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Experiencing Church with Real Friends?
11 May Posted by Neil Olcott
I have heard that some children growing up have “imaginary friends.” These “friends” are both the best and the worst of friends. They always agree with you and yet aren’t much help when times get a little rough. Nevertheless, each of us is aware of the need for friends, but often struggle with long-lasting friendships.
I have pastored various churches for nearly 30 years. This is hard to believe even for me, but it is true. In those years of service, I have seen so many wonderful things and experienced the joy of Jesus’ words to his disciples when He told them: "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields -- and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life." Mark 10:28-30 (NIV)
I have so many great friends I count as brothers, sisters, and family in so many places and I praise God for them all! Some I continue to keep in touch with even today all these years later. Jesus has, once again, shown me the truth of His Word.
The part of that text which is a bit harder to wrap my brain around is the accompaniment of “persecutions.” While I have, what one pastor once said were, “sheep bites” as a shepherd, I don’t know if they would be considered persecutions in the same vein as Jesus had in mind. Nonetheless, I have experienced the challenges of pastoral ministry and leadership.
What is so amazing to me at this point in my life is that God has, once again, blessed me so much by His grace and mercy in allowing me to plant this church with those I truly count as friends! Recent times have caused me to do some serious reflection on what is a friend. The truth is that the challenges of ministry (and life for that matter) have the keen ability to bring focus to the concept of friends more than anything else in life.
I praise God that I now have the privilege of participating in church with those I would count as true friends. In the weeks to come I want to elaborate on friendship and what it means to me. The Scriptures speak to this issue and experience has proven itself to be a hard but positive instructor as well. So check back in the weeks to come as I “think out loud” about my encounter with friends, both real and imagined.