In a world plagued by loneliness, the exploration and explication of friendship as a virtue may do the church a great deal of good. If we are trained to both be friends and foster deep and rewarding friendships we would only enhance our witness. As our relationships move beyond superficialities to substance, as we become known as we have been known, and as we mutually edify one another for the benefit of the body, we have the opportunity to display the wonderment of the life abundant, displaying the goodness, grace, and grandeur of God before the world.
Actually, he admits that he is not at a point where he can say how the church might foster friendship. I do hope he continues thinking through friendship. I have often observed those in the church being more of a collection of people rather than an interlocking community of people. Further, as a minister, I find it difficult to work through where the boundaries lie and how I can offer myself as a friend and remain the pastor (or minister). It sometimes seems a grey area. (Similarly, I have posted my thoughts on loneliness in ministry here.) I am finding it unhelpful to make the sharp distinctions that I was taught in the US (one minister I looked up to used to use the term ‘professional distance’ rather than boundaries – I find that phrase completely useless in ministry). Where does friendship come in? And this is not a minister/church member problem: sometimes churches look more like the Rotary Club (at best, a place to meet friends made ‘outside’ the club; at worse, only there to make business contacts; on the whole, a place where one meets only once a week without it seeping into all of life).
I have heard someone say that they didn’t look for a friendly church, but a church where they could make friends. I think Ben is on to something here, and I look forward to any future posts.