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You Need a Friend

It was early Thursday morning. We met in the usual breakfast joint where the eggs-and-bacon special was always $2.99. Here we could talk openly and honestly.

We met here every week for years. We shared a lot of life in that spot. Four guys huddled in a booth talking about kids, marriages, careers, hopes, joys, and church.

One guy was a parts manager at the local Ford dealership. Another, a social worker. Steve was the city Parks Manager. And I was a young pastor with two small kids.

On this day, when I walked through the door, my heart was heavy, and they could sense it. I tried to keep it together emotionally because the restaurant was full, and I didn’t want to break down and cry in front of all these people. The mayor and some of his cronies were sitting just two tables away!

Our daughter Jamie was not quite three years old, but something serious was going on with her. We would later discover that she had a rare genetic condition that could cause severe mental and physical disability.

In this breakfast meeting the weight of the world was on my shoulders. The pressure in my chest was so intense I could hardly breathe. But I was The Pastor to these men, and I had to “hold it together.” At least that’s what I told myself! That’s what pastors do, right?

I finally cracked and told the guys what was happening in my soul and in my home. It wasn’t pretty and I was scared. Broken, scared, and so alone…. Our daughter was three and she could not walk or talk or feed herself. Our marriage was strained. I didn’t know what to do. I felt paralyzed.

“I don’t think I can walk out of this place,” I said. “I am so drained and broken-hearted.” That’s when Steve said to me with tears in his eyes, “Then let us carry you!”

That was over 30 years ago, but I will never forget those words. Let us carry you.

When we survey the life and ministry of the apostle Paul, we see his confidence in the sufficiency of the gospel, his commitment to making disciples, and his willingness to suffer for Jesus. But there’s another, often overlooked, feature of the Pauline mission: friendship. As Paul planted churches throughout the Roman world, he didn’t do so as a one-man band.

Paul was relationally connected. He traveled with friends, stayed in their homes, and visited them. He worked and preached alongside his friends. He encouraged them and stood by them.

A quick read through Acts shows Paul’s commitment to, and genuine concern for, his friends: Barnabas, Titus, Silas, Luke, Priscilla, Aquilla, Lydia, Onesiphorus, Epapharoditus, John Mark, the Ephesian elders, and more.

In Romans 16, he mentions more than 30 names. The list oozes with affection. It magnifies the gospel, demonstrates grace in diversity, and contains moving expressions of honor.

In our zeal to help churches take their next step and accelerate gospel movement in Michigan, we emphasize Paul’s pattern of preaching the grace of Christ. But we should also highlight his deep commitment to friendship.

Jesus regularly strengthens us through the presence and ministry of others. Consider Paul’s statement about Titus: “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2 Cor. 7:5–6). God used Titus to give Paul a boost.

Let’s learn to carry one another, encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thess. 5:11). I lead a cohort of pastors once a month in which we help one another seek first the kingdom of God, accelerate gospel movement, and develop a healthy, humble posture in ministry. If you need more information about forming a cohort in your area, please contact Pastor Luke Bilberry (Chapel Pointe Church, Hudsonville, MI) at Be The Church. He’ll be glad to help!

Eugene Peterson once said that “Friendship is a much-underestimated aspect of spirituality. It’s every bit as significant as prayer and fasting.”

So, Pastor, who are your friends? Who is pouring into your life? What can you do to cultivate gospel friendships in your sphere of influence?

Who will carry you?


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