Statistics show that loneliness is at an all-time high for Christians in the United States. However, the lead pastor of the multisite Vox Church, Justin Kendrick, urges believers that denying friendships is like denying Jesus. In his book, The Sacred Us: A Call to Radical Christian Community, Kendrick shares Jesus’ model for growing meaningful friendships and living in the Christian community.
According to Kendrick, his book proposes seven biblically-based principles to delve into the essence of a Christ-centered community. When friendships are established in Christ, the relationship will bring fewer excessively lonely feelings. Kendrick says his book moves beyond maintaining and forming friendships based on shared interests. It also concentrates on developing friendships based on sharing life so we can love and know Jesus more. Ultimately, we’ll learn to love our community as Jesus did.
A study commissioned by Barna World Vision supports Kendrick’s view. In 2019, the study found that among 15,000 participants between the ages of 18-35 from differing countries, participants who belong to a religious tradition had stronger feelings about being in relationships with others. The study also found that those who identified as Christians or other faiths were less inclined than others without faith to say they felt isolated.
Another Barna study found that practicing Christians who say faith is essential and attend church show a slight decrease in the frequency of their loneliness compared to the general population. Although statistics show Christians experience less loneliness than non-believers, Kendrick believes lonely feelings are still common among Christians and thinks this issue should be addressed in the church. He also believes that the primary problem for Christians being able to develop friendships is others have hurt them within the church.
In those circumstances, Kendrick says Christians build walls by avoiding becoming too vulnerable or close with anyone in the church because they don’t want to be emotionally harmed. However, according to Kendrick, avoiding friendships can create barriers between Jesus and Christians. Kendrick says, “Christians know God in a personal way. But we also know God through the collective witness of His Body. And if we cut that off, there are aspects of our relationship with God that will never grow.”
Loneliness is an ongoing problem in America that isn’t getting better. According to Kendrick, most Christians pray for deep friendships but don’t know what to do. Here are some tips on building Christ-centered friendships.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
Christians should be willing to be hurt in friendships. Understanding the Bible leads to honesty and vulnerability in areas that Christians might avoid showing to others. However, when Christians are transparent, their vulnerability is the glue that can bring a community together.
Find Christians in your area.
To cultivate Christ-centered friendships, Christians have to make time to be in the same places as others. Nothing can replace physical connections, which is why God designed people. Whether attending your church’s Bible study or volunteering for an event at your church, it would be best to open yourself to be close to others. You never know; you might meet the best friend you’ve ever had at one of your church’s events.
Try to have fun.
The Bible gives grace to anyone who is a believer. If that’s the case, that means Christians are faultless before God through faith in Jesus. This sentiment should change their minds toward friendship and life. It also creates an environment where Christians can enjoy themselves because they’re not protecting a self-image that promotes grace.
Be a disciple.
Believers have a specific objective to be adapted to an image of Christ. Discipleship is to be a surrendered student poised to follow a master. In this case, Jesus is the master Christians seek to follow while pursuing friendships, making the Christian community unique from other groups.
Be willing to sacrifice.
This principle is the most important. It’s the idea that Christians can’t grow as believers of Jesus without sacrifice. Sacrifice is the instrument God uses to mature in love. The only way for Christians to grow in love is to sacrifice willingly. Sacrificing can be hard to do, but if Jesus can sacrifice His life for our sins, then we should be able to sacrifice for Him. Sacrifice also requires discipline, so maturing in love takes sacrifice and discipline.
Prepare for your mission.
Humans were hardwired to desire adventure. They want to do something adventurous and purposeful in their lives. The most profound answer to that need is to join God’s mission to make everything anew. Christians may live in a broken world, but they can bring God’s new creation to earth. When Jesus’ followers unite in that mission, it can ultimately lead to an intensely purposeful life.
Remember that boundaries can bring growth.
A perfect community isn’t supposed to be limitless and a constantly accessible way of living. It’s a balanced way of living where everyone shares others’ burdens but takes accountability for the things God want them to carry themselves. Christian communities create healthy boundaries instead of locking people out, allowing for continued growth.
This idea might sound like a no-brainer, but if you want to cultivate Christ-centered friendships, then prayer isn’t optional. Praying for your friends is encouraging and helpful, but praying with your friends is invaluable. When you plan to be with your friends, you should constantly ask for and give prayer requests. It doesn’t have to be sinful or dark things that you ask for prayer about, but you can also ask for prayer about the small things in your life. Never stop requesting or giving prayer requests. Talk the time to pray with your friends about the things that trouble your and their hearts.
In today’s world, people are feeling more lonely than ever. Whether the cause is the increased use of social media or people dealing with social anxiety, making new friends is hard. However, cultivating Christ-centered friendships can be incredibly challenging. If you’re trying to foster Christ-centered friendships, the key is to keep your heart open and allow people to come into your life. Jesus will continue to point you in the right direction.