Do you have a true friend? Someone who knows your “dark corners?” Someone who knows everything about you . . . knows your story, what you struggle with, what you dream about? Not many guys have that kind of friend. A 2015 study in Britain found that 51% of men surveyed have two or fewer friends and 15% have no friends. And the definition of “friend” used in the survey doesn’t even come close to the one I just gave. Many guys are “flying solo” and living lonely lives.
Men tend to connect with each other through activity and proximity. Activity? Golf and tennis. Playing on recreational sports teams. Coaching their kids’ sports teams. Social and community activities and through church. Activities bring us together through a common interest. Proximity? Guys form relationships with people who frequent the same places they do. Guys from the neighborhood, from the office, from the club or the gym. Being in proximity doesn’t guarantee connection . . . but it facilitates it.
But connection and community are two different things. You can connect with another guy, become friends, do things together but never truly get to know each other . . . never talk about faith or do anything to help each other grow. You may be transparent with each other, even share your ‘dirty laundry’ from the past, but becoming vulnerable . . . sharing current struggles, weaknesses, temptations? That’s a different story. True friendships are birthed through shared experiences and a common purpose.
When guys commit themselves to become “all-in” Jesus followers . . . when an appetite for God is birthed . . . there’s a hunger for connection with others on the same path. As my friend Pete says, “Christianity is an individual decision but a team sport. We need each other for affirmation, for challenge, and for companionship.” Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” One could argue that Jesus didn’t need anyone. He could have lived and died all by himself . . . as “God in a bod.” But as soon as Jesus started His ministry, He invited guys into His life. They did everything together. They shared everything. It was an authentic community if there ever was one!
Two of the three guys in the picture above . . . Mike and Bryan went through my 7th Radical Mentoring group together (the third guy Clay was in an earlier group). They shared the year-long experience, intentionally reading and “netting out” books, memorizing Scripture and trying (and failing) at exercises intended to strengthen their marriages. Years later, they’re still connected and they climbed Mount Rainier together. Talking about a shared experience! These guys love Jesus, challenge each other and live life with purpose and passion. As mentees, they treasure the relationship they have with God and each other. As a mentor, I treasure the fact that God used me to bring them together.
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