This article appears in the June edition of Tabletalk magazine.
In certain quarters, men heading toward the ministry are told that they cannot have friends in the church. Why? They are to maintain the dignity of the pastoral office and fulfill their calling to shepherd the people, not be their friends.
Let us reject that concept completely. Why? Because our Lord called His own disciples His friends. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13–15). If the Lord of glory befriended these men this way, then certainly the church should be a place of true friendship.
Developing friendships in a congregation will lead to more loving, effective shepherding. Elders can encourage friendships in two simple yet profound ways.
Build friendships among the elders. Efforts at friendship should begin among the leadership of the church. Beyond the regular time elders meet to attend to the needs of the church, they should have unique fellowship with one another.