Most of the decisions that have shaped my life have come as a direct result of a friendship. You cannot tell the story of who I am as a man without noting the influence of those who have poured their lives into mine. It was the encouragement of close friends that caused me to pursue full-time ministry. It was the counsel of a friend that convinced me to pursue my wife’s hand in marriage. It was because of a friendship that I became involved with the church where I now serve as pastor.
But perhaps even more formational than shaping major decisions in my life is the value friendships provide on an everyday basis. They present you with courage when you face the unexpected, counsel in times of perplexity, laughter when your heart is sad, an example to follow when you don’t know which way to choose, and strength to endure when you want to give up. The impact of the thousands of conversations, texts, and phone calls that I have shared with my closest friends through the years is impossible to measure. I do not know who I would be without friendships but I am most certain that I would be a less joyful, less wise, less contented version of the man I am today.
And it is because of friendships that I am now a part of this venture we are calling “Theology Along the Way.” This blog is the fruit of friendships that have spanned almost 20 years. I have been deeply impacted and molded by the lives and friendship of Nathan Millican and Jonathon Woodyard.
In view of the life-enhancing quality of friendship, as my first entry on this site I want to share some lessons I have learned about cultivating friendships from the ones God has given me through Nathan and Jonathon.
Open Up Your Life
My friendship with Nathan began almost 10 years ago. I was young and inexperienced in ministry and I had learned from other friends that Nathan was a wise counselor. After shooting him a quick text, Nathan invited me to his home, opened up his family life, and even took me along for a ministry engagement. Much of the counsel he gave me over those couple of hours remain a guide to me in ministry today. Because he opened his life to me, a friendship was forged that has continued through the years.
Learn to Focus on the Good
To say that Jonathon and I were not the best of friends from the beginning of our relationship would be a vast understatement. We were a part of the same ministry to college students and our different philosophies combined with an equal dose of sinful pride (that’s putting it nicely…my pride far exceeded his) led to a rocky start to our friendship. But through the years God softened my heart and led me to see aspects of Jonathon’s character that have come to be an immense source of encouragement. His tenacity, discipline, intelligence, and strong leadership ability have made me a better Christian, husband, pastor, student, and man. Had I focused only on our differences from the beginning, I would have missed a friendship that has profoundly shaped my life.
Accomplish Things Together
Lastly, seek to build friendships by accomplishing things together. When you work jointly on a project with others, you learn to appreciate all the unique gifting and contributions that they have to offer. Having a common goal toward which everyone is working has a way of cementing and strengthening friendships that already exist. Doing things together as a “band of brothers” pours fuel on the fire of your friendships. I am looking forward to deepening my friendship with these brothers through the joint effort on this blog.
Good friendships will shape your life and therefore they are worth the effort. As Helen Keller said, it is better to walk in the dark with a friend than in the light alone.