I want to begin by reminding anyone who’s reading that all tips I give are just that–tips. The way we do things are right for our family but not necessarily for everyone or even anyone else. There is freedom in the gospel, and we don’t (or more accurately try not to) judge others who do things differently. 🙂
In the last post, I talked about some ways to decide who your closest friends should be according to the season God has placed you. Once we have made these decisions, we begin to pull out those friendships that we feel should no longer have as high of a priority. Obviously we are in the midst of a big transition–joining with a new church which comes with new roles. We have never had as close of friendships as we had at Sojourn, so the changes we have had to make have been the most difficult so far, but we also understand that in order to make room for new friendships those changes are necessary. We have dropped out of our Sojourn community group in order to join a small group through Oak Park, we handed over our Sojourn coaching responsibilities to someone else so we can embrace our new roles of pastor and pastor’s wife, and we are most likely going to transition into Oak Park accountability groups.
The next part I’ll talk about is a little trickier. “What about those friends whom I’ve known forever but who don’t fit in those roles?” I will say this first. The more people who have high priority in your lives, the less room you have for new people whom God desires to place there, both unbelievers and believers. It also gets easier and easier to make things like family or your walk with God a lower priority. We live on this earth not for our own pleasure (though by God’s grace he certainly give us plenty of it!), but to further the kingdom. If you feel like you absolutely can’t give up any friendships, I would encourage you to ask yourself, “What is more important to me, keeping things comfortable or glorifying God?” and “Do I fear man or God more?”
In the last post I addressed that there will be a few people who don’t easily fit in your lives but who should still have a high priority. To decide who those friends are, you need to evaluate your season of life. For instance, my season is a wife and mom over several small children whom I homeschool–thus, I don’t have much free time for lots and lots of friends. You should also evaluate the kind of conversations that take place each time you’re with those friends. We Bells love to laugh, and we laugh a lot, but when my friendships are based on what a good time I had, my priorities are turned upside-down. If you meet with someone and consistently have conversations where Jesus’s name is never brought up, that probably is not a super edifying friendship. We can often discover what we worship together based on what we talk about the most. If Christ is our connection, then speech about Him and how we relate to Him should pretty much dominate our speech with one another.
If we discover we have friendships that need to take a back seat, first remember that this doesn’t mean you are no longer friends with them. It just means you can’t give them as much attention as you once did. In this situation, I would encourage you to sit down with that friend and discuss what’s going on. Pray with them, thank them for the role they have played in your life, and encourage them in Christ. If you are letting this friendship go because of unedifying talk or other sin, you would love your friend most by bringing that to their attention, asking forgiveness if need be and sharpening them in the word (The kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend–Prov. 27:6). I have had to do this a couple of times, and each time by God’s grace my friendship with that person becomes sweeter, even if I rarely see or talk to them anymore.
None of this is to be done lightly. Do everything in prayer and according to the Word and your conscience. God’s plans for you are for wholeness and not for evil, so if He calls you to “drop” a friendship, trust Him that He is helping you make room for others who will grow you in Him in new ways.