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Friends. Just seeing the word brings to mind pleasant faces of those that we consider to be in that category. It is so wonderful that of all of the billions of people on the planet, we can relate to a small circle of folks that we consider our friends. The concept of friendships has been the subject of many books, movies, songs, and television programs. We have seen the concept of “friendship” exploited with Facebook listing “friends” as those that would simply view another’s posts. One of the longest running television sitcoms was simply titled, FRIENDS. Michael W. Smith’s song, FRIENDS ARE FRIENDS FOREVER, was an instant favorite in Christian circles some years ago. There is an ancient proverb that states, “A friend in need is a friend indeed!”

It was the Biblical writer, Solomon, and our Lord Jesus that stated these truths that have become so much a part of our understanding of friendship. Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Prov.18:24 (ESV) – A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. John 15:14-15 – You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

If friendships are so important, why are there so many lonely people? I think that the answer is simpler than we suspect. Lots of people just don’t know how to talk to others. They were not reared in families that had conversations. This generation has been reared “watching” and not interacting. They watch movies, TV, cell phones, Vimeo, and people in public places. There are no meaningful conversations in a day’s time. And, perhaps the greatest detriment to building relationships is “time”. No one has close friendships if they don’t invest the time to build those.

And, one of the great sorrows is that the church has become either a production in the worship service with no small group interaction and only a room full of spectators OR the church is so ingrown that only a select few of “our kind of people” are truly welcomed “in”. So, where are folks in the 21st century going to make friends?

Research that shows the more friendships a person has in a congregation, the less likely they are to become inactive or leave. I once read about a survey of 400 church drop-outs who were asked why they left their churches. Over 75% of the respondents said, “I didn’t feel anyone cared whether I was there or not.” These are shocking results, especially as church should be one of the most caring places in the world!

The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church. It’s an imitation, dispensing alcohol instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a Permissive, Accepting, and Inclusive fellowship. It is Un-shockable. 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. (Copied