Friendship and Community

coach-tunnellJeff Tunnell

May I speak to Pastors and Cell Leaders for a moment?  Have you ever asked the question “Is it okay for me to have friends inside the church, or should they be from outside my congregation?”  I mean, have you wondered if it is possible to have “community” like the Godhead, or a Peter, James and John circle of confidence and friendship, while being the leader?

H.B. London, Jr., in his Pastor-to-Pastor ministry with Focus on the Family has reported,

“As we talk with thousands of pastors each year, we find that 70% of all pastors have no real close friend in which to confide (whether inside or outside the church). This is a tragedy. Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 describes to us the importance of having friendships in life so we can vent or join together in a project or lift each other up when we fall or enjoy recreation together. The key word we hear from pastors is “isolation”.”

Translation: 7 out of 10 pastoral leaders (and I include Cell leaders here) do not have someone they consider a close friend.  We constantly remind others to build community within the cell and evangelize by making friends outside the church (Jesus was a friend of sinners).  Yet the research from candid conversations with honest leaders concludes that we are not accomplishing the results expected of those we lead.  OUCH!

  There is not a singular answer to the original question, but there are several factors to be considered:

  • How vulnerable are you as a pastor, or cell leader?
  • How used to having closed friends are you?
  • What level of sharing is appropriate?
  • What has been your experience concerning friendships thus far?

 Jesus calls us “friends”; has He also given you others?  Who are they, and do they know you want to experience community with them?  If not, when will you express your desire for friendship to them?

8 thoughts on “Friendship and Community

  • As cell champion, I don’t have a problem opening up to those in the church. However, as a wife, I need to guard against opening up to those in my church about my husband, also a leader in the church.

  • As an evangelist I have found much interest in individuals outside the church. Over time my experience has lead to distrust in individuals in the church. Fearless abandon and love for the lost has left me feeling hedged in by those conformed. This has led to bitterness. I have dealt with it but distrust can prevail at times. Thankyou.

  • Thank you Pam and Martin for your honest responses and offering two differecnt perspectives. In narrowing the conversation a bit let me offer this: I tend to be “an inch deep and a mile wide” as others have observed. I go deep in sharing my life too quickly, even with new acquaintances. But where are the people that I can take with me to the Mount of Transfiguration or Gethesemane? Who will I actually allow into my life at the deepest moments?

    These are not casual relationships, nor can I allow past difficulties to keep me from having this Godly community in the future. I am saying that we must have it!! How will that occur? and with whom?

  • I agree totally that we must have this type of close relationship, one that you can be transparent. It is not easy to find however, but I truly bellieve that whom he calls he equips. I believe that this is why we all must have a spiritual father and mother–one that God has connected you with, that is an exceptional mentor, but relational enough for you to be able to talk about Whats really going on, the deep moments. This accountablilty is so important for both partys concerned.All of the disciples followed Jesus, but there were different degrees of following. Eventually in the toughest time, all forsook him. I believe especially if you are in the five fold ministry that God will always connect you with at least one person that truly loves you and value the friendship enough to be able to listen to a challenge that you are having, but still have the proper perception of you in the midst of the challenge. Although i minister to thousands, my immediate circle of friends still remain very small. I am blessed to have awesome spiritual parents, my husband and two other people that God put in my life as I journey my way to destiny

  • I am cell champion and I am totally open with all the leaders I coach. I have many close friendships and have no problem being totally vulnerable with them. I’m that way from the pulpit when I preach as well. Obviously there are some things that are shared in a smaller circle of people. But I love transparency.

  • Michael, I can see that in you when we are together. Your guys love you and carry you in their hearts as you do them. Isaiah 40:11 is working for you!!

  • Jeff,

    You raise a good point. I remember some seminary professors telling us to be careful about getting ‘too close’ to folks in the congregation. And I remember hinking to myself, “Huh, so where does a counselor go when he needs counseling?” I instinctively knew there was something drastically wrong with what the seminary professors were telling us.

    It wasn’t until after graduation when God revealed the cell-church concept to me. And what a relief it was for me to learn the importance cell ministry places upon the need for intimacy and vulnerability within the cell. And I also realized that if we pastors are stressing the need for intimacy and vulnerability then we ourselves needed to model it.

    I’ve been pursuing the cell-based vision since 1993. What a joy it is to be serving as pastor of a church where much of our congregation understand the importance of transparency! Speaking of vulnerability, just last week my wife and I experienced major marital problems that I feel sure surfaces in every marriage involving the ‘crazy cycle’ of love and respect. I absolutely refuse to pretend all is well on cell night or come Sunday morning when I feel disrespected by my wife.

    Scripture does say that if a man cannot manage his household then he has no business overseeing a church. I feel so strongly about this that I will leave the ministry if our marriage relationship is not as it should be.

    I thank God that I am involved in cell-based ministry and that I didn’t buy into the advice of those seminary professors. I am involved in a cell where I have many men who I can speak with at such vulnerable times — men who don’t place me up on a pedestal or judge me for being human. Yes, what a true joy it is to serve as a pastor in a cell-based church without having to pretend to be anything but human.

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick & Becky Diefenderfer

  • Rick, what a tremendous asset you have developed in your cell and church! To be admired. As far as the “manage his family” passage, it appears you are using the intimacy of your cell to do exactly that instead of hiding the conflicts that are common to all.

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