Dr. Jeff Loach is Pastor of St. Paul's Church, Nobleton, Ontario; Clerk of the Presbytery of Oak Ridges; and a sessional lecturer in spiritual formation at Tyndale Seminary. This article was adapted from his blog post at www.passionatelyhis.com.
Recently, I had a three-hour conversation with a colleague whom I deeply respect and genuinely like. Our conversation went "around the world" in one sense, but found its focus on God, the things of God, and being leaders of God's people. It was the kind of conversation that leaves one energized and encouraged about the task of serving God's kingdom.
It doesn't matter whether you're in church leadership or not — you need a friend with whom you can have those comfortable conversations. Ideally, you need a friend with whom you can talk about your work and your faith; for my colleague and I, of course, those two things are intricately interwoven. But to be able to chat freely, openly, and vulnerably with someone about life and faith is a real gift. You can do this with your spouse, if you have one, and that's an important part of any marriage. But it's also good to have friends, particularly those who share similar vocational or avocational interests, with whom to exchange ideas and just generally commiserate.
John Calvin certainly had this in mind when he created his Company of Pastors, a weekly gathering of clergy from all around Geneva and environs, in the 1530s. Not all jobs have any sort of built-in method for fellowship, but that doesn't stop us from creating them. Even if we are not working outside the home every day, as is the case with retirees and stay-at-home parents, there can still be room for connecting with friends in a similar place in life. (If you're not sure of the value of this, check out any moms-and-tots group, or the coffee klatch at the nearby doughnut shop most weekday mornings!)
These examples allude to another form of Christian fellowship from which we all can benefit: the small group. Congregations have different names for their small groups; at St. Paul's Church, Nobleton, Ontario, we call them LifeConnect Groups. They are avenues for study, fellowship, mutual support, and service, and are key means of helping the congregation fulfil its mission to connect with God, grow in Christ, and serve in community. Being part of a small group is a great way to remember that our faith is not just a Sunday thing –- God calls us to integrate our faith into every aspect of our living. That's just basic discipleship. Following Jesus is the vocation from which every other part of life flows. Having a church family, a small group, and faithful friends makes a difference in our walk with God.
We all need people in our lives to keep us sharp, in the best way –- they are gifts from God. Sometimes, though, we need to seek out those gifts! Have you?
"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend" (Proverbs 27:17 NLT).