Real Friendships for Real People

Hello to all you men (and women – this is for you too) who faithfully read my blog! All 7 of you.

Real men don’t read blogs (or write them). 

Real men are busy making bank, raising kids, racing cars, shooting guns, smoking meat, or growing a beard (strike 2 for me).

Real men are also too busy for real friends.

Wait. What?

Actually, I’m learning that you women suffer from this too. Observing my wife run her business, work two other jobs, do her share of the parenting and all the myriad of tasks, this is clearly not a gender thing. It’s a cultural thing.

So, let me say that again really slowly:  real   people   are   too   busy   for   real   friends.

Are you and I OK with that? About a year and a half ago, I decided I wasn’t.

The decision came on my loneliest day of the COVID stay-at-home order. It was a terrible day filled with a darkness and loneliness I hadn’t felt in years. I invited Jesus in because I didn’t understand it. I still had my amazing wife with me. I also had my boys, and I love those guys. But…

“Jesus, I don’t get it. Why am I feeling so lonely?”

In the month that followed, Jesus answered through a lot of reflection and a great book [1].

Diagnosis: I had been starving myself of deep relationships in recent years without recognizing it. I was overly busy. I changed careers, starving myself of my closest work friends. I changed the ministries I lead in, starving myself of discipleship friends. A few of my closest friends moved away from Fort Collins, starving me of deep faith friendships.

Soul already starved for deep friendship . . . hit by a COVID relationship famine. Bad combo.

But Jesus revealed the cure – his own order for human relationships that is both practical and soul-filling.

First, Jesus had several hundred faithful followers – the crowd. Many showed up frequently in his life, supported his mission and received from him the benefits of following him.

Second, Jesus had his 12 disciples – his crew. They were in life and ministry together and had deep relationship with him.

Third, Jesus had his closest three disciples – Peter, John and James – his core. These three had a closer relationship with Jesus than anyone else. Jesus let them in and revealed more about himself to them. In their own fallen way, these men also tried to reciprocate his perfect friendship.

What I was lacking most on that day of loneliness were those core relationships. My wife is in my core, but I didn’t have any men in that group.

Time for a change. I grabbed a beer with a close friend and told him what I was going through. I got breakfast with another guy I used to do ministry leadership with – gave him my pitch. The three of us agreed we were going to form a core group. Just three guys with a mission to help make each other better men and have some fun doing it. Our group keeps growing. Seems like guys need this. The wives caught on, and now they meet and their group is growing. Seems like gals need this.

In my core group we keep it simple – meet for breakfast every other Friday at 6am. Yeah, 6am. It’s awful. But worth it.

We started with a Bible study, but one dude suggested we read Ezekiel and we’ve been scared to open the Bible ever since. Someday.

Lately, we’ve been discussing a great discipleship book and helping each other apply it.

Our core group conversations sound like this:

               “I screwed up when I _____________________________.”
               “What do you recommend I do?”
               “Would you pray for me as I wrestle with ___________________?”
               “That’s great progress!”
               “What do you need from Jesus to pull that off?”
               “Are you sure that’s the right decision?”
               “Stop beating yourself up. You’re a great father to your kids.”
               “Your wife is right.” (Eye roll – she’s always right.)

We’re still figuring out this manly friendship thing, but we’re off to a good start. My core group challenges me, knows me and encourages me, and I like to think I do the same for them. They remind me of Jesus. They also remind me to walk with Jesus. My core group has been a game changer.

Blog reader, I invite you to take stock of your crowd, crew and core. If your core is lacking, gather some other faithful men or women, let them get to know you and work together on the mission to make each other better for whatever the Lord has called you to do. Make time to develop real friendships, encourage each other on your journey with Jesus and enjoy the fruit of his pattern for relationships.

Just don’t start off studying Ezekiel. Maybe try Leviticus. And, if you meet at a time later than 6am, hit me up! I could always switch core groups to one that also values a little sleep.

[1] Dr. John Townsend, People Fuel: Fill Your Tank for Life, Love and Leadership (Zondervan, 2019).

Ben has been attending Faith since 2014. Three years ago, he transitioned from a career in electrical engineering to full-time ministry as Faith’s College Ministry Director. Ben is passionate about teaching the Bible, developing young leaders and discipling college-aged young adults.

Outside of ministry, Ben loves spending time with his wife, Sally, and their 3 boys.  He enjoys all outdoor activities including running, camping, skiing and hiking.