It’s all about building authentic friendships – Fall Issue 2008

I barely had time to sit down before my friends started asking me a series of questions – “Lisa, where did you say that you worked?” I’ve been taking some courses for some time at a local community college – which is where I met my new friends. Many of them come straight to class right after work and so I’ve made it a habit to arrive thirty to forty minutes before class begins so that we can chat. A few of my closer friends and I meet for coffee on a regular basis – it’s always a highlight for me.

To be honest, I’d been hoping to avoid any in-depth questions about my present occupation. Not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but because of the assumptions that are immediately made the moment you tell anyone that you work for a church. People tend to look at you a little differently, and in my opinion, become a little more guarded when they know you work for a religious organization.

It’s always a bit of a challenge to form meaningful friendships with co-workers who need to hear about Jesus when you work for a Christian organization!

I normally tell anyone who asks that I work for a non-profit organization – but unfortunately this was not enough to satisfy my friends. “Which non-profit organization do you work for?”

So the gig was up and my cover was blown – but I was pretty confident that I’d spent enough time establishing real friendships that it would not matter.

I really believe that you have to earn the right to speak into someone’s life. They have to know that you care about them, that you are interested in their struggles, pain, joys  . . . in short – that you are their friend. I think something very powerful can happen when you love and accept people in whatever state you find them without trying to change them.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve always thought this way . . . many of my “attempts” at reaching out to those around me ended abruptly because of my “here’s what God thinks about what you are doing” attitude. There was nothing gracious or loving in my approach in those early years . . .  it was forceful, cutting and often impatient. I was not interested in making friends – I just wanted to tell them they needed to change.

I’m still learning that it’s not up to me to win anyone to Christ – that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. My job is simply to demonstrate the love of Christ in practical and tangible ways.

I’ve had some great opportunities to share with my friends over the past months. None of them have made any decisions about Jesus yet. They still have a lot of questions and that’s okay with me. They are my friends, so I’ll be there as long as it takes.

Lisa Howden
Managing Editor