Paul was married and had young children. He was successful in his work. He was financially independent. He was secure in his Christian faith. What was his next step? Paul did what any man in his position would do—he bought that loud, fast, expensive car he had been dreaming about ever since he was a little boy.
But that still didn’t seem to fill a hole in his life. Perhaps Paul could do more to tell his friends about Jesus. God seemed to have blessed Paul with a lot of non-Christian friends and contacts. So Paul went to the other men in his church. They were also in their midlife, financially successful, and owned nice cars. Together, they formed a car club. Next, they started inviting their non-Christian friends to the club. In just a few weeks, the car club had grown from eight to forty members.
Now a typical Sunday for Paul and his friends looks like this. They meet at 6:00 a.m. and go for a drive on some twisty and hilly roads. Afterward they eat breakfast together at a café. Then, quite abruptly, at 9:00 a.m., half of the group gets up en masse and leaves for their church’s morning worship service.
Out of curiosity, many of the non-Christians started to ask if they could go with the Christians to their church. They wanted to check it out. For many of the men, this was a huge change of heart. One man’s wife didn’t believe her husband was going to a church until she checked the location tracker on his phone.
Making Friends in Today’s World
The number of friends we have changes, depending on our stage of life. You know how it works. When you’re in elementary school, you have a handful of friends. When you’re in high school, you have more friends. When you get to college, you have hundreds and hundreds of friends—so many friends, in fact, that you don’t know who not to invite to your twenty-first birthday party or wedding. And then after you get married, you have no friends. No one wants to hang out with you, and you don’t want to hang out with anyone. You just want to stay home. But then you have kids, and your universe of friends takes off again because your kids start making friends, and you begin hanging out with their friends’ parents. As we get older still, our universe of friends will start shrinking again, but the nature of friendship will change. We consolidate our friendships. So while we might lose out on quantity of friends, we’ll gain in terms of quality of friendships.3
Somehow, in the last few years, my wife, Steph, and I have found our universe of non-Christian friends to be expanding rapidly. These friends are far wiser, wittier, and more interesting than my wife and I could ever be. They bring us joy, goodness, and karaoke nights.
Steph and I have noticed that the majority of our non-Christians friends have moved into our city in the last few years. They haven’t had time to establish a network of friends yet. So it’s been really easy for us to move into their world and become part of their network of trusted friends.
These days, people are frequently moving—changing houses, schools, and jobs. They are moving into new neighborhoods and don’t have a network of friends. And it’s going to be really hard for them to make any friends.
Sociologists say that human beings need friendships at three different levels. First, they need a tribe of 150 people for belonging, status, and identity. Second, they need a network of thirty friends. And third, they need an inner circle of five trusted friends—the sort of friends you can call on for a favor, to help you move to a new house, or to babysit your kids in an emergency. Studies are now showing that most people in the West lack this tribe, network, and inner circle.4 That’s why we’ll drive twenty minutes to the store for milk instead of asking our next-door neighbor for it.
It’s harder now than ever before to make friends because of our fractured, isolated, and transient lifestyles.5 Studies show that loneliness is the new health epidemic in the West.6 Sixty percent of Australians report themselves as lonely, and 80 percent say it’s a problem in their world.7 As a result, though, that means it’s easier than ever for Christians to make friends with non-Christians. They don’t have a tribe. They don’t have a network. They don’t have an inner circle. So it should be really easy for us to present ourselves as the trusted tribe, network, and friends they need.
Chan, Sam, and Ed Stetzer. 2020. How to Talk about Jesus (without Being That Guy): Personal Evangelism in a Skeptical World. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Check out our Bible Study on Sam Chan’s book How to Talk About Jesus. It is on Amazon as well as part of the Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.