Better Male Friendships (Part 1 of 2)
Male friendships with depth and richness are powerful. We see it in the gospels, in Acts, and in the transformation stories we hear every day. Yet, too few of us have that kind of friendship ourselves. Here’s the key to unlocking better male friendships.
By Brett Clemmer
President & CEO
What makes friendships between men so powerful? Why do men who haven’t seen each other in years, when reunited, often act as if it’s only been weeks or days since they last met? How can guys tease each other so mercilessly and then laugh and go grab a meal together?
There is something about male friendship that is unique and profound.
The Power of Male Friendship
Read the gospels some time with an eye toward the relationship between Jesus and His disciples. They argue, tease, cajole, and challenge each other. After Jesus died, they hid out together. After He came back, they changed the world together.
(You can read Acts the same way, of course. Male relationships dominate the narrative, with the disciples, the church in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas—and John Mark, which you need to read 2 Timothy 4 to get the whole picture of—the elders from Ephesus, and more.)
I’ve also always been fascinated by the dynamics of friendship between older and younger guys. Growing up, even though I had a great and godly dad, I also had older mentors who had a tremendous influence on me. And as I became a young professional, I always tended to have older men either at work or in church (or both) who I would go to for wisdom and guidance.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1)
Now that I’m the older guy, I enjoy the opportunity to sit with a younger man who is trying to figure out relationships, his education, career, marriage, and family issues. I’ve been there, made the mistakes, suffered the consequences, and I’m glad to help a younger guy avoid as much of that as possible.I’ve been there, made the mistakes, suffered the consequences, and I’m glad to help a younger guy avoid as much of that as possible.Click To Tweet
At the same time, it’s not a one-way relationship. Younger guys give me fresh perspective on the world and on faith. They have energy and enthusiasm that renews my own courage. They have an unsophisticated wisdom that isn’t jaded by the disappointments and futility that life eventually throws at you. And they provide such incredible encouragement to me personally, telling me when an insight I shared really helped them, or pushing me to think outside my perceptions.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
Disciple or Discipler?
One of these “younger” guys is Jesse. Jesse and I met about a decade ago. I was helping our church get a young marrieds ministry going. Jesse and his wife were in the group. We became acquaintances, and when he went through a difficult situation, he turned to me for counsel.
We spent a lot of time talking through the problem and coming up with a plan of action that was painful, but necessary. It resolved the issue and allowed Jesse and his wife to move forward (it wasn’t a marriage issue, but it affected them both).
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)
Jesse went on to another church shortly after, and we stayed in touch. Our friendship ebbed and flowed, but we enjoyed getting time together whenever we could. Then one day, the tables turned.
I was sitting with Jesse in a cigar shop complaining about work and expressing my frustrations with the American church. Finally, Jesse had had enough.
“You know,” he said, “you’re the leader of a national ministry to men in the church. I don’t think the Lord would want you to be this cynical.” Ouch.“You know,” he said, “you’re the leader of a national ministry to men in the church. I don’t think the Lord would want you to be this cynical.”Click To Tweet
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)
Jesse talked with me for a long time that day and in the days that followed. Through those conversations, he brought perspective to my frustrations and healing to my soul.
He is still one of my closest friends. When my wife and I were looking for a new church a couple of years ago, he invited us to his. He had become an elder and lay pastor there, and he was flourishing as a leader and shepherd to the flock.
We started attending, and eventually I became involved in leadership as well. A month ago, I was installed alongside Jesse and our senior pastor, Tim, as an elder and lay pastor.
Who was the discipler and who was the disciple? Unless you’re Jesus, you should always strive to be both! Jesse was my younger brother at the beginning of our relationship—and he still calls me his “spiritual big brother” sometimes. But the truth is, we became friends and peers, and now we disciple each other regularly.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
I pray that every man in the church finds a guy like Jesse—a younger guy who needs someone older to walk with him through life’s struggles. It doesn’t matter if you’re 35 or 75; there is a younger man out there who needs an older friend with some hard-earned, practical wisdom.
A Resource to Help Spark Meaningful ConversationsWho was the discipler and who was the disciple? Unless you’re Jesus, you should always strive to be both!Click To Tweet
When I started hanging out with Jesse, I was winging it! I was just trying to answer his questions and let him vent and bounce ideas off me. I wish I had known what I was doing. It is by God’s grace that our relationship has had the impact on both of us that it did.
I reflect on those times with Jesse—and other younger men that I’ve spent time with—and realize how helpful it would have been to have (a) some other guys in my stage to talk with, (b) some preparation or training to give me a good foundation, and (c) some resources to guide me through discussion times.
The initiative 10,000 Spiritual Fathers, currently in beta test form, will provide this for men who want to engage in intentional spiritual friendships with younger guys in need of guidance and meaningful relationships. And the Ritual line of journals, in development, is designed to give guys some tracks to run on.
We’ve just released the first journal—Ritual – Assessment. Designed to be used in a one-on-one setting, or in a small group, it’s sold as set of two, and it’s a tool I wish I’d had in the past to help me talk through some key areas of a man’s life. It starts with basic questions about your health, moves on to your origins and identity, your key relationships, your calling and purpose, and your soul.
It’s not just for young guys, nor is it even limited to men who have already professed faith in Christ. Any two guys could go through Ritual – Assessment and do a check up on their lives together. It will foster meaningful conversations that go beyond the typical banter men use with acquaintances. It will also help you better understand yourself, while building your relationship with someone else.
And this is the key to Jesse’s and my relationship, and to every important relationship I’ve ever had—meaningful conversations.
THE BIG IDEA: Meaningful conversations are the seed bed for discovery, impact, and lasting friendship.
I pray you will invite another man into more meaningful conversations this year, and that you will find a tool like Ritual – Assessment to be a helpful beginning to a life-long friendship that changes both of your lives and builds the Kingdom of God.