Do Friendships Matter?

    I enjoy reading. I’m usually in the middle of 2-3 books at a time. I tend to read a fiction or biography, a ministry or leadership related book, and some kind of a personal or devotional book, simultaneously. I’m currently reading a book about a gambling addict and how it destroyed his life and the lives of others (hence last week’s blog), a secular book on leadership and teamwork, a book on the church and global outreach, as well as rereading C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity.”
    I thought about this long-standing practice of mine (since college days) and how it gives me a sense of balance in my life. At no time am I “totally into” just one way of thinking or the opinion of one author. Reading a broad range of material keeps me thinking for myself, and keeps me balanced. (Though whether or not I am ever “in-balance” is up for debate ).
    I try to do that with friendships as well. Many years ago, someone suggested, “You should always have a Barnabas, a Silas, a Timothy, and a John Mark.”
    Barnabas was a mentor to Paul. He took him in when he first became a believer and taught him, introducing him to other Christian friends as well. Silas was a peer. While Paul was the leader of the ministry, he and Silas were on the same level spiritually and as friends. They enjoyed each other’s company. Timothy was a disciple of Paul (Paul was Timothy’s mentor as Barnabas had been to him). Paul encouraged Timothy, taught him, and told him to follow his example. Then there was John Mark. He was a project. He frustrated Paul (caused division between he and Barnabas)  and waffled between giving him grief and showing him promise. In the end, Mark came around for Paul, but in the early days, Paul was pretty frustrated with him, but he never gave up, altogether.
    We all need that kind of balance in our friendships.
    Do you have a Barnabas? Do you have a mentor, someone you look up to as a committed Christian who is an example to you? Do you have someone in your life who is “ahead of you,” so to speak, who can give you good Biblical advice for your marriage, raising kids, job, etc., and maybe confront you when you need a loving rebuke?
    Do you have a Silas? A good friend with whom you just enjoy hanging around with, and someone who is positive peer pressure, who loves God in the way you do, encouraging you in your walk with Christ?
    How about a Timothy? Do you have a younger Christian or maybe a seeker whom you are intentionally leading by example, as well as words. Nothing helps us grow more rapidly than our helping others to grow.
    What about a John Mark? We all need a project or two (NOT more than that!) of those who might be frustrating and inconsistent, sometimes resistant, but someone we can invest in and bring to Christ or help grow. The difference between Timothys and Marks are in their response. Timothys are a joy! They listen, learn, and consistently grow. Marks are frustrating. They go up and down, back and forth. But they need us more than Timothys do, and both help us in our spiritual growth, giving us an opportunity to be like Jesus.
    If you have all Barnabases and Silases, you aren’t serving people and will accomplish little with your life. But if you have all Timothys and Marks, you’ll burn out and get discouraged. You need a good balance of all four.
    I don’t think it’s healthy to have too many friends or too few. What we need is a good balance of the right kinds of friends. That has to be done on purpose. I’d encourage you to determine who you will invest time in, and make it a healthy balance among those who feed you, and those you are feeding. It’ll make all of your relationships a lot more meaningful!

One Response to Do Friendships Matter?

  1. Steve Borgman August 8, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    Scott, you make such a good point about the importance of different types of relationships. Our Lord Jesus even had those friends of his that he was closest to: I think John was the closest, followed by the three (Peter, John, and I can't remember the other), then the 12. I love the idea of having those we are mentoring, but also having peers and mentors ourselves. Thanks for the Biblical insights.

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