Most of us have plenty of friends on Instagram and contacts in our phone, but how many of us can honestly say that we have deep and authentic community right now in real-time? It can be easy to want to stay with the familiar relationships from childhood, but what happens when we feel God calling us to love the people we interact with on a weekly basis? What if that feels uncomfortable? How do we move from acquaintances to friendship?
What brings authentic community? I’m sure there are a ton of answers to this question, but I’m just going to touch on three today.
1. A humble heart. The opposite of a humble heart is a prideful heart. When I have judgment in my heart, I stop listening and begin doing all the talking.I have all the answers. Or I shut down and begin making my grocery list – determining that I’ve heard this before, thank you very much.
Instead, I should focus on listening. A good listener…
-asks intentional questions
-leaves space for an answer
-responds with interest
Are you struggling with how to move a friendship from surface level to one with depth? Try out this set of 5 questions below:
-Who are your Heroes? (Who do you admire? Who has shaped you into the person you are today?)
-What is your Heritage? (Tell me about your family, your life growing up and your heritage of faith.)
-What are your Highlights? (What are the high points in your life story? – the things that thrilled you, still put a smile on your face)
-What are your Heartaches? (What has hurt your heart in this life?)
-What are your Hopes? (What are your hopes, dreams, goals, or vision for the future?)
2. A willingness to share. Sometimes I just don’t want to describe the blackness in my own heart. Five other people have already spoken and I find myself thinking, “Ginger, no one needs to hear what you have to say.” And yet, I know that in order to feel connected to my groups I am going to have to be vulnerable with my heart. I can’t live in the land of “I’m fine.” The best times of community that I’ve experienced this past year have come about when someone is willing to say, “I’m not fine and I need you guys to pray for me.” Vulnerability hastens connection with others.
3. A patient spirit. I want things to run on my timeline. They should begin and end as I see fit. This leaves little room for God to move in HIS timing. This also leaves little room for connecting, listening, and growing closer as a community. This can also refer to how quickly I want community to be created. When things don’t happen the way I want, I begin to think that maybe this group isn’t for me. False. Maybe I’m the very reason that things don’t feel complete!
These three items tend to be huge roadblocks for me when it comes to deepening relationships. Relationships are messy and require a lot of effort and energy. I’m not going to get super close to ten people all at once, but I can take steps to know more about the people in my small group than just who is flying out-of-town this weekend.
Random suggestions for making friends…
1. Ask someone to lunch.
2. Be intentional when you see them. “How was your trip to see your family? I remember you mentioned that the last time I saw you!”
3. Compliment and encourage.
4. Take the first steps to share in your small group.
5. Text or call someone from your Bible Study and follow-up on mentioned prayer requests.
6. Offer up an “extra” ticket to something. “We just happen to have two more tickets to the ball game on Saturday and wondered if you guys would be interested in going?
7. Find common interests and run with it. You better believe that the next stranger to mention their love for Public Radio is going to be my new BFF. 😉
8. Pray that God would bring important relationships into your life this year.
9. Be AUTHENTIC.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. (Romans 12:9-21, MSG)