do!
Do you want to make friends? Move toward the other, listen, hang out and have some friend.
Who do you need to call this week and say, “Let’s get together”?
- “You too?” Find common bonds.
- S. Lewis, in his book, The Four Loves, writes: “Friendship arises…when two or more…companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest….The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’” (Pg. 96)
Lewis goes on to say that, “It may be a common religion, common studies, a common profession, even a common recreation.” (Pg. 97) But without sharing something in common, “no Friendship can arise…There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers.” (Pg. 98)
Most of our friendships revolve around something we share in common. I have golf friends, book friends, motorcycle friends, community friends, ministry friends, and of course, lots of Jesus friends! And I’ll bet that you can identify those same kinds of common centers in your friendships. Friendships tend to develop around a common center. Two important ideas:
First, when you’re moving toward someone who is different, look for common ground. You can almost always find something that you both care about, and let that be the grounds for your friendship.
ILL: Recently, I’ve been meeting with a very diverse group of community leaders. We are from different religions (or none at all), different races, different political persuasions and different sexual orientations. What brought us together? We all want the good of our community! We love Spokane and want our community to be a good place for all kinds of people. That’s our common ground. At the first meeting, I challenged everyone to move towards someone in the room who was different and take them out for coffee or lunch and get to know them. I did that, and so did several others, and the results were remarkable. People who would otherwise be suspicious of each other are becoming friends. We don’t agree about everything, but we agree about this: we can work together for the good of our community.
In the next three weeks, I’m going to challenge you to befriend people, to move toward people who are different from you. Remember this: you can almost always find common ground for a friendship. Look for that common bond. “You too!”
Here’s the second idea: if you are a Christian, the most important thing about you is your relationship with Jesus. That is the central reality of my life. Jesus is first, the center of my life. This means that my closest friends, my best friends are people with whom I share this bond: we follow Jesus together. The prophet Amos asked:
Amos 3:3 Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?
If you want to walk north and I want to walk south, we’re going to have a hard time walking together. I’m following Jesus—that’s my direction. So naturally, my closest friends will be people who are following Jesus. Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that my only friends are Christians. Not at all. I’m moving toward people who are different from me to befriend them. But my closest friends will be people who share this common bond: we follow Jesus. We are, in Lewis’ words, fellow travelers, going the same direction.
My prayer is that every one of you will have these kinds of close spiritual friendships—Jesus friends. That’s why we encourage you to get connected here. Do Rooted and make some Jesus friends. Find a place to serve—go to the Volunteer meeting after this service—and make some Jesus friends. Move toward the people around you, take that first step and you’ll have that, “You too!” moment.