I know someone who is recovering from surgery and she’s blessed with a wide assortment of generous friends who brought food, drove her to follow-ups, spent the night, bought her groceries, and entertained her cats. One person lives half way across the country and dropped everything to come be with her. Although she is part of a church community, nobody in her support network is in her church. No Venn Diagram necessary. They are completely separate entities.
I have another friend whose closest friends are exactly the same as her church friends. When she moved, the church friends moved her. When she was sick, the church friends brought soup. When she was pregnant, the church friends threw a shower. One of her first tasks as a new DC person was to find her tribe and she immediately went the church route. Her best friends are her church friends.
The difference is clearly about relationship. If you are part of a church in which people truly know each other, hang out together apart from Sundays, and can express their ugliest frustrations and doubts as well as their generic “prayer concerns” without being cast out or judged, then real friendship will ensue.
I remember a new church member – a while back – who, on the day she joined the congregation – said, “I have friends already. I joined a church to figure out what I believe.” It sounded strange to me. Why wouldn’t you figure out what you believe with your friends?
Jesus modeled being friends with “the other” which implies that it’s not only okay, but it’s actually Christlike to have friends who don’t do church. The hope is that people who don’t follow Jesus notice in our behavior what it looks like to follow Jesus. Or something like that.
So what about your experience? Are your closest friends part of your spiritual community?