Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Who Should I Be Spending Time With?

Here's an excellent question someone texted to me at the end of last Sunday's (October 4) sermon:

How do we balance bringing lost people to Christ with not keeping "bad" company?

Someone else texted me nearly the same question, so it was obviously a blind spot in my message!

For those of you who weren't there, the message was "WHY (join the) CHURCH?" I gave several reasons why I believe Christians need to be connected to each other in the body of Christ:

1) We all need healing in our human relationships.  All of our relationships are broken and damaged in some way by sin, and in the body of Christ, through God's grace, we learn how to have healthy relationships with others. We discover healthy connections based on unconditional love, forgiveness and grace rather than performance, perfection or possession.

2) We reflect God most accurately when we are in healthy relationships with those around us. Before the world existed, there was God alone, but God was not alone!  God was in fellowship - in connection and relationship, if you will - as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We were created in God's image, and deep within our "God image" is the need for relationship with others. People are hungy for authentic friendship and relationship; the church should be a place where people experience these kinds of meaningful connection. 

3) We cannot grow as disciples of Jesus Christ without vital connections with other growing Christians. Spiritual growth happens as we study together, pray together, worship and serve together. We need modeling. Jesus own disciples needed to spend time with him in order to be influenced by him. Those we spend significant amounts of time with will influence us the most.

So...we need to be connected with other believers in the church in order to keep our spiritual life vital and growing. 

But we also need to reach the lost. This is accomplished as we build relationships with them so that our witness to them is genuine and based on real connection, not just shallow attempts to "win them for Jesus."  And most of us have non-Christian friends, neighbors and co-workers with whom we spend significant time.

So back to our question:

How do we balance bringing lost people to Christ with not keeping "bad" company?

I'll just offer a couple suggestions, and perhaps others will chime in here from their own wisdom and experience (I would welcome that!).

First, WHERE are you spending time with your non-Christian friends?  Is it an unhealthy atmosphere?  Is it a place that promotes unhealthy relationships?  It's one thing to go out to dinner or go to a sporting event (or concert, etc.) with friends, it's another thing to spend the evening at a bar or other place where the main purpose is to consume lots of "adult beverages" and "check out" members of the opposite sex. 

Did I put that delicately enough? 

Throughout scripture there are warnings about avoiding evil or wicked people and the activities of those who do not honor or worship God. Psalm 1:1 says,

"Blessed (or 'happy') are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers..."

St. Paul says, "Don't be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Second, is this activity (or group of persons) conducive to healthy relationships, or am I likely to be tempted to think or act in ways that would compromise my Christian faith and witness?  You may say to yourself, "I'm strong, I know my limits," and so on, but be realistic.  We're all human and we're all subject to temptation.  Why put yourself in that kind of atmosphere, and why go there with a non-Christian friend (or friends), seeming to lend your approval to them going there by your presence? 

Jesus says, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).  In other words, "Don't kid yourself, don't be naive and stupid."

God wants us to reach out to the unbelievers around us with genuine love, building relationships that will help them see Christ in us.  You need to be wise and discern how to build those relationships.  That includes what you do when you spend time together, and the kinds of places you go for "fellowship." 

Can you always avoid meeting in a place where you're uncomfortable?  No, obviously not.  But be aware of your witness in that atmosphere, and look for opportunities to spend time with your non-Christian friends in places where you can demonstrate and share the love of Christ in positive, grace-giving ways.

Find the balance in your life.  Spend time with fellow Christians so that you are growing spiritually and being strengthened in your faith.  Spend time with your "pre-Christian" friends and associates when there are opportunities for building bridges of authentic friendship where God's grace can work.

Stay connected...

Pastor Mike


  1. Mike,
    Really appreciate your blog and think I've figured out how to post. These are great subjects for discussion. I woke up one day a few years ago and realized I was only spending time in my little Christian huddle and was doing almost nothing with my "pre-Christian" friends and associates and since have become quite active in various business organizations - since I'm called to the business world - where I can build authentic bridges. Thanks for the reinforcement.

    Ralph Williams

  2. I really enjoyed this blog and I agree with a lot of what Ralph had to say. I am learning in "Being a Contagious Christian" to be ready to share my faith at any moment - even if it might be an awkward location or time. I agree that picking the right locations with "pre-Christian" friends is important.

    I did however have my first Contagious Christian moment with a friend of mine in a sports bar - I considered this a social setting and not a night on the town to see how much we could drink and hit on the opposite sex. We were two young married men having a nice night out and the topic turned spiritual much to my suprise. We talked for a couple of hours, hugged each other at the end of the night and even prayed together. It was really amazing and I believe that it happened because we were both in a comfortable atmosphere. I even invited him to our bible study.

    I am a big fan of the social business/friendship atmosphere but not the "bar" atmosphere where the only thing to do is to get in the wrong trouble. Sometimes this is hard to make sure you are doing the right thing but I am convinced that finding appropriate social atmospheres can lead to amazing connections.

    Thanks for your posts.