Proverbs 18:24 states, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
Life is better with friends. We all need relationships, and we long to be known within a safe framework of one or more close relationships. Yet many of us are settling for less. We may be surrounded by a relationships within our church community, our immediate and extended family, our work environment, or social network. But loneliness can occur even in the midst of being "connected" to hundreds and even thousands of people.
In our fellowship of churches we have seen both the benefits and risks involved when we enter into discipling relationships. In recent years many have explored various methods of fulfilling the many "one another" scriptures through relational dynamics within the body of Christ. Many have searched for the right vernacular in an attempt to side-step the mistakes of our past. We may describe these one-another relationships with terms such as mentoring, life coaching, prayer partners, G3 (groups of three), accountability partners, etc. We have tried to restructure, rebrand, or even do away with all structure and rely on a more "organic" approach to forming mutually edifying relationships.
But what have been the results? Are we collectively becoming more healthy spiritually? Are we getting together and fulfilling the one-another scriptures? Have we stayed engaged in at least one or more relationships that provide that safe place to be real, honest, vulnerable, and teachable? Are the marriages within our congregations progressing in the right direction? Are we talking to each another about our kids, our parenting struggles, our purity, our quiet times, our careers, and our passions and dreams? Or have we regressed such that we've simply become a man or woman of "many companions?" If so, the scriptures warn that this is shaky ground.
A few years ago I began to discover a depth of relationship within the characters of David and Jonathan that I had not seen in previous study. And I realized that I was longing for this kind of relationship in my own life. Sure, I was surrounded by people. I have hundreds of "friends" on social media. I was even leading ministries and my appointment book was packed full of relational opportunities! But I found that if I was not careful, I could remain fairly unknown, and as a result felt very lonely in the midst of what could appear to be a rich, relationship-filled lifestyle. And I don't think I'm unique in this wandering. I see our church filled with people who see their need for relationships, but many are just not making it happen. And so we busy our lives with ever increasing tasks, while allowing our desire for authentic and intimate connections to go unmet. This is a recipe for Satan to offer many substitutes for true intimacy, which continues to ensnare many believers.
This is how the Covenant Relationship series was birthed. It really came as a revelation of God through scripture. It started out (as many of my studies start) as a couple of long lessons to the Orange County, Los Angeles EDGE ministry. Then I broke it into three long lessons for the Orange County Church of Christ in 2014. I was able to travel to the Middle East, Korea, and Mongolia and teach the series. It didn't seem to matter the culture, language, or history of those churches. We had somehow all arrived at this similar place: Knowing our need to invest in close friendships, but stuck in our indifference, our past hurts, our fears, and (if we're honest) our selfishness.
My family moved to Orlando, Florida in July of 2017 and sure enough we discovered a church full of amazing disciples, with great hearts, but with large pockets of folks that had were living as men and women of "many companions". Our desire is to promote a fellowship where true friendships are fostered; that we will dare to draw close and stick together through thick and thin. We are certainly not there yet, although the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The series expanded from three lessons into six 30-minute sermons. Here is the first video of the series:
All six lessons in the series are available on YouTube and can be accessed here.
We hope you will enjoy the series, and consider implementing it in your congregation in a way that with minister to their needs. Feel free to personalize it, amend it, expand it, shorten it, and be edified by it as the Spirit speaks to you.