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Let me ask you a question: Has there ever been a time when you’ve really needed a friend? Maybe something happened to you, someone cheated on you, or someone in your family was seriously injured. Maybe someone hurt you, then others gossiped about you. Maybe a situation deteriorated to the point where you didn’t even want to show your face in public because you felt so embarrassed about it. You wanted something real from those around you, but all you got was a cheap, “I’ll pray for you.” And you knew they didn’t mean it.
I think we’ve all been there.
When I lived in Louisiana, I had a healthy group of friends, but one of them decided to separate from his wife and have an affair. A typical response would have been to shame him, make him feel bad, or get in his face and call him a dirt bag. I’m being honest – half of us wanted to hurt him. He should know better, we thought. We knew his behavior pattern: he regularly met this woman on Friday nights. We talked extensively about how we should respond. Finally, someone in the group, (and, trust me, it wasn’t me!), came up with a great idea that we would hang out in his front yard on Friday nights until he got home. We agreed that we wouldn’t yell at him or even give him condescending looks, but that we would just be kind to him and let him know that we loved him.
So, the next Friday night, he came home somewhere around 3am, and there we all were, sitting in lawn chairs in his front yard. He came stumbling up to the door, and we quietly said what we agreed to say, “We love you, man. We just want to be there for you. Let us know if there’s anything we can do.” He didn’t respond, though. He just went inside. We waited a little while, and then we packed up and went home. The next Friday night, we did the same thing.
Week after week, this continued. Not too long into it, he came home, fell on his knees right there in the front yard, and cried like a baby. Shame didn’t get to him, and yelling didn’t reach him, but love did. Consistent love, reaching out to him right where he was with no condemnation, met him, and he was changed. Now, that doesn’t always work. Don’t go making a formula out of this example, because being a friend isn’t about finding an adultery cure-all! At the same time, where are friends like that? It’s definitely rare, and if you’re not real, you could never do that.
Even in the early days of planting New Life Church, I knew that it would be a place where we would make lifelong friends. It would be a place where we would cultivate best friends who would turn down fantastic jobs just to hang out. And that’s exactly what happened. Several people relocated to central Arkansas just for that reason!
Others packed up and moved from great jobs in other states, because they heard about a church where they could have real friends. Many people will tell you that what brought them to NLC was either the music, the preaching or the children’s ministries, but what caused them to stay? It’s always the same answer: Relationships. Being connected. Friends. When you finish reading Be Real, you may think you need new friends! But my hope is that after you read it, you will be a better friend.