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How Are You Fixed For Friends?


By Ray Pritchard

October 1991 – The most popular TV show in America is set in a bar in Boston. The name of the TV series is the same as the name of the bar—Cheers. It has been the most popular TV show for the last several years and has been in the top five most-watched shows for seven or eight years. Cheers is the story of a very unusual group of people who gather at the bar every day after work to kibbutz, to chat, to trade war stories, to tell a few jokes, to blow off steam, to commiserate with one another, and generally share their lives with one another.

There is something that touches a very deep nerve in the American public because each week tens of millions of people tune in. All they really do is sit around and talk about their joys and sorrows, their victories and defeats, their good times and their bad times, their problems at home, and their dreams for the future. That’s it. When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound very profound, yet Cheers touches something deep within us. They talk about life and we tune in to listen.

Do you remember how the theme song goes? “You wanna be where you can see that troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everyone knows your name.”

“He Was A Great Marine”

I was reminded of Cheers when I read a story in one of Chuck Swindoll’s books. He tells the story of an old Marine Corps buddy of his who became a Christian after he left the Corps. Swindoll said he was surprised when he heard of his friend’s conversion:

He was one of those guys you’d never picture as being interested in spiritual things. He cursed loudly, drank heavily, fought hard, chased women, loved weapons, and hated chapel service. He was a great Marine.

When Swindoll finally met him, his friend told him how he had come to Christ. Then with a look of sadness, he put his hand on Swindoll’s shoulder and bared his soul:

Chuck, the only thing I miss is that old fellowship all the guys in our outfit used to have down at the Slop Shoot (Greek for tavern on base). Man, we’d sit around, laugh, tell stories, drink a few beers, and really let our hair down. It was great. I just haven’t found anything to take the place of that great time we use to enjoy. I ain’t got nobody to admit my faults to… to have ‘em put their arm around me me and tell me I’m still okay.

Counterfeit Grace
The words hurt because they are so true. Swindoll goes on to quote from Bruce Larson and Keith Miller (The Edge of Adventure, p. 156). Ever wonder why so many people are pulled to the neighborhood bar? Here is their answer:

The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is for the fellowship Christ wants to give His church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.

With all my heart I believe that Christ wants His church to be … a fellowship where people can come in and say, “I’m sunk!” “I’m beat!” “I’ve had it!” (All quotations from Chuck Swindoll, Encourage Me, pp. 17-18)

No wonder we like Cheers. It’s not because it’s set in a bar; it’s not because we secretly want to drink. No, the real reason runs much deeper than that. It’s because Cheers is a place where you can go and tell the truth, be yourself, and not be rejected.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Do you have any place like that in your life?

To Know and Be Known
Let me give you my thesis right up front: It is hard to be a whole person unless you have friends in your life with whom you can be yourself. It is virtually impossible to become mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy as long as you live without any close friends who know the real you.

To know and be known, to love and be loved, to care and be cared for—these are our deepest human needs. That means having a few people gathered around who know you through and through. That means knowing others deeply and intimately, and it means letting them get to know you in the same way.

Let me probe this area with three simple questions:

A. Is there a group to which you really belong?

I’m not asking how many groups you’ve joined or whether your name is on some membership list. I’m asking whether there is any group anywhere where you can hang your hat and say, “This is my place and these are my people?”

B. Are there people around you who know you totally, warts and all?

This is a crucial question because we live in a city teeming with people—over seven million of them. Do any of them really know you from the inside out? Do any of them know the dark side of your personality, the part most people never see?

C. Do you have to give an account of your life to anyone?

Is there anyone in your life who asks you the hard questions about the way you spend your time or your money? Is there anyone who asks you about the way you live your life, the way you treat people, the way you walk with God? Is there anyone at all like that in your life? Or are you basically just a free agent floating through life, doing your own thing, never letting anyone get close enough to check up on you?

If you don’t have a group, and if don’t have a few people who know the real you, and if you aren’t accountable to somebody for the way you live, you will never discover what Wholly Living is all about. You will go through life struggling with problems that could be overcome if only you would dare to let a few people get close to you.

True Friendship
I ran across this quote a few days ago by George Eliot. It admirably describes the nature of true friendship.

Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pour them all out just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Any friends like that in your life? Do you have any friends to whom you can unburden your heart, knowing that they will not be shocked no matter what you say? Do you have anyone in your life with whom you can share the deepest secrets of your heart? Are you a friend like that to anyone else?

Let me suggest seven simple steps:

1. Take a Friendship Inventory of Your Life. Do you have any close friends right now? Are you letting people get close to you? Name your friends. Write them down one by one. Take an inventory and see where you stand.

2. Join an Adult Sunday School Class. Does that sound trite and simple? It shouldn’t. Adult Sunday School classes are a good place to begin. Join a class and begin to develop some relationships.

3. Get Involved in a Small Group. Right now we have between 20 and 30 small groups at Calvary. Many of them are looking for new people. All you need to do is call the church office for more information. It is the testimony of many people that they first learned to develop close friendships by sharing together in a small group setting.

4. Open Your Home to Others. Knock a hole in your cocoon. Start burrowing out instead of burrowing in. Nothing can quite take the place of inviting people into your own home. There is an intimacy about it that makes it easy to develop close friendships.

5. Make a Phone Call. This one isn’t hard at all. Perhaps you could begin by calling someone up this week and saying hello. Perhaps you could give them a word of encouragement.

6. Write a Note to a Friend. Too shy to use the phone? Fine. Write a note. Most of us don’t get enough personal mail anyway. You could go a long way toward building a friendship just by jotting down a few words and using a 29 cent stamp.

7. Hug somebody! If you absolutely don’t know what else to do, give a friend a hug. Sometimes a hug means more than a thousand words, a dozen letters or two dozen phone calls. A hug says “I care about you” in a very personal way. It might be the very thing that someone needs from you this week.

My point is simple, and also very obvious. There is something you can do that will make a difference in your own life. You don’t have to stay lonely. You don’t have to feel cut off from everyone else. You don’t have to go through life alone.

O God, help us to become people who deeply care for one another. May we love each other deeply and profoundly. May it be said of us, as it was said of the first Christians, “Behold, how they love one another.” May the lonely people all around us see our love, and so be drawn to the light of Christ. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

©Keep Believing Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Dr. Ray Pritchard is the founder and President of Keep Believing Ministries. For twenty-six years he has been a pastor, speaker and author of twenty-seven books. Married to Marlene for thirty-three years, he enjoys being a dad to three sons, biking, world travel and playing with Dudley, beloved basset hound. Learn more about his ministry at www.keepbelieving.com.