Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Friends, Boundaries and Other Thoughts

I'm thinking about friends today for several reasons: First, one of my very best friends is moving away tomorrow. Ross Chellis is heading to Hampton, South Carolina to be the pastor of Hamption and Varnville UMC. He won't be that far away, but far enough that he won't be able to join me at a text's notice for lunch or read my face and know when I have a situation I need to discuss. I will miss him, but I am thankful for him and so excited to see all that will happen as God uses him in ministry in a new place. Hampton and Varnville - good luck, your lives will never be the same :) I'm also thinking about friends because another friend of mine, Greg over at I'm Just Sayin' posted a blog yesterday on friendship.

So, here are a few of my thoughts...

"Don't be friends with people in your church." Before you laugh and think I'm being ridiculous, you should know that this advice is handed out with frequency in seminaries and within clergy circles. I happen to disagree with it.

I've always struggled with this piece of advice. I've heard the people who give it provide rationales that make sense. In fact, I've already found myself in several of the scenarios they've used as cautionary tales. But still...

From the most basic standpoint, I go back to Jesus and then Paul, neither of whom related to people from a distance. In fact, Jesus very specifically called us his friends; and on several occasions Paul spoke intimately to the people and churches he wrote, calling them both friends and partners. Obviously I can't be best friends with everyone in the church, but I think if we're going to meet together and talk about the most important things in our lives, people ought to know that I love them, I care about them and think of them as brothers, sisters, and yes, even friends.

Friends are people we share our lives with. Friends are the people who stand by us and celebrate with us when things are great and get down on their knees and pray with us when we're walking through the scary stuff. (wait, I think I'm describing the church here...). Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and yes, even levels. But, I think we're being inauthentic to close off the category of friends completely and call ourselves a Christian community.

You see, some of those situations I mentioned I've been in because I ignored the pastor/churchmember/friend boundary are some of the very same situations that have forced me to confront my own insecurities and pushed me to a new level of sincerity in my life, faith and relationships. They're situations that have demanded some painful conversations, but if we skip those conversations, what do we have and how do we grow?

Friendships, like marriages and all other relationships of value, aren't easy. They're often uncomfortable, demanding and impossible to manage. But, today, I thank God that He calls me friend and I thank God for all of the people I feel privileged to call friends!

1 comment:

preacherontheplaza said...


I have thought much about this question for a long time.

I agree and disagree with you.

There are some folks with whom I have been able to develop lasting friendships with in my church, but with some others, the "pastor" role is simply as far as it goes. I think boundaries are good and that every person defines for themselves what boundaries need to be.

I think the more extroverted of pastors struggle more with boundaries than the more introverted ones of us do. In the same way, the introverted ones of us struggle more with friendship in the church than boundaries.

Just my two cents.

Hope you are well!