Do You have Friends at Church?

By Paul Koch

When you hear a man refer to a group of friends as his “church friends,” what you usually find is that they are the ones he likes to hang out with at church and perhaps not much more. Sure, they are people he can count on in a pinch, but they probably aren’t real friends. They aren’t the type of friends you can conspire with, or the sort you can be completely honest and open with, or the ones who would go to war with you and you with them.

That sort of friendship, especially among men, seems to be somewhat absent from our churches. Friends at church are Sunday-morning friends, the type suitable for polite conversation and gentle encouragement.

I bring this up not as a chastisement of men and who they choose to be friends with but rather to ponder whether you can have real friendships at church. Now of course you will say that people can have real friendships at church. In fact, many of you will say that you do have real friends there. Yet it seems to me that such friendships are far and few in between. Or, at the very least, there ought to be more of them. After all, church is place where we gather around a common confession of the faith, a place that we value and find strength and hope. Shouldn’t this be a fertile ground for powerful and lasting friendships?

Yet I think that friendships and the church are at odds with each other, at least as the church is understood and valued in our day. The church as an institution, a gathering of individuals bound by a bureaucracy and governed by tradition, would rather not deal with the essential rebellion that is found in friendship. Real friendships will only upset the status quo and challenge long-held adiaphoron of practice. We would rather have you be “church friends,” support one another, smile gently to each other, and not spend too much time conspiring together.

I think that if the church were made up of more friendships it would be a risky and dangerous place. It could easily go off the rails into one heresy or another. Yet it could also be a powerful force in this world, a place of unshakable allegiance between men willing to give it all for each other. And if that allegiance was rooted in the Good News of Jesus Christ, it would truly be a beautiful thing to behold—unafraid and daring.

I don’t know if the church can really be a place where men find true friendship, but I long for it. Perhaps we might even find ways to encourage it, but it won’t be easy, for a group of true friends is always threatening to those outside of it.

3 thoughts on “Do You have Friends at Church?

  1. Everything you said is valid. In my view, friendships among church members often seem to be centered around our mutual faith alone. Often, in my view, they are not very deep friendships and are restricted by design to our love of Christ and the Gospel, as well as the whole church experience and rich traditions we share together. We often do not know much about our church friends, as many Lutherans seem somewhat reserved and guarded about their private lives. But in a larger sense, church friendships are so much more satisfying compared to our friendships with people on the job or neighbors and old acquaintances from our past. Why? In my view it is because the latter friendships too often involve mutual interests in many areas….except…I say except…the things of God. We are uncomfortable speaking about our faith with the worldly friends and acquaintances whom we have known for years, yet we know have absolutely no interest in talking about Jesus, sharing a Bible verse, or revealing their thoughts about the state of one’s soul. These friends and acquaintances are generally nice people, and we gravitate to them, we like them, we would help them out, they would help us.,,,.but….we know that sharing our faith with them makes them uncomfortable. They want to be friends, but they do not want to be preached to. I suppose it is like Paul said, “the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them who perish.” And that’s the truth, the unshaken truth, and why we can share more with our church friends than outsiders who are nice people but prefer to talk about anything, anything at all, except Jesus.

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  2. I disagree with your post. My husband when he was alive, his closest friends were from church. They were in our home and us in theirs. Were there for us when he passed.
    Know alone have a great group of church friends who are here for me all the time. We share the hardest parts of our lives with each other because its safe. We have the love to know that that there only a phone call Away. Day or night. Sorry you don’t have this
    We accomplished this in small prayer groups. Meeting every week to go over previously Sunday sermon. Then we pray for each other’s problems and people we know need prayers in our lives
    We have something so special. And Pastor has many of these groups throughout the week. Ours has been together for 5 years.
    Hope you can find this in your church and life
    God Bless Susan

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  3. Susan, I think it is wonderful that you have had strong and loving friendships in your church experiences. I think what you described is the way it should be, not the way I have experienced it. I blame myself for being a bit characteristically aloof over much of my life, having loads of “acquaintances” but very few close friends and confidents. The closest I came to having close friends is my four and a half years of active service in the Marine Corps, where comraderie was high. In combat especially, we were all brothers to each other. But in church and outside, I have found myself more private, prefering a quiet life with my wife, who is all these things to me…wife, lover, confident, kindred spirit, and the closest human being to me on earth, beside my kids. I think you warm experiences and friends in church are treasures. You have been blessed. Thank you for sharing your insights.

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