Sunday, February 6, 2011

Spiritual Friendships

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)

I recently described to a friend a desire for an organic process for encouraging our development as fully-devoted followers of Christ that is relational, authentic, seeks transformation, and occurs during the everyday life of people rather than in some church program. He smiled and said, "You know, there is a simple term for this. It's called friendship." Hmmm... he's got a point. But I know that many of us have friendships in which there is no discussion of spiritual matters, much less intentional effort on growing as disciples. What's missing? In a nutshell - what we need more of are Christ-Centered friendships in which the Holy Spirit is acknowledged and active. In other words, a spiritual friendship.

Douglas Rumford in the book 'Soul Shaping' defines Spiritual Friendship as “a Christ-centered, intentional relationship between at least two people, where these individuals focus on the nurture of each others spiritual life. This sort of friendship does not require one to be an expert, but simply to be spiritual peers who regularly come together and commit themselves to growing in Christ.”

In Acts 18 we see the story of Priscilla and Aquila, how Paul connected with these fellow tentmakers, built a friendship, shared the gospel and discipled these Jewish Christians to the point where they could effectively share the gospel and disciple others. In fact, they did just this with a scholar named Apollos, who himself had a great impact for the Kingdom. Rewind the story, and we see that Paul himself found an amazing spiritual friend in Barnabas, who stood up for him and worked alongside Paul for a year in Antioch (Acts 9 and 11). Thus we see spiritual friendship providing tremendous benefit for these individuals and for the church - among seekers, new believers, growing Christians, and for leadership development.

Developing spiritual friendships isn't rocket science, but since it involves people it can be messy. It is first of all a friendship, in which the two (or more) decide together to nurture one another towards Christ-likeness, becoming more intentional about what they talk about and do together. Here are some factors that enhance the effectiveness of developing fruitful spiritual friendships:
  • Openness (transparency and honesty)
  • Trust
  • Regular time spent together
  • Desire to grow
  • Intentionality
  • Listening
  • Prayer
The benefits of becoming more intentional in your relationships in encouraging one another to grow in Christ are real, and are available to all believers. What is your next step in developing a spiritual friendship?

Spiritual Friendships was a message I shared at Calvary Baptist Church on Feb. 6, 2011.
Download the Audio MP3 of the sermon.
View or download a PDF of the notes.

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