How many friends do you have? One church planter has 2,500 friends in his Facebook account, reminding me of Solomon’s comment. “A man of many friends comes to ruin.”(Proverbs 18:24)
Friendships can lead to positive or negative consequences. For a pastor’s wife, a few precautions might be helpful. We all want healthy relationships, and not ill-advised associations that will compromise our new work. Our role is unique and sometimes undefined. We have influence without authority, so watch out for those who want to be “close to the seat of power.”
Are you in the ministry to make friends or disciples? If your answer is to make friends, I believe you may be in for a difficult time. If you make disciples, God may give you a friend as well. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I didn’t find my friends; the good Lord gave them to me.” Special friendships are rare and a gift of God’s grace.
On the church staff level special care must be taken. Although the men on the team may start out as equals, a leader generally emerges. Decisions are made, disagreements are inevitable and wives may take up an offence. Difficulties will ensue. One pastor’s wife was asked if their original core team was still in place. She answered, “Unfortunately, misunderstandings arose and all were gone within the 1st year.”
I have learned many friendship lessons the hard way.
1. Every relationship begins as an evangelistic exercise. A blanket acceptance of someone’s profession of faith often leads to disappointment and conflict.
2. Be friendly to everyone, being careful to not show preference to anyone – especially on Sundays at your meeting location.
3. Keep confidences unless it violates the dictates of Matt 18:15-17.
4. Never share anything that would undermine your husband’s position or humiliate him. Some files are impossible to delete from your brain’s hard drive. A woman once shared in a group meeting that her husband slept in the nude. What do you think came to mind whenever I saw him? Yuk!
5. Look for the woman who is alone. One Sunday morning while visiting my son in the Scottsdale, AZ area, I visited five churches. No one spoke to me. In one church, I had to ask a group of greeters who were busy chatting with each other where the auditorium was. They simply pointed in a direction. I guess I didn’t appear to be in their “target” group.
6. I always invite new women to participate in some activity that will make them feel welcome and included. We never know what painful baggage a lonely woman may be carrying.
Can you have friends? Sure. Just keep your focus. We’re here to make disciples, not friends. If the Lord should give you both, be grateful but cautious, remembering it is difficult to maintain both those relationships at the same time.
Lastly, never forget who your best friend is. “You are My friends, if you do what I command you.” John 15:14