Your Friends Affect Everything – So Choose them Well!
Having good Christian friends is one of the greatest ingredients that predicts your likelihood of spiritual growth. Like I demonstrated in my book Pharisectomy, your friends are actually one of the greatest statistical predictors of life-expectancy, obesity, and happiness. For example, I recently found a study showing that, if you have a larger number of friends, your odds of working out increases by 37%!  The same is true with other spiritual disciplines like reading our Bibles, sexual purity, and prayer.
But I believe, it’s not just about “quantity of Christian friends;” rather, the Bible seems intent that intimacy is extra important. For example, would you feel safe confessing your sins to your Christian friends? (Notice I didn’t say: Would it be fun confessing… After all, confession will never be “fun”.) Rather, I said, would you feel safe. I.e., Do you have Christian friends who would ever ask you about your marriage, your money, or your sexual purity? If not, you could be missing the greatest weapons God’s given us to fight temptation: The power of intimate Christian community.
That’s why Jesus was so irritated in the Garden of Gethsemene. His friends kept falling asleep in the hour he needed support the most. Gethsemene was located on the edge of Jerusalem. Jesus knew that, if he ran up to the summit of the Mount of Olives (next to Gethsemene), he could easily escape into the wilderness (like King David did in the Old Testament). In other words, Jesus had to face his greatest moment of temptation without the support of his closest friends. Thankfully, he passed his test. But let’s face it: We’re not as good as Jesus. And that’s why the Apostles constantly told us to give ourselves to deep fellowship (James 5:16; Heb. 10:24-25; Acts 2:42-45; Jn. 13:34-35).
But how do we find these friends? Many people come up to me saying: “I’ve tried to find friends, and it hasn’t worked.”
(1). Join a ministry you’re not “Called to.” Like I said in Part 3 of our Series, Live for More, the greatest friendships are birthed in ministry trenches not on spectator benches. Many people say, “I’m not called to Kids ministry.” Or, “I’d don’t get excited about [fill in the blank].” I once talked a guy into doing kids ministry. At first he thought: “I will never love this ministry…” And yet, within a few months he ended up meeting a dozen new people — including a new best friend. Afterwards he reflected: “I had no idea just how many cool people hung out in that ministry of the church.” Ironically, he ended up staying in that ministry for a long time. Now, I’m not suggesting that you “do something you hate.” But a huge amount of ministry enjoyment comes from WHO you do it with… not even the topic itself. Once you find a few new friends, then reconsider if that ministry is the best fit for you. Chances are, you and your new friends, can launch a new ministry together. But, you’ve got to start somewhere.
(2). Hang Out in the Church Foyer for an extra 15 – & Target someone for Dinner. I often tell people: “If you’re willing to come 15 minutes early and hang 15 late, you’ll probably double your odds of meeting your new best friend. (In fact, we have entire ministries comprised of people who simply hang in the foyer and meet people : ) Inevitably, you’ll meet someone you connect with. Once you do, ask them out for coffee. Or, even simpler, ask them if they’re connected with a particular ministry and consider joining that same team.
(3). Invite Someone out for Dinner Once a Month: We all have to eat. So why not use dinner to meet someone new. My wife and I regularly target new people in church… and invite 2 other couples as well. A simple dinner for eight once a month is a fantastic way to see who you really connect with. All it takes is a little initiative.
But, what if you’re doing all of this and it doesn’t seem to be working? First off, persevere!!! You may need to invite a dozen couples out to dinner before one says yes. You may need to attend 12 small groups or church events before you find your tribe. But, if this is you, check out my Fellowship Troubleshooting Guide linked here: [TroubleShootingFellowship]. It’s filled with the top reasons why people struggle finding friends in church (& what to do about it).
Also, many people have Christian friends but, those relationships lack depth. Many people long for a “best friend;” or, at least someone they could truly be authentic with on a regular basis. So, how do you find a friend like that?
At Substance, we have an acronym called: S.P.A.C.E. which stands for the 5 ingredients of Biblical fellowship: “Same-gender, Prayer, Accountability, and Confession, with people of Equal Passion for the Lord.” So, I often say, “If you’re lacking any of these 5 ingredients in your Christian friendships then, you’re probably missing out on God’s Best for you.” But, once again, people ask me: How do I find friends that can handle a true “SPACE” experience? If you want this level of relationship, than check out my “Practical Tips for Intimacy” (a.k.a., S.P.A.C.E. Troubleshooting Guide) linked here SPACEguide
But last of all: Be praying for great friends and sign up for the Substance Table-Project. Think of it like an “online church foyer” where you can meet people; receive prayer, and check out the various interests and small groups at Substance (linked here). My wife and I are always praying for divine relationships for everyone in our family. The journey of life is meant to be done with others (which is why God didn’t have us hatch – like solitary eggs in a field – like lizards). So come celebrate life with us. Every ministry in our church is designed to make this process easier for you. After all, joys and sorrows feel emptier when we go it alone. And no one should ever have to experience faith like this.
 (See L.C. Hawkly and J.T. Cacioppo, “Aging and loneliness: Downhill quickly?” Current Directions in Psychological Science 16 (2007): 187-191)