Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
I’m thankful for the provision of godly friendships in the ministry. I have found it both encouraging and enjoyable to have like-minded friends who not only sharpen me, but are just fun to be around. This week I will head to New York City to preach for some very dear friends of mine. I’m looking forward to enjoying some time together with them and other pastor friends in the area. As I am preparing for my trip I began to thank the Lord for the friends He has brought into my life from, literally, around the world. Friendship is important, but the type of friend is even more important. So, I thought those in our church family, especially, might like to know what kind of friends in ministry your pastor hangs around (yes, I do have a few. I think.).
My friends in the ministry are those…
1. Who have a passionate, intimate walk with God. I, just like anyone else, need friendships that will help me not hurt me. This comes when we surround ourselves with people who walk daily with God. As I think about those who are closest to me I am grateful that these co-laborers in ministry are men who walk with God and will truly sharpen me to do the same. These are men who stand for the fundamentals of the faith and refuse to compromise on His Word. Their hunger and desire to know God and stay close with Him is contagious.
2. Who care more about prayer, and less about gossip. Never over estimate the power of a praying friend. I’m grateful there are men I can text right now and know that whatever need is in my life and ministry they will pray for me and with me. What a blessing to have that kind of ministry friend – a friend who doesn’t preach about your problems to his congregation when you’re not around, but a friend who prays with you as you walk through the valley and is willing to walk with you.
3. Who emphasize biblical preaching over preferential issues. I want to affiliate myself with friends who whisper their preferences, but shout the Scriptures. Men who build their ministry around preferential issues will eventually cut you off as a friend when your preferences do not align with theirs; however, men who build their ministry around biblical preaching will be a friend that “loveth at all times,” even when preferences are not the same.
4. Who love spending time with their families more than attending every conference. I don’t know that a guy who is willing to sacrifice his family on the altar of the monthly “(fill in the blank) conference” is going to help me. I need my friends to be those who love their wives, enjoy their children, and prove it by spending time with them. Some of the greatest sharpening in my life has been from watching a pastor friend center his life around his family and not his ministry.
5. Who are not in competition with me. I’d rather watch a 24 hour marathon of the Golden Girls than surround myself with men who constantly seek to “one-up” me in ministry. I’ve got one life to live and I refuse to spend it with guys who want to compete with each other in ministry (read the article Avoiding Ministry Competitiveness for more of my thoughts on this). This type of spirit that suggests “we do it better than you” resonates of pride, and “only by pride cometh contention.” My father-in-law, Ricky Tippett, just recently posted this on his Facebook wall – it’s really good…
I believe that a built-in spirit of ‘I must win’ kills close human relationships. There are some people so determined to be right, to win the discussion, to dominate an issue, that they often win only to lose. I am not talking about right and wrong issues, but things that are a part of every day life. Get in the last word. Dominate the conversation. Win, win, win. What do they lose? Love. Respect. Trust. Close friendships. The war. What do they win? Meaningless battles. What do they keep? Their pride.
6. Who laugh, enjoy life, and help you feel relaxed. There’s few things worse than being around someone who doesn’t make you feel comfortable in your own skin. I love a friend who is relaxed enough to let down the tie, enjoy some recreational time together, and simply create a stress-free, critical-free, gossip-free environment. No expectations; no pressure; no guilt. Just a good friend, enjoying a good time! The pressures of ministry can be intense, and sometimes we just need a good pastor friend who, rather than preach to us his sermon from the past Sunday, will help us come away mentally and enjoy a laugh and a good time. This is a special part of unique bond with a good friend.
7. Who love people, share the gospel, and have a BIG vision. I’d be amiss if I didn’t appreciate godly friends who love people and are devoted to “getting out of the boat” and doing the impossible for God. It’s extremely encouraging to open up twitter on a Monday morning and see friends from all over the country bragging on the Lord for souls that were saved, record attendances that were broken, and inexplicable answers to prayer given. I love that! I want to surround myself with people who love the ministry, have a BIG vision for God, and love seeing lives changed for the glory of God. A “Debbie-downer” about ministry in our generation is deflating and discouraging. But a man of God who is hungry to see God do something unique and special is someone I’m excited for, and grateful to call my friend.
So, what characteristics of your friends are special to you? What’s another good point about ministry-friends that I may have overlooked? I’d love to hear your feedback.